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Wander and wonder go together

Ron Thomlinson sifts out some seasonal truths

Her prediction has been proved to be true

VISITORS wanting to discover Amsterdam’s lesser-known tourist spots will uncover a couple of gems just a stone’s throw from the city centre’s flower market – two large churches within a hundred metres of each other. They are the Old Lutheran Church and its neighbour, the Krijtberg, a Roman Catholic church.

The first has only modest seating, a plain pulpit and an organ. The Krijtberg is overflow­ing with rich symbolism and works of sacred art. Of course, each church wants to represent Jesus faithfully according to its own teaching, but I can’t help but feel both communities have done some theological photoshopping of Jesus.

Perhaps one of the earliest and most famous ‘photoshoppers’ was Francis of Assisi, who in 1223 placed live animals in a nativity scene.

Not surprisingly, the Advent theme has inspired some of the greatest painters to inter­pret those events for their own age and culture. Because Jesus is at home everywhere, he con­tinues to be photoshopped in every culture. It is a good and proper principle.

In the Netherlands, many older women are called Miep. The Miep I knew was artis­tic, well read and highly intelligent. She was fiercely anti-church but very serious about what she believed. At the same time, she was a wonderfully free, attractive and happy spirit in expressing her personal faith.

She explained her spiritual freedom as fol­lows: celebrating one’s faith is like celebrating a birthday. Some people want to be alone on their birthday and be quiet. Others want an inti­mate party with just a few friends and family. Finally, there are those who want a large gath­ering of all the clans with fireworks.

Whatever our preference, there is not just one set system for encountering the real Christ. At Advent and throughout the year, our responsibility is to follow the way best suited to our spiritual needs and personality.

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