“And the Word became flesh and lived among us,...full of grace and truth.”
Merry Christmas everyone!
But, is it ‘merry’ for you, I wonder? This year has proved to be a hard one for many, especially with the worldwide economic crisis. Thousands around us face unemployment as the steelmaker Corus plant closes, the Borders group collapses, and numerous small businesses face an end. Members of my own family, and worshippers at this church, have already experienced unemployment. We may have other hardships in our lives: family problems, loneliness, or perhaps a burden of guilt. Yet, despite all this hardship, I think this Christmas, like the thousands before it, is merry. “Why?” you may ask.
Christmas remains merry because it both takes us outside of ourselves and it also reveals God coming into ourselves. Christmas shows us God coming down to us and us rising up to God.
On the one hand, Jesus was born to a peasant girl in a filthy stable and shows God coming among us, even in the worst of circumstances. There, surrounded by animals and dirt, God shows how he has taken on human nature, how He has become one of us. God becomes flesh and lives among us, in all of our sin and brokenness. God becomes a particular human being, vulnerable to the hardships of the world, human oppression, and death. God loves us so much that He descends to the earth and shows solidarity with us. God unites Himself to creation, loving it and drawing it back to wholeness.
On the other hand, because God becomes one of us, in the words of the eighty-second psalm, we become gods. We become gods. That is a startling thought. We do not become God, of course, but God gives us the gift, the immense, wonderful gift, of sharing in His perfection through Jesus. Jesus makes us gods because He perfects the union between Creator and created universe. Jesus draws our nature up to the divine. Jesus, the God-child, shows us what it means to be truly human. And to be truly human is not to have stuff, to have wealth or status, but it is to have union with God, to be partners with God in loving one another and the world.
This Christmas is merry, then, for two reasons. First, in the middle of our daily troubles – unemployment, poverty, family discord, and oppression – God is here, one with us. Our crucifixions, our trials, our temptations, are His crucifixion, trials, and temptations. Second, God lifts us up through Jesus to be ‘full of grace and truth’, to be a people transformed and agents of change in our world. Jesus transforms us – that is the real meaning of repentance, a return to God and transformation of our lives. God loves you for who you are, not who you think you should be or how the world tells you are worthwhile. God loves you, rich or poor, well or ill, saintly or sinful. And God, this Christmas, wants you to be His partner in showing love and perfecting one another and the world.
So, what do we do this Christmas? We rejoice. We rejoice like the messenger in Isaiah that God has saved the whole universe. We worship, we sing, we praise God as to us is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord. But we unite ourselves in will and action with the great work of God. In John’s Gospel, that great work begins long before the birth of Jesus: “in the beginning was the Word.” God has willed from the point of creation that all of creation be united with Him, “the light of all people.” So we join in that great rescue mission. We worship God, but we also go forward in prayer and action to save all those in need with the Good News of Jesus Christ. And that Good News? That “The Word became flesh and lived among us,...full of grace and truth.” Enjoy this very merry day!