I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m really searching for Christmas inspiration this year. Advent has come & nearly gone; Christmas day is just five days away & I genuinely only gave it a first thought in the last 48 hours.
As far as my In2venture memory serves we’ve never had a Christmas message from one of our Trustees before so big thanks to Jon Price for sharing some timely & serious thoughts that really get to the heart & the reality of the Christmas story then & now.
But mine is not the greater reality in this world I imagine – of food and feasting and festivities. This makes me think of the distance between myself and the story of Christmas. There is the distance of time (lots and lots of centuries of time) and culture (I’m not a Jew living in the Second Temple era). But I’m also on the wrong side of the wealth divide. The Christmas story and the common story of this world is of the shepherds out in the field and the anxiety of a pregnant couple on the move looking for a roof over their heads.
Does this distance matter? I think so. I’ve seen time and again how so many of us compartmentalise our lifestyle from the truth of the Christmas story told and retold and lived out in many guises, and whenever the grace of the Word made flesh is heard.
Jesus arrived in a stable not a palace at his birth. Jesus departed on a donkey not a war charger near his crucifixion. Jesus told powerful truths of abundant grace with his parable of the Banquet (to which all and sundry are invited, especially the poor and outcast). He taught not to show favoritism to the rich and powerful or to seek the places of honor. He speaks most disturbingly of a judgment based on how we clothed the naked, fed the hungry, met the needs of the thirsty and visited those in prison. Jesus says salvation has come to a home when Zacchaeus not only accepts who Jesus is, but is moved to generosity towards the poor and making restitution for those he had ripped off in his business dealings.
James, looking back on all this, writes that the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1v27). Paul writes in many different ways about the sin that creates a distance between us and God and between each other. Christmas reminds me of the distance between the stable and the palace, the shepherd and the princes, the meagre meals and abundant feasts, the humble and the proud. Christmas reminds me too, that when the Word became incarnate, Jesus began the ultimate journey to the Cross to overcome this distance.