In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it …. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4, 14).
I don’t about you, but I find that it is very easy to sentimentalise Christmas. A baby boy is born to a devout young couple in Bethlehem, is wrapped in cloth and laid in a feeding trough. The Christmas cards make it seem so nice. Carols like “Away in a manger” boldly declare “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”. That doesn’t sound like any baby that I know.
The reality is hardly nice. This young couple are forced by an Emperor’s decree to leave their home and journey to Bethlehem, despite the fact that Mary is full-term. Her birth is no different to any other woman’s. We don’t know if Joseph is the only midwife, and there certainly isn’t any humidicrib. It’s hardly sentimental.
In one sense the baby boy is no different to any other baby boy, yet in another sense he is infinitely different. For this baby was the eternal Word, God Himself, the Creator of all things. He “became flesh”, born as a baby, and made his “dwelling” – his home – among humankind. A friend of mine put it this way: “God took kneecaps and eyebrows”.
I don’t understand how Jesus could be both God and man. I simply accept the mystery of it. But I do understand that it says something profound about God. God knows what it’s like to be human because God became human. Jesus knew hunger and thirst, work and rest, joy and sadness. He wowed them at a wedding, and shed tears at Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus was like us, in every way! He understands. Always.
Jesus, because He’s God, understands what it is like to live with dementia. He doesn’t sentimentalise it, and knows that it isn’t nice. While Jesus does not prevent us from getting dementia, He does promise to be with us always: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, dementia and death is not the end. Jesus promises eternal life, with a new body and brain, to all who will follow Him. That’s the Gospel – the Good News.
Jesus understands what it is like to live with dementia, but we don’t. We can observe those who are living with dementia, but we can’t actually enter into their mind and body and experience it for ourselves.
Thanks to Dementia Australia we can, however, gain a glimpse of what it is like to live with dementia. Welcome to EDIE: Educational Dementia Immersive Experience.
EDIE is an “Immersive Experience” because we immerse ourselves into Edie’s life. Edie is living with dementia. We immerse oursevles by wearing special goggles (Virtual reality goggles) and headphones, so that we “see” what Edie is experiencing and “hear” what he is hearing. We also meet Edie’s wife.
Having been to an EDIE session I can highly recommend it. It is certainly educational, in both an intellectual and emotional manner. The immersion is challenging and motivational. It’s also fun – and that helps in the learning.
If you’d like to know more then make contact using the details below:
Once you’ve done EDIE you will certainly never sentimentalise it. It isn’t nice. But you’ll understand that people living with dementia need not be misunderstood. They have those who are willing to learn about dementia, whether through EDIE or the University of Tasmania MOOCs, or in other ways. But most importantly, they have a God who knows what it’s like to be human: a God who, in Jesus, took kneecaps and eyebrows.