Surprising, relevant, meaningful!
No I am not referring to a latest novel or block buster movie! When it comes to a film like Star Wars shortly to invade our cinemas, I have no idea what will be the reviews. We shall see!
Instead with these three words, I refer to Christmas and more specifically; events back in Judea around the start of the 1st century.
Surprising – how?
Well two women who never expected to have a child for starters. One apparently too old but ends up with a son, who became a prophet! Another young and never slept with anyone – whose son would be the Messiah!
And all kinds of questions this throws up including for someone like Joseph!
Plus add in an angel to the mix here both times. Speaking of which, there is an angel choir that appears to shepherds telling them about Christ’s birth. Surely not the best audience? Shepherds were on the edge of society and despised by many and considered not very reliable. Apparently God did not share such opinions!
Then there is the curious case of visitors from the east – rich guys possibly and certainly with some astronomical expertise. They come as a real surprise to the local despot Herod when they show up asking where is the one born King of the Jews!
I am not sure what you make of all of the above, but surprising seems appropriate!
You may struggle with the ideas of angels and miraculous happenings of course. That will partly depend on your view of the universe and if supernatural things are possible. What is it you believe and why?
Relevant – really?
It was a world where amid the wealth and security of some, that others were forgotten and on the margins. The message to the shepherds for instance shows God’s heart for the poor, those on the edges, the despised. God has not changed now, in what is for us the 21st century.
Read on in the Gospel accounts and we see Jesus and his parents’ lives under threat from a Middle Eastern leader. More than that after a warning dream about impending peril, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and they become refugees – strangers in a foreign land!
There is incredible mystery that God became human. Yet even more than this, in the early years of his life; Jesus was homeless, stateless and seemingly without security. Is Christmas relevant to today? Oh yes it is, Christ has been through the very thing that we so many experiencing right now in the news.God understands not as a distant spectator but as an up close participant.
On the weekend a team from ICL will join others in Calais reaching out to the refugees there. Why? As an expression of the relevance even today of the love and life of Jesus Christ.
Think for a moment of some of the titles connected to Christ…. such as
Immanuel – God with us. Humanity is not abandoned, God has lived among us, been in the neighbourhood. And even now we are not forgotten!
Prince of peace – how our world in so many ways needs to experience this life change that is possible through Jesus Christ.
And then there is his name…. Jesus! That is Joshua/Yeshua meaning The Lord saves. He lived up to His name and He still does.
Ultimately Christ laid down his life on the cross to deal with the rot (the Bible uses the word sin). The rot? Yes all of that stuff that has distorted mankind’s relationship with God and with each other. The stuff that leads to wars, radicalised ideas and hatred, refugee crises, to unnecessary poverty and crass exploitation of the planet to name just some ills. Christ dealt with the root of all this.
I know of course that the working out of all that raises all kinds of questions.
But Christmas is so so meaningful – Christ came and took on human form. His birth led one day to his death, when on the cross he took on himself the weight of human wrongdoing. And to throw in one more surprise here – He did not stay dead!
He is alive and whatever you face personally this Christmas, He is still Immanuel, God with us.
He is the One who saves – have we come to know Him and begun that journey of what it means to follow Him?
He is Prince of Peace – perhaps even personally you need to experience such peace/wholeness in a fresh way?
Surprising, relevant, meaningful! I think those words sum up Christmas well but more significantly they are good words to connect with Jesus himself!