Busy time, Christmas, isn’t it!
Sometimes you have to work hard just to keep going and keep smiling.
So it was good to sit down in front of the TV last night and watch “A grumpy guide to Christmas” – though those who know me well might say I don’t need any tips on being grumpy! But right there in the middle of all that grumpiness there was a profound theological truth – just when you think you’ve finished work for the day.
One of the grumpy old men was being scathing about the so-called wise men and their gifts – gold, he said ‘well fair enough coz it’s worth a bit’ ‘and maybe incense is good to get rid of smells’ ‘but what’s with myrrh – that’s what people use on dead bodies: what is he saying there? ‘congratulations on being born,kid – you’re going die?’…
Well... yes. The amazing truth of the incarnation – of God becoming a human being in Jesus, is that God was accepting not only the whole risky process of entering this world, and the painful business of learning to live in this world, but God was accepting the natural and only way of leaving this world – everyone who is born must, one day, die.
This is what it means to become truly human – accepting the whole package.
One of the great lives which ended in 2009 was the poet U. A Fanthorpe. Her poem ‘The Wicked Fairy at the manger’ imagines a dialogue between the wicked fairy (who in the style of Sleeping Beauty has come to curse and not bless the baby) and the baby, who of course is Jesus.
My gift for the child:
No wife, kids, home;
No money sense. Unemployable.
But the wrong sort –
The workshy, women, wimps,
Petty infringers of the law, persons
With notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts;
The bottom rung.
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.
Right, said the baby.
That was roughly
What we had in mind.
Our celebration of the incarnation of Jesus Christ begins this night with the memory of a birth, in extraordinary circumstances. (Though I wonder what would be ordinary circumstances for the birth of the Son of God?).
But our celebrations continue with the Eucharist, in which we remember the whole life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and give thanks that this whole story tells of God’s care for each of us.
And as we come to receive this bread and wine in Jesus’ name, or as we sit and reflect on this amazing story, Jesus is born again, this night, in each of us.
Thanks be to God for this gift beyond words.