14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us….
John 1: 14 – KJV
Over the course of my lifetime, as the numbers professing the Christian faith have declined, Christmas has for many people become a time of excess: excess of food and drink; excess of spending; excess of partying; excess of everything. These are perhaps the thoughts that cause many with no faith at all to say, as one scientist did last week, that we should cancel Christmas and hold a celebration at the summer solstice in June instead. Also Saddiq Khan said: ‘There’s no reason you have to kiss or hug an older relation’. Devi Sridhar said: ‘Mixing at Christmas is a terrible idea’. Another ‘expert’ said: ‘We can hug without fear in a few months’. Can we, really, if the very last positive test has to be achieved first? When do we think we’ll get the last positive test for Covid? The lack of compassion underlying these statements really shocks me. Do we actually now care so little for the original purpose of Christmas, that actually it doesn’t matter whether we celebrate it at the end of December, or in April, June or August, so long as we have a good time?
For many, even for those with little or no faith, Christmas is far more than just this; it’s a time for thinking about God and about who we are as a people. It’s also a time when we celebrate our love for each other and for those whom maybe we see rarely because of distance, lack of time, or other considerations. We are, whatever government medical advisers may wish to suggest, people who thrive on personal, physical relationships with others; there is plenty of research to show that a lack of such contact strips away our humanity and leads directly to mental health issues. Do we genuinely not care that for some, even for some who are highly vulnerable, there is more to life than staying barely alive in some dystopian twilight, stripped of all physical contact with those they love? What about those who know or suspect that this might be their last ever Christmas; or even their last ever cherished hug?
Christmas should be the moment when we’re thrilled by grasping the enormity of the gift that God the Father himself has given us, simply by coming among us, as a living, breathing, incarnation. But He doesn’t just choose to come into our messy, painful, unjust world. He also chooses to come as a hopeless, fragile, vulnerable baby.
The baby in the manger reflects our Father’s deliberate act to make Himself vulnerable; we’re called at this time of year to mirror that vulnerability, as a conscious choice, in our relationships with each other. Through God adopting our vulnerability, He offers us a model for our own relationships with each other. And He shows us how important it is that we don’t just accept, but actually embrace our own vulnerability.
It is way beyond overdue in this pandemic that we start to accept that we’re fragile and are not, and never have been, totally in control of our destiny. That is what I believe is the message of this particular Christmas.
I hope that you will find, amongst all the current difficulties, that you can have a joyful Christmas, and one that fills you with hope for the New Year and 2021, in whatever way you think is best for you and for those you love.
I pray that this Christmas, above all others, we take time to thank God for our own vulnerability, and put aside the view that death is a failure, rather than a perfectly natural part of life. And that we learn to embrace our vulnerability, as our Father did. Amen