The Challenge of Christmas for Today
I like the unexpected nature of the Christmas story. God incognito slips into Bethlehem unrecognised. An infant rough sleeper soon moved on by the violence of Herod and forced to seek asylum in Egypt, turns out to be the light of the world. What a hopeless start.
Yet the glory of God can be seen in the picture. There are lights in the sky, singing shepherds and searching wise men. It is as if the plan is dependent upon the mysterious incarnation remaining secret so that it can be discovered at the right time by faith but heaven is so full of excitement at what it sees happening on earth that it simply cannot contain itself. Songs are sung in the sky, stars shine in the night, prophets prophesy and the virgin ponders. Heaven and earth combine to praise as the widest extremes of the divine and helpless infant humanity are joined. God, wearing a nappy and lying in a donkey’s dinner can only find a few shepherds on the hillside awake enough to share the moment.
There is something profound, moving and very attractive about the starkness of the story. We can understand the bewilderment of Zechariah that leaves him dumbstruck, silent until John is named. We can understand the human and spiritual excitement of Elizabeth when the unborn John the Baptist kicks for the first time as Mary speaks. With Mary our souls want to cry out in wonder at the humble greatness on display and rejoice in God. The world will never be the same again but hardly anyone has noticed.
We can even understand the insecurity of Herod. He is right. The baby does represent a power that is ultimately greater than the terror of the tyrant. This baby is a threat to the dominance of self-interest, to the right of the powerful and wealthy to tread on the poor without fear of justice. This baby and the values of the kingdom he brings challenge and inform the very core of what it is to be human.
The infant refugee, the gloriously transfigured man on the mountain, the bleeding broken man on the cross, the quiet resurrected stranger in the garden, our ascended inspirational Lord, all challenge us to awe and work.
There are still too many damaged refugees who need our humanity. There are still too many rough sleepers who need our compassion. There are still too many Bethlehems divided by tyrant walls that need our campaigns for justice, change and reconciliation. Will you follow Him? There is work to be done!
Yet in the dark streets shining there is an everlasting light reaching out and longing to embrace you and me. There is an unconditional love waiting to be welcomed into our lives, our churches, and our world.Daventry: for you Jesus Christ came into the world; for you he lived and showed God’s love; for you he suffered death on the cross; for you he triumphed over death rising to newness of life; for you he prays at God’s right hand ... all this for you before we could know anything of it ..."We love, because God first loved us". Rev Andy Hardwick