In the midst of it all, a baby.
Tiny and defenceless, the promise and presence of God.
In this wondrous moment, in the simple vulnerability of God in the world, hope is asserted. This assertion is not only about Jesus’ birth offering hope for humanity; God’s hope reaches even more profoundly.
The birth of Jesus is how God asserts hope in humanity. In us.
This single grain of sand in the whirlwind of Caesar’s empire is what transforms everything. This assertion of God that we are worthy of hope and life; God’s hope, God’s gift of life.
Sit with this, for a moment.
Too easily and too often we have been convinced it is our failure which motivates God’s act, as if God is harnessed and haltered by us. Too simply and too loudly we are told that God was so angry at our sinfulness that God’s son is only born to die, making our lives and prayers engagements of fear over love.
We are too quickly inclined to believe the worst of ourselves and the worst of God.
As God breaks into the world as Jesus, we hear and see – and proclaim – God’s absolute engagement, God’s entire commitment to our lives and to our world.
At the heart of the Christmas event is God’s statement of faith in us. The gift of Jesus for the sake of the world.
What does that mean right now, that God has hope in us?
As I write this piece, the travesty of Russia’s invasion and war continues in Ukraine; while war scars other nations not deemed as newsworthy. What does hope mean as Ukraine fights for its very existence?
As empires which we have trusted, or feared, for these last few centuries topple and seem likely to fall – into disrepair, or despotism – there are echoes of Herod’s violent jealousy as a tiny baby destabilised everything he believed about power.
What sense does the birth of Jesus make as we consider formalising a voice to Parliament for our First Peoples?
The still, small voice of Jesus spoken into a corner of the Roman Empire rose to become a song which questioned the meaning of Empire and reordered the world. What might the disciples of this Jesus say about advocating to those in power, offering a voice when so many have been unjustly silenced?
What sense does the advent of God make for communities addressing the immediate challenge of floods, or striving for recovery after a season of extraordinary rainfall?
When we are overwhelmed with loss, or chaos, or with grief, the presence of God in the world is found in the starkness of a stable, or even less. Our loss is not airbrushed, or ignored, but God is present in the chaos of our lives. Emmanuel, “God with Us” means precisely that, and never more than when all seems to crumble.
God, exercising extraordinary hope in the birth of Jesus, invites a response from us: to act in hope, in life, as God has acted, and continues to act.
God elects to offer life, because God is completely convinced of our value. The truth that God has chosen to become precisely like us is not just a wonder, but the profound assertion of the inherent worth we have to the God of all creation.
Can we believe that at Christmas – and in the astounding wonder which awaits the world at Easter – that we see the best of the living God, because God believes in what is possible for us?
As Mary and Elizabeth sing with prophecy and power,
as the angels’ song fills the sky,
as shepherds stumble to the light and magi find their way,
as Herod’s depredations appal us still,
and as we wait for the family’s return from Egypt;
We name a God who is with humanity in all our wonder and all our frailty, and yet declares in the child born where all God’s hope resides – in Jesus and thus, in us.
May the hope of God find you this Christmas.
Image: Our Lady of Kyiv, on the wall of the Kyiv metro by an unknown artist.
This Christmas we encourage those of you that can lend a helping hand and those that are in need, to visit our website at www.findafeed.uca.org.au where you will find a range of support services and help.