Here lies a mystery at the heart of our faith. Whereas religion tries to make us spiritual, Christmas reminds us that God gets physical. Where religion calls us to work hard so we might ascend to be as gods, Christmas tells how God descended to become one of us.
At Christmas we celebrate the untouchable becoming touchable; the unseeable becoming see-able; the all-powerful becoming vulnerable and the all self-sufficient one becoming the dependent one. The voice that once created the heavens and the earth was reduced to the cry of a new born baby.
“The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that he sunk himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding,” penned Martin Luther. Charles Wesley composed, “Our God contracted to a span; incomprehensibly made man.” Soren Kierkegaard called it the absolute paradox: the presence of the eternal in time.
Across the world again this Christmas millions will sing carols and retell the Christmas story. Yet, many will do so without ever entering into its real mystery and meaning. That will be lost, neglected and abused in the midst of the commercialism, individualism, and consumerism of our celebrations.
This is lamentable no doubt, but isn’t it as it has always been? The Word that arrived incognito over 2,000 years ago is just as easily overlooked today. For the vast majority of Australians, Christmas will again be celebrated without even a thought to the meaning and mystery the lies within it.
As a helpless and vulnerable baby, God put incredible trust into the hands of a very human family. It has been the same ever since. Rather than use force, intimidation or coercion God arrived on planet earth powerless, speechless and vulnerable. That baby could do no more than accept the care humanity would give him. Yet it is within such weakness and dependency that the invitation comes. It is an invitation to each and every one of us to a relationship with our creator. A relationship grounded in the reality we are loved, forgiven and accepted.
God is patient if nothing else. Again this Christmas the spirit of God whispers in our carols and waits for any who will listen.
In the midst of our celebrations, our family gatherings and parties, God will be present in the same vulnerable way. Just like that first Christmas, God awaits our response.
Stephen L Baxter