Last Friday, we held our first Crafts and Carols event, creating and assembling our very own nativity scene as we sang our way through the Christmas story. Below is the brief thought our minister shared when the nativity was complete.
The story of the first Christmas is full of surprises, but perhaps the most surprising thing is that they turn out not to be so surprising after all.
First there is the surprise baby that is God with us. If God wanted to come to us, why as a baby? Why risk the danger of pregnancy and childbirth? It seems utterly mad and wildly improbable, but how else could God come to us? How else would he get to know us and how else would we be able to see him?
Then there is the surprise birthplace in a strange town amidst the hay. If this baby is so special, why not a palace? Why the dirt and the mess of an animal shelter? It seems so incongruous, but how else could God show us that he is in the dirt and the mess of our world and our lives? How else could he understand what is broken and what needs fixing, except by coming into the world as a displaced person and living in the world as an outcast?
And finally there are the surprise visitors from the fields and foreign lands. If this baby is God with us, why not priests? Why not the rulers of his own land? These visitors seem out of place, but how else could God tell us that he came for everyone? How else would we know that this baby was for all people, no matter where they were from or what they believed?
On Christmas Day we will sing O Come All Ye Faithful. It’s one of my favourite carols, but a little bit of me winces every time I sing it, because God doesn’t just call the faithful. He calls the doubters, the seekers, the questioners and the downright faithless. Perhaps that is the thing that is most surprising and yet least surprising about this whole story, the thing that most shocks and yet most comforts, because it is what we least expect but most need.
God wants to invite all of us to the manger, that we might see him and be seen by him. All the power and love in the universe wrapped itself in the fragility and vulnerability of newborn human life, that he might draw near to us and know us better. That is the good news of Christmas in its highest and wildest and holiest sense. I cannot describe what that means, except to say that to know that God lived in flesh like mine makes my flesh feel more alive. May you know that life this Christmas.