‘Tis the season for Christmas posts, is it not? But instead of looking again at the manger scene, the ruthless dictator, or, God help us, a fat man in red, I’d like us to cast our minds back nine months – not back to March 2018, but back to nine months before The Original Christmas.
An angel appears to a young woman in the back-blocks and showers her with blessings, compliments, and a rather daunting proposition: mother to God in human form?
And who is she? She is, not to put too fine a point on it, nobody in particular. She has no position, no title, no fame; her fiancée’s just the local builder. She’s got a cousin who’s married to a priest, but that’s about as influential as the family gets.Continue & Comment
A baby is born into poverty, in a land under harsh military occupation. A baby who becomes a refugee before he can even walk, as his young parents flee the bloody crackdown of a dictator intent on crushing any dissent to his rule.
A dissident whose life is in constant threat when he returns to the land of his birth, both from the controlling powers and those who don’t wish to antagonize them. A controversial figure initially welcomed by a society which then turns and scapegoats him as soon as the prevailing mood changes.
Any of this sound familiar? Refugees, dictatorships, military actions against civilians – it’s all so very 21st century, isn’t it? But it’s also 1st century, because this is the life of Jesus Christ.
God is not, as some have thought him, far-off, uncaring, and content to leave us to suffer through life as best we may. (Though I am tempted to think that some of us have created God in our own image, to think him so.) The meaning of Christmas is God with us – with us in the pain, the poverty, the danger, all of it. God with us.
My best hope, wish and prayer for you is that God will be with you this year – in all of it.
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
from I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
from It Came Upon the Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears