Countless people around the world are preparing for Christmas, the time of year where believers celebrate the essence of God, His word, His light, His hope, come to earth to live the life of a man. They remember that the Creator of the universe, who conducts the music of the stars and cups the oceans in his hand, chose to send His son, not as a mighty king, but in the form of the weakest and most vulnerable of humanity, a baby born to impoverished parents who quickly became refugees as they fled persecution to a foreign place, the very country that had imprisoned their ancestors as slaves for generations before.
For those brought up in the Christian tradition, we know the stories so well, how angels burst the skies apart, jostling with each other to wonder at what God was doing, how their unstoppable delight spilled out as praises that filled the heavens and caught the attention of field workers. We have so often seen tea-towel-wearing children in Nativity plays that we forget the first worshippers were rough and ready men, uneducated, grappling with the elements, sleeping under the skies to scratch a living from the flocks in their care. Perhaps, with their lifetimes of intimate knowledge of the natural world, it’s not surprising that they were the first to recognise that something supernatural, something astonishing, was afoot as they witnessed heaven breaking open.
And later, the Magi, mysterious men educated in the ways of the stars, were so mystified by what they saw as they studied the heavens that each one packed up their life to try and discover just what had happened to the natural order they’d spent their lives observing.
At the weekend, I sang Christmas carols with other believers and was once again left breathless, amazed at the words that threaten to become ordinary in their familiarity. If I truly believe the message of Christmas, that God sent His son to be His light in a world that so often seems consumed by darkness, that His Son held His arms wide to welcome the weakest, the poorest, the most despised, that His Son’s hands touched the untouchable, fed the hungry and brought healing to the sick, then the hope and compassion he brought must impact on the way I live.
If the Spirit of God, brought to man by the Christ Child who gave up the riches of heaven for the life of a man living in a time of freedom-curtailing occupation amongst religious bigots and corrupt politicians, is alive in the hearts of those who choose to give their lives to Him, then I have no other path to tread in 2016 than the one that follows the pattern for life Jesus set. I will fall. I will fail. But I trust the love of an extraordinary God who breathes light and hope and life into ordinary people like me.
Whatever you believe, amidst the circumstances you face, I pray you will know hope this Christmas and in the year to come.