Christmas is about God with us in the flesh. Our first reading puts it beautifully, he has pitched his tent among us. Paul says Jesus brings us, even at his at birth, all the blessings of God. He is the Word made flesh, the “only Son of God full of grace and truth”. Lets confess ways we fail that loving Lord..
“A saviour is born to us, he is Christ the Lord”. We celebrate this to excess for its a dream come true. Through long ages people in darkness longed for His peace, justice, love and truth to light up their lives. How privileged we are to live in the time of the reign of the Christ of God. For as Isaiah says “a child is born for us” and the yolk across our shoulders is broken forever. Even our drab everyday life is raised up Heaven.
Yet the amazing thing about the coming of the long-awaited Messiah is its ordinariness. Angelic portrayals of Joseph and Mary in the stable are overdone. There’s no prettiness about that journey to Bethlehem for the census. I was in the Holy Land for 7 years and it took me 4 hours to travel that route by car. Imagine a seventy year old, heavy with child, walking that long distance in the middle of winter. Winters in Palestine can be worse at times than here; during my last winter there we had ten heavy snowfalls. This trek of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was tough. At the end they had the added worry of a place to stay for the pregnant and sick mother. That’s God come to earth; born in a stable with animals keeping him warm. Joseph exhausted and Mary without a warm hospital bed in which to bear her child.
Yet the gospel bursts with joy. Born among the poor, the angels announce the Word made flesh first to the poor. Its to humble shepherds that a message of peace and goodwill for the world, is given. God is with us to end sin, suffering and death. Cynics may say “so what”, there’s pain and violence in our world still. But they miss the point, that God came down to share in and change all that. But it will take time, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The good news is that because of his birth, a new world is taking shape with our help, the just kingdom of God’s Christ child.
But as His birth was hard, so his kingdom’s coming will be like a mother’s difficult birth, slow and painful. Even after the birth of Jesus everything wasn’t hokey dorey. Joseph and Mary had to rise in the middle of the night and flee across the desert into Egypt. Mary, sick after birth, feeding the baby every few hours, hurried across a wasteland of bandits and searing heat. Here God shared our suffering. So lets be joyful no matter what. I’m sure many of us will have hard times during the coming year. Sickness perhaps, or death of a loved one, or unemployment, or mounting debts. But none of us can say God doesn’t care. He’s with us in sorrow and joy, affirming our value and his love in Jesus, healing and leading us to final bliss. Can we love enough that baby come in fleshly poverty to restore our innocence?
Let’s not just marvel at but live this mystery. Lets be his saving and healing hands to the world. T.S. Eliot’s great poem “The Journey of the Magi” sees the wise men, after meeting the baby, going back with a completely new attitude to their pagan lands. Inspired by his love, lets also work to make our homes, localities and world better, kinder and more peaceful. For all else fades away but the Christ child’s message is enduring happiness for this world and forever and ever, amen. So as God’s people called to continue spreading his holy kingdom which has gradually, inexorably and amazingly expanded in power worldwide from his first coming, let make our profession of faith..
Prayers of the faithful
For our Holy Father and all church leaders that they make God’s holy Word “flesh” in the world of today…
For civil leaders that they may work for justice, peace and prosperity for all, the objectives of Christ’s coming..
For our youth that reborn as children of God at baptism they may dedicate themselves to spreading and making “flesh” in our times the healing and saving reign of God and his all holy Christ..
For ourselves that in our homes we may be the faithful loving hands and face of Christ to our children and all in our care..
For the sick that our real practical care for them may incarnate the love and healing presence of God in their lives..
For the dead that freed from sin and death in Christ, they may, aided by our charitable prayers, come to peace and glory..
We ask all these prayers through the Word made Flesh, our great and glorious lord and Savior, Jesus Christ..
I often think that we’re so luckily to born into a Church that makes the Word flesh. It retains the fleshly aspect of faith and worship, without which they are but an abstract show. I mean the candles, statues, Holy water, blessing ourselves, incense, bells etc. For these sensuous aspects of faith and worship unite the body and soul in one concrete reality. For since the Word became “flesh” material reality is also holy. There should be no divide between the body and spirit as some Puritan Christians imposed. Lets have the wisdom to see this, as we pray to our Heavenly Mother who brought us the child Jesus in the flesh in a humble smelly stable of fleshly animals and their cries..Hail Mary.