love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
We celebrate this Christmas yet again against the backdrop of war and terrorism throughout the world, it is therefore very difficult to understand how we can celebrate Love coming into the world to bring Peace through the birth of a baby.
But it is John’s Gospel which barely mentions the birth of the child which leaves us in no doubt about what is going on.
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’
The birth is summed up in one phrase; ‘the Word became flesh’ – a human being. John wants us to picture the Word, living in power with God the Father, creating the world, the source of all its life. This is what becomes flesh. The extraordinary power that enabled the whole universe is suddenly contained in a human baby. John wants us to feel the shock of that, to make our imaginations reel as we try to think of what that means.
But if John starts with the big picture – the creative life of God – Christians believe that at Christmas God starts with the small picture. A child is something we can understand. A human baby is a symbol of life and hope. Each new human life is miraculous. A whole new person comes into existence.
This little commonplace miracle of birth is something that we almost take for granted. But in the birth of the baby Jesus, this is what God is offering over and over again. This is an integral part of the nature of God, to make new life. That is why there is any life at all, because the creator of the universe is so full of life that it pours out into the world. As Gerard Manley Hopkins writes in his poem The Grandeur of God ‘It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; and for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things. God is always life giving, and the birth of Jesus is God’s offer of a new life.
A baby starts the world with a clean slate. It can discover its own character. It can interact with what is around it and experience and change and grow. In Jesus, God offers us the chance to start a new life, as though we were born again as babies. We can be born into the family of God and learn from that family environment. Life is natural to God, who does not begrudge it to us or force it on us. But as we look at the baby Jesus with love and compassion, God hopes we might see that we are longing to be always what we are in that moment. Like those who gathered at our Crib Services earlier this evening as we look at the baby I hope that we are all touched by the experience and that we may long to feel that we might be changed into the kind of people who could sense the presence of the angels and respond with love and kindness to the world around us because at Christmas God says, ‘Nothing is impossible.’
Nothing is impossible because we have the choice, we can choose to follow the light that comes into the world in the baby born this night or we can turn away from the light and choose the darkness, the darkness that represents not only evil seen in terrorism and killing but also untimely unbeing. It is the darkness that was over everything before God created. It is formlessness, hopelessness, ignorance of the purpose of our existence.
Or you can choose light. To choose the light, according to John, is to step into our proper created place, as God’s children, alive in his love. God is the only source of life, John tells us, and this life is offered to us in the incarnated Son.
But the choice is ours. What we see now is the child, a symbol of life, but so vulnerable. To choose that life, to choose to nurture it and celebrate it is to choose God’s kind of life, since it is the only kind on offer. To choose something without the ambiguities and uncertainties of Jesus’ life is to choose the dark and that says John, is actually not life at all. To recognise the life-giving power of the creator in the baby Jesus, in his life, his cross and his resurrection, is the study of the Christian. So we ask ourselves – can we see ‘the glory of the Father’ here at Christmas?
Maybe the Christina Rossetti can help us;
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love by yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
And so our prayer and hope remain unchanged for the Love and Peace of the Christ child to rule in the hearts of all this Christmas time and always. May I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas filled with love and joy and peace. Amen.