I write this on the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Jimi Hendrix at the age of 27. We can only begin to imagine what he might have achieved had he lived. His Electric Ladyland double album is considered to be his finest studio work, and I regard it as one of my personal influential albums when I was growing up. I remember being blown away when I first heard Hendrix playing on the radio, I’d never heard anything like it before, it was an epiphany for me.
I recently curated a Spotify playlist with an album’s worth of his music, tracks I consider to be his finest works, and which I hope comprise a satisfying whole. The order of the tracks has been chosen carefully, so the playlist is best listened to in the intended order. I’ve never been a fan of shuffle play. Anyway, I share it with you, enjoy it loud!
After his baptism, Jesus was tempted in the desert. This might seem a strange way to start a Christmas thought, in fact it’s not as strange as at first sight. The story concerns power, it’s about Jesus being tempted to exercise power over people; ultimately he chose the power of love over the love of power. I’m reminded of the words of Jimi Hendrix: When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
The simple message of Christmas is that God has chosen the way of love and vulnerability over power. A baby born in humble and vulnerable circumstances can’t exercise power, yet that was how Jesus came and lived.
The cover of the Christmas Salvation Army War Cry 2014 illustrates this beautifully; it’s a picture of vulnerability that sums up the incarnation in today’s world. Take a few moments to reflect on it.
The traditional story tells us how Jesus was placed in a feeding trough (manger from the French verb to eat), but in this modern nativity he’s placed in a familiar manger – a supermarket trolley! I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it caught my attention.
Finally, here’s something I read recently in the context of the feeling that Christ is being squeezed out of Christmas: The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can’t be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up – not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble.
As we welcome Jesus this Christmas, we’re reminded that he entered our world as vulnerable as us; ultimately he nailed that vulnerability to a cross for us – all our fears, insecurities and sins. We can only marvel that he came in this way, reaching out to a world in need.