I’ve been asked recently what the theme for Christmas this year is. Over the last few years we have knitted sheep, nativity scenes, given away angels and followed the star. All engaging ways of communicating the birth of Christ with our local communities and having lots of fun along the way. But this year I ran out of knitted ideas. Instead I have decided to go back to basics.
I am pleased to report that theme for Christmas this year is Jesus. Not stars, shepherds, Kings, angels or Mary, but God himself, the star of the show. Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus, God incarnate.
Incarnate – the origin of the word is Late Middle English: from ecclesiastical Latin incarnat- ‘made flesh’, from the verb incarnare, from in- ‘into’ + caro, carn- ‘flesh’. Jesus, God made flesh. Fully God, fully human. God choosing to intervene in his creation in a humble, transforming way. Choosing to live with us, to dwell among us, to show us first-hand what it means to live God’s way and to know exactly what it means to be human. Not staying remote and inaccessible but choosing to be with us in all the lows and highs of life.
Incarnation is a challenging concept. Why would God choose to send his son as a vulnerable human baby, born of humble parents in difficult circumstances? Almost as soon as he is born his life is threatened by human power and authority, forcing the holy family to flee as refugees to Egypt. God’s son seems to be afforded no special protection. His life is as vulnerable as any other. Yet also as precious.
The incarnation is a demonstration of God’s love. His love for all creation is shown by sending his Son as redeemer. Jesus shows us how to live in humble, life transforming ways. He teaches us in his words and actions how to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves. His life, death and resurrection challenges human power and authority and reveals God’s way of love as triumphant. He comes to save us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 NRSV
You are deeply, deeply loved.
On this night of the year, a voice is speaking – can we hear it?
‘I know the cares and the anxious thoughts of your hearts.
I know the hard time you often give yourselves.
I know the hopes and ambitions that you have for yourselves and for others.
I know your doubts too – even while you seek to express your belief.
On this night I want to find a way of saying to you:
You are deeply, deeply loved,
Just as you are,
Forgiven, loved and challenged to be
he very best you can be.
So I am speaking to you in the only way I know how –
from a stable,
In a child born into poverty,
soon to grow into maturity,
born to show you,
in a human life,
the love of God.’
John Harvey, Candles and Conifers, Wild Goose Publications