God crept in beside us” Reflection for Christmas
“Light looked down and saw the darkness.
‘I will go there,’ said light.
Peace looked down and saw war.
‘I will go there,’ said Peace.
Love looked down and saw hatred.
‘I will go there,’ said love.
the Lord of Light,
the Prince of Peace,
the King of Love,
came down and crept in beside us” (John Bell)
This is the wonderful mystery we celebrate today – as John Bell, in the poem I’ve just recited reminds us, the Lord of Light, the Prince of Peace, the King of Love came down and crept in beside us. He crept in beside us. What an entrance! – if you were the all-powerful God – how would you come among your people? Full of glory? Our God chooses the humble path, he chooses to enter our world as a fragile, vulnerable child, an immigrant, born into poverty. There is no fanfare, no fireworks, no Hallelujah Chorus, no turkey dinner – he crept in beside us. He comes unnoticed, unrecognised, without pomp and ceremony. He becomes one of us – one like us – so much so that people reject him when he claims to be the Son of God. Those who lived with him could clearly see that he was human – they could touch him, see him, hear him. Many rejected him: ‘He came among his own and his own received him not’ – there was no room at the inn.
It might come as a surprise to you to know that Christmas is not celebrated everywhere today, the 25th December. When I lived in Ethiopia, Christmas was celebrated on the 6th or 7th January depending on the calendar. Each year as the 25th December would come round I would have an intense nostalgia for home – but it was an ordinary, working day. I never got used to it. However, it did make me think – and I thought to myself, surely this is closer to how the mystery of Christmas actually took place. An ordinary day, an ordinary child – unrecognised and unnoticed except by his own family. So, may be my celebration of Christmas in Ethiopia was closer to the mystery of what actually happened. God crept in beside us.
The mystery of Christmas is not simply something that happened in the past, for God continues to come among his own and is not received, continues to go unrecognised, especially in the poor, and continues to be rejected. When the Son of God becomes flesh and unites himself to our humanity – everything changes. His story and our story become one. Whatever happens to us, happens to him. There is no longer my story and his story. There is only our story.
Jesus was born in history but he lives in us today. How is he present? We have already established that he takes the route of ordinary humanity, humility and poverty. He came in powerlessness and so, he is revealed in situations where people are powerless.
As I reflected on such situations I began to appreciate more deeply his presence.
The drama of Christmas happens every day – when I choose love over hatred; when I don’t hold on to grudges but choose to forgive; when instead of having to be right, I lose the argument so as to choose peace; when I repay with a blessing someone who gossips about me; then, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Light, the King of Love is born again in our hearts, in our world; once again God has crept in beside us.
May his Peace, his light, his love reign in our hearts – Live Jesus, let Jesus live in us.