Emmanuel Eucharist

In a recent conversation I was suddenly reminded of a Eucharistic flash mob led by some Franciscan friars five years ago - or rather, I was reminded of the simple, powerful video of the event I had stumbled across on the internet. Naturally, I found and watched it again; I also found a blogpost detailing how the flash mob was created, and a couple of blogs which showed the video and discussed it. The comments below blogposts and articles generally being especially magnetic, I quickly read my way through them, discovering a diversity of opinion.

Some people, like me, found the flash mob extremely moving: the friar arriving in a busy shopping centre with a bag containing the Blessed Sacrament in a simple monstrance, which he then held aloft for several minutes; the litany proclaimed by another friar, inviting people to come and kneel, and the people... flash mobbers and passers-by, those kneeling or standing in adoration; those definitely not... the curious, the uninterested, the wondering, indifferent, sceptical or in some way moved, those stopping and those determinedly rushing past. God in the market place - literally, physically.

Others, however, worried about the absence of the usual trappings used in exposition and Blessed Sacrament processions, seeing this - and Jesus' unceremonial, unobtrusive arrival and departure in a bag - as signs of a lack of reverence. And - to my sadness and surprise - many others worried about safety and risks and wished there had been a sturdy guard of honour, or obvious police presence. What if there had been trouble - violence, even? What if the woman who rushed over to thank the friar had, instead, intended to attack him? What if an armed and deranged God-hater just happened to be doing some shopping that afternoon? What if... what if...?

But isn't this precisely what we celebrate at Christmas? Emmanuel, God-with-us: a God who comes into our midst, unobtrusively and unceremoniously, and remains with us, sharing and experiencing fragility and vulnerability. A God who chooses to become incarnate in a precarious, perilous time and place, and in the most hazardous way possible - birth in an unhygienic stable, to an inexperienced teenage mother far from her home and security. This is a God who delights to be with us, in the midst of our lives; our busyness as well as our stillness, our insecurity as much as stability... One who wants to come to us as Eucharist, into our messiness and frailty, and chooses, again and again, to be incarnate within us, trusting us to be his life and love for the world.

Emmanuel, Eucharist... A God-with-us who happily risks being with us... and that is what we must allow him to be: God within and with us, in every place and aspect of our lives, that we may help him be God-among-us in and for our precarious, pain-filled world.