Benefice Letter for December
Isn’t a small baby wonderful? Did you know most humans are programmed to respond with affection to its tiny profile, its perfect miniature form (down to those tiny fingernails), its cuddliness, even its cries and its utter helplessness and dependence on its parents and other carers? Have you ever thought, too, how human infants are dependent for much longer than other species and did you know that it is only humans along with two other species (I think one the elephant, the other the tortoise) who live long enough to be grandparents to assist the parents over a long period of time?
It was in this totally vulnerable form that God chose to enter his creation in recognisable fashion – how mind-blowing is that? Yes, the Lord of all creation, of the magnificent and huge universe and of the tiniest atom, became known to us in that manger in Bethlehem, as a tiny infant with no power apart from his cry (and all parents know that is a pretty powerful weapon!) and the normal baby’s propensity to charm. There lay Emmanuel – God-with-us.
The child is, of course, the Father to the Man and Jesus grew to be a normal adult with no more or less obvious influence that any other man. But he did possess that special integrity which went with his other nature – the Divine, so that his listeners could say he spoke with greater moral authority than any of their learned and earnest teachers. He showed in his normal human existence those characteristics of God, which we are called upon to demonstrate to the best of our flawed ability – honesty, kindness, patience, care for others, obedience to God’s way, righteousness, love and forgiveness.
And so we come to the end of his life, when again the Babe of Bethlehem became apparently totally vulnerable, bound through the jealousy of his own people and standing before the mighty Roman authority, hands and feet then nailed to a cross in such a way that he could not make any movement, the victim of desertion and betrayal, of political subterfuge and lies, of wanton cruelty and sheer evil, as he met the natural end of physical life by dying in the most hideous way.
But then….a new birth into glorious eternity where Jesus is shown in all his power and glory, a new birth which is promised to us all by Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus could not experience resurrection without having first died; he couldn’t die without having first been born. The whole mystery of our salvation and of God’s unconquerable love is presented to us anew in the crib scene, the Christmas Eucharist, the Carol Services and our personal devotions at this time of the year.
Let’s use the holy season of Advent to prepare our hearts and minds for Christ to be born anew in us, as surely as he was born in that Bethlehem stable.
I wish you and your families every blessing at this holy festival.
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