A reflection for Christmas Eve, adapted from that shared at Holy Cross Timperley.
Tonight we recall that holy night when God took on our human life with the most fragile of beginnings.
God himself became a helpless bundle of tears and gurgles.
God himself identified with human beings at one of the frailest moments of our existence: the moment of our birth.
Our Christmas carols sing of this wonderful truth, but how often do their words pass us by?
He came down to Earth from Heaven
Who is God and Lord of all.
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his Heaven.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity.
And of course, John, in the prologue to his Gospel, puts it like this:
In the beginning was the Word.
The Word was with God.
The Word was God.
The Word became flesh.
Here is the God who created the stars and the planets and the oceans and the mountains.
Here is the God who is so holy that the Israelite people could barely stand in his presence and live.
Here is that God choosing to leave his Heavenly throne to come and live among his people.
Tonight we find our God lying in a feeding trough: the tiny baby of a peasant girl and her fiancé.
What is this, if not the ultimate divine act of letting go?
God let go of the Heavenly realms, to come and live among his created beings on Earth.
God let go of divine power, to begin life here as each of us has done: weak, vulnerable, helpless.
Welcome to Christmas night. The night that God let go.
We all know what it is like to have to let go of something, or someone. We have all known loss. Human experience calls us back to this well trodden path of letting go. We may have had to let go of childhood, of possessions, of ambitions, of past hurts, of good dreams and bad memories, of relationships, of health, of our home, of dear friends and family members, or even of our very selves.
Letting go can be beautifully liberating, or crushingly painful. Sometimes it is both. Many of us here this evening have walked some very difficult pathways of loss and letting go this year. And in all that we have to let go of, in all our experience of loss, God has been there before us. He knows what it is like to have to let go.
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew.
And he feeleth for our sadness
And he shareth in our gladness.
The incarnation, and this tiny baby who is the centrepiece of our nativity stories, is a reminder that God knows what human life is like.
We can never justly accuse God of not knowing human suffering, because he came to Earth and lived it for us.
We can never justly accuse God of not stepping into our shoes, because that is exactly what he did.
I wonder what we see when we look at the nativity scene. Mary and Joseph, yes. And a baby. Shepherds and sheep, wise men, perhaps a donkey and an ox. Not forgetting the angels.
I wonder how often we look at that scene and see God? We know the baby is the baby Jesus. We know this baby is God, taking on human form. But do we really see him?
Do we truly grasp the full significance of this tiny baby laid in a feeding trough?
Do we look upon this baby and remember all that God let go of, in order to come and live this life of frailty and humility?
The nativity is not a fairy tale to make us feel warm and fuzzy at Christmas time.
The nativity is not, primarily, a script for a school play.
The nativity is an account of loss and pain, of flesh and blood.
The nativity is an account of life’s interruptions and injustice crashing headlong into God’s love and mercy.
The nativity is an account of our frail and fickle lives becoming intimately entwined with the awesome, majestic, eternal life of God.
On this holy night, we give thanks to God that he let go of everything to walk in our shoes: to feel our pain and to know our helplessness.
On this holy night, we commit to God our own acts of letting go, our pain and our loss, and we ask for his gentle love to enfold us.
On this holy night, we gaze upon the Christ child, and see that the Lord has drawn near to the broken hearted.
On this holy night, the Word became flesh, and he lives among us.