As I opened my computer this morning this article was on the work list for completion. Writing is a lot of fun but it is not always easy to come up with material every week. So as the computer sparked into action and another google picture filled my screen I actually had a bit of a laugh along with a thought for what you now read. In a sea of penguins that all looked the same, meaning no disrespect to all those unique penguins out there, one had climbed above the pack with all attention drawn to him.
I guess I could have seen that penguin as standing on the shoulders of all the great penguins that had gone before. An appreciative penguin building on the strong foundations of others. I could also have seen that penguin negatively as climbing over the top of all the others to be above the rest. The kind of penguin that cares for no one but themselves and uses other penguins to get what he or she wants.
My meditation on penguins at this point is beginning to reflect something very human. Some of us stand appreciatively on the shoulders of great ones who have gone before us, while others consider themselves standouts amidst the refuse of all the people they shouted down, stomped upon and shut down. In my experience the first is thankful for the past, loved in the present and inspires others to great things in the future. The second ends up hated, despised, lonely and is often so caught up in themselves that they don’t even notice their lack of humanity.
Perhaps that penguin was lifted up by other adoring penguins. Maybe he was about to be pulled down by other aspirants to his high position. If I were a penguin I know which one I would prefer to be.
History is filled with those who have stood above the pack. Born 26 August 1926, Fidel Castro died 25 November 2016. After nearly a century of life we see the fall of one who stood above the pack, established in his place by the power of fear, around his feet the carnage of lost and displaced lives. Many will judge Castro’s place in history but God will judge Castro. The Bible speaks a salutary reminder to all people and even to the most powerful, “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
By contrast to a Castro or the despot you may have to live or work with, December brings with it the celebration of one who stood above the crowd. He was born in humility, in stable surrounds, accompanied by angels. His life was one of service, His death before he turned 40 offering forgiveness from God and His power in rising from the dead the promise of life beyond it. He never held a gun or took up weapons but there is no doubt about the power of Jesus Christ, the Christmas child, to transform lives.
On 25 December we will celebrate the birth of the one who will never be forgotten. The one who offered us two commands: the first “to love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, mind and strength”; and the second which is like it, “to love your neighbour as yourself.” If you get the first wrong the second is doomed to failure. But when it comes to the Christmas child where failure exists Jesus Christ provides the answer. We may not be penguins but we can all stand on the shoulders of Jesus accomplishments for better tomorrows. See you in church on Christmas day to celebrate the gifts of God for the people of God.