Friday, 24 December 2010

Away in a Manger

I have a couple of other ideas for blog posts rolling around my brain at the moment, but seeing as its Christmas Eve I thought it would be fitting to write something more about Christmas.

As I think most people are aware, there's no real evidence that Jesus was actually born on or near December 25th.  This date may have originally been chosen to co-incide with the Roman winter solstice, or with one of various pagan winter festivals which it ultimately supplanted.  However it came to be though, I for one am very glad we have a festival every year to celebrate this incredible event.

Of course, not everyone believes in the Christmas story and for many, if not the majority in this country at least, Christmas is just a time for giving and receiving presents, spending time with friends and family and celebrating all that is good about life and the world - and there's nothing wrong with any of that!

For me though, Christmas is much more than this - it's a time for remembering when God came into the world! How incredible is that?! More amazing still though, is the way in which he did it.

If you were God and you wanted to show everyone who you were and what you were like, what would you do? It would be easy wouldn't it? You could just appear in whatever awe-inspiring form you wanted, whenever and wherever you liked, and everyone would believe in you. They'd worship you - they'd have to! But God didn't do it like this - instead he was born to a poor young Jewish couple, in cramped and unceremonious circumstances, and his first bed was an animals' feeding trough!

I love this God! This is the sort of God I really want to serve and worship! He has all the power in the Universe and he chooses not to use it - he gives it up deliberately! He becomes like us - he lives as just a normal human being. This God really loves his creation and isn't ashamed to be like us, to live as one of us, to experience life in all its joy and all its pain - the same life that we live and that he created. He isn't just sitting up there on high dishing out dictates - he came down here and became a part of it all and was proud to do so!

This is humility. I don't think I'd be able to do that. I'd want big neon signs, or preferably some more heavenly, less tacky alternative saying, "Look at me! Look! It's God here!" I'd want everyone to know who I was and to be awestruck by my presence, but God goes pretty much to the opposite extreme. A few people recognise him - a bunch of lowly shepherds who are primed by the angels and some mysterious travellers from somewhere out east. Also, a prophet and a prophetess in the temple after Jesus is circumcised, who have been waiting for this event and speak tremendous words of encouragement to his parents and to others who are listening. But the rest of the world just carries on, blissfully unaware of what has just taken place.

Could you believe in this sort of God? Supposing he were available to everyone who really looked for him - would you want to meet a God like this? Or would you rather have a more in-your-face kind of a God - the kind you can't not believe in because he never gives you the option? Would you, really?

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