The Christmas Story
Each year we hear again the ancient yet timeless Christmas story. Each year we retell the astonishing entrance that God made into our broken world and we are moved in the very bowels of our being by God's capacity to surprise us with love. Something brand-new had happened: something original and fresh and pristine had been revealed; nothing would ever be quite the same again. God made the crucial choice to break the silence of the ages to give himself away in a Word. The most important Word that God has ever spoken took flesh in the womb of a teenage lass and like all human flesh was born as a fragile bundle of new life.
The mystery of God was somehow concentrated in a child; the length, breadth, depth and height of God's love was somehow expressed in this little one. God was choosing to visit his people - not through dreams and words of the prophets but in human flesh and bone and sinew. The God who lived in the highest heavens above chose another address; He decided to pitch his tent among us.
The Christmas story we hear each year is the same but we our different. Out world is different. Joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, sickness and health, life and death have all wrought changes, for better or for worse in our lives. But no matter what changes we have undergone, what losses we have mourned, what gains we have celebrated, the Christmas story speaks to us again of new birth and the possibility of our own rebirth. Praise be, it tells us that things can be different; it gives substance to our hope that life is possible because God was prepared to reduce Himself to the dimensions of a new-born child 2000 years ago.
In a very real sense. the birth of every child is a small protest against the tired, cynical view that there is nothing new under the sun, that we are condemned to a future which only repeats the stupidities of the past. Moreover, the birth of Jesus is God's heartfelt protest against letting things be, abandoning people to their own devices, leaving people to fall back on the threadbare poverty of their own resources. Jesus is the saving, dynamic help of God among us; he is the one Word on God's telegram of hope.
From the first Sunday in Advent this year Luke's Gospel will be featuring prominently in our Sunday lectionary readings. And it is Luke's version of the first Christmas that casts such a wondrous spell over the human imagination and the human heart. It is the artist Luke who puts us in touch with the teenage virgin upon whose Yea or Nay God's saving plan hinges, with the dutiful, plodding Joseph providing stability and security in a situation fraught with crisis and vulnerability, with beery, fleabitten shepherds who are graced with with the good news scoop of a millennium !!
Luke invites us once again to come and worship, to see for ourselves the fragility of God, the littleness of the mighty one, the sheer tenderness of a love that is all-embracing in its compass and is strong enough to melt the hardest, stoniest heart.
With the birth of this child a new adventure in faith begins. A new approach to God is opened up for us, a new way of relating to each other is asked of us. It may be an old story, but it is one that is always pregnant with new hope.
That is why we make the journey back to Bethlehem each year: to rediscover our own roots in the gift of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes. For us, it is a journey home. As G. K. Chesterton wrote:
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