Have you ever been down a cave deep enough to see stalactites and stalagmites. I went down one in Derbyshire and they had set up lighting so that we could see them. It was like a fairy grotto and doubly amazing when you see the icicles and columns made at only a centimetre a 100 years. What on earth have they to do with Christmas?
The news has been very difficult this year and for many of us we go into the Christmas Period with our memories of our griefs and for those of us who have been sexually assaulted it has been difficult listening to the stories of the footballers and find ourselves reliving our own abuse. I admire the footballers for what they have said. We will also have images of little children waiting for the bomb to take them out in Aleppo as well as other harrowing scenes. Our world may seem a dark place at the moment and some may wonder why we celebrate Christmas at all.
In all this how can I still believe in a loving God?
Let’s listen to some people that were hated, feared, rejected, and thought to be unclean and unfit for human society. Unfit for God and man.
These were the shepherds that are part of the story of the birth of Jesus that we celebrate on Christmas Day.
To these men and probably children (as children worked from a young age then) were outside on a hillside when they saw an angel. They were aghast as they probably thought the angel had come to condemn them but instead the angel told them that God was intervening in the world. God was going to live amongst the people of that time and set them free. As you might imagine this was hard to believe but God topped it all off with a vast number of angels in the sky singing Glory to God and peace to everyone on earth. Their story is told in many carols -“While Shepherds Watched” being just one.
The shepherds set off to find this new baby in Bethlehem with the clue that he would be lying in an animals eating trough called a manager. They would have been shocked to find that this baby from God was born in amongst the animals, their mess and not in a wonderful palace. They knelt and worshipped and became the first known Christians – followers of Jesus.
God has come to be one of us. Really one of us, to live without any privileges, any money, any safety, any security, with a bad name because you are not his father and without any power and that is why the shepherds have been told so that they will spread the word and when Jesus’ time comes people will have heard about him.’
So, you see the shepherds tell us that Jesus has no side. He treated all people as equals and asked us to call him our brother. He healed everyone who was sick regardless and he touched people that others said were unclean. Jesus was marginalised because of this by the faith group leaders of that day and they killed him because they could not bear to be contrasted with him. They hated him because he showed up their greed and power hungry behaviour.
One way of describing Jesus is that he is the light of the world and just like the lighting in those deep caves showing the hidden glory so he shows us the love, the kindness, the tolerance, the forgiveness and all of that with no condemnation, no compulsion just grace. God revealed to us and no cost spared.
This Christmas I hold onto this picture of Jesus and therefore of God that he is right there in the middle of everyone’s situation and when we turn to him and ask him into our lives and the horrible things that we experience then he will come in and stay with us and weep with us and help us to find a path through. He will help us find someone to talk with on the phone or through our doctor’s surgery or through the church.
I believe that Christmas Day is a turning point for us all and to celebrate that God is with us and then Christmas Day is a day of heavenly hope, peace and love so amazing that God chose to become like us to show us the truth of God’s love for you and me.