Starlings gathering at dusk on a weather vane in Brigg
From all points of the compass the starlings are gathering and seeking out their own space. With the arrival of each new individual they are getting more closely packed together as the last few remaining surfaces of the weather vane become occupied. Then, with possibilities dwindling by the minute, a straggler swoops down intent on landing. What happens next comes as no surprise when seen in close up at near 100% magnification. The bird tries to displace a sitting tenant, fails in the attempt, and is forced to flee by the stronger bird. No space, no room, no joke. At the other end of the weather vane another starling tries the same trick and this time succeeds, the photo showing the resident bird just about to fly off and make way as the interloper lands.
This is all so reminiscent of the climate talks in Copenhagen and of global politics in general. Strong nations refuse to give way and weaker ones are forced to live with their bullying tactics. Newcomers are way down the pecking order and have to try and force their way in. Everyone can fit, but only if those used to lots of space will accept less. For space read resources such as oil and gas, petro-chemicals, food, raw materials, water or CO2 emissions. The carrying capacity of our planet is limited and its ability to absorb the harmful effects of our so-called “prosperity” has been reached. The only factors that can change in order to avert global ecological and political catastrophe are our behaviour and expectations. No space, no room, no joke.
One way or another we are going to have to learn to live together in sustainable and equitable ways that make for justice and peace. And this brings us to the poor, powerless peasant child born in thoroughly inadequate conditions in Bethlehem two millennia ago. His birth demonstrated that it is not amongst the super-rich and powerful elites that we shall find the answers we seek, but amongst the poor and dispossessed who are forced out onto the margins of life. It is there that we should expect to discern the authentic voice of God calling us to prophetic action and a new way of living lightly on the earth together.
Our politicians will always fail us. They lack the courage to do what they know is right because they are afraid of the electoral consequences. Redistribution of wealth and resources away from the greedy and profligate minority who skew and screw everything for the majority is not a dewy-eyed aspiration, it is an urgent necessity. The wealthy will fight tooth and nail to protect their interests, but their lifestyle obesity and resource gluttony will be the death of us. No space, no room, no joke.
So Jesus is born in poverty to change the world. He is the peaceful revolutionary who speaks the inclusive kingdom of God language of love which confounds the power-hungry and domineering elites of our time just as much as it did those of his own era. Christmas is God’s ominously uncomfortable challenge to the comfortable world from the comfortless poor. No space, no room, no joke.