You’ve done presents? Did you like what you received? Where there any surprises? For children, Christmas is magical, gifts, holidays, a different experience of life. And I know that parents and grandparents go to a lot of work to help that magic happen for their children. Now that I am older that different experience of Christmas time that I treasure is the togetherness – that becomes more and more important. Togetherness that is deepened and made totally secure by being together with you in worship on Christmas Eve and now on Christmas Day; joining together with others who also say that this God stuff is absolutely vital, it’s true, and it works.
What is God like at Christmas? Firstly – a baby. Red, wrinkled, sometimes looking like life is just way too much, helpless and utterly dependent on his parents. Not our normal idea of God.
God – a human baby. Let’s explore that.
- God does not despise the world. No way. God chooses to enter into our world in the most real way possible, as a baby. I know there are times when we would like to have been beamed up out of this. I know that many of us have experienced things that have pushed us way beyond, and it would have been much easier to wake up and find ourselves in heaven. God does not despise the world, but chooses to work in it and through it. So we learn to look around for God at work in the here and now.
- God does not despise ordinary people. The birth announcement came to the shepherds. As we said last night – they were low down on the scale of who is important. God delights in our ordinariness, and wants us to know that we are loved. We don’t have to prove ourselves or be good enough. We are to trust that we are forgiven, that we are loved, and that we are invited to share in God’s holiness and goodness, simply by trusting, simply by being alive.
- This incarnation – God taking on human flesh and blood is not an afterthought because Adam and Eve sinned. Ever since the first moment of creation, God’s love has been expressed in physical things, and finally, in us. It is just that, in this Christmas baby, who reaches his hands out to us, this love is personal, it’s for you and me.
- It’s not just Mary who gives birth to Jesus. God’s love, God’s joy and delight, God’s Holy Spirit are always in work in all people, wanting that love, who is God, to come to life in each one of us, in unique, crazy, faithful, amazing, joyful, faithful, funny ways. Each one of us reflect one unique quality of God, for we are all made in God’s image, and we are all called to grow into God’s likeness.
And in the light of that, and God’s love for us, shown in this baby, we do the hard things that we have sometimes to do, embracing (maybe that’s way too strong a word), coping with things that aren’t just the way we want them to be, and not losing heart. Learning to trust that God has us, when we discover that our little ideas of who we are and how important we are have to die, and in that dying, God raises up something deeper and more joyful. God is bringing to birth something inside us which is more real, more connected to him. So we allow God to work with the stuff inside us that is not so nice. We learn to trust that the things we have to sacrifice allow God to bring forth something much bigger. We trust that the efforts and work we have put into things are not in vain and are never wasted.
So, this baby, whose birth we celebrate again this Christmas means that God does not despise the world. God does not despise ordinary people, like the shepherds, like us.
This coming to be born as a baby was not plan B. It was always part of God’s plan, because God’s love, from the very first moment of creation, takes physical shape.
And finally, this love is working in all sorts of ways to come to greater life in each one of us.