Minister’s Musings for Christmas 2021
‘…the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger’ Luke 2:6-7 NRSV
When my son Alex was born it was in a pristine hospital. The midwife was efficient and our private room was filled to capacity with equipment for any and every eventuality. The mood was relaxed – even if the epidural was a little late in arriving- and we were warm and felt absolutely certain that our child was going to arrive in the safest place in the world. Our extended family was nearby, armed with cards and the necessary gifts that a newborn (and new parents) would require.
Contrast that with this extract from the Christmas story. No mention of medical attention- and if a midwife was present she wasn’t equipped with state of the art pain relief or an intelligent heat adjusting cot. Mary and Joseph had arrived in Bethlehem amid huge crowds responding to the call for a census. No room in the (or any) inn and food in short supply with so many visitors to cater for. Family was far away, and probably still mad at them both for seemingly breaking their betrothal vows and the future looked far from cosy or certain.
A child, vulnerable and fragile is delivered into a stable where animals slept and only torn up cloths and a feeding trough were there to accommodate him. His mother must have been scared out of her wits and as those labour pains increased must have wondered if the visit from an angel so long ago now had been a figment of her imagination. For surely the God of the universe, creator of all that has been and is and is to come would want more than this for his child? No fanfares or bright lights, no attendant cherubim or seraphim, only cold, dirt and isolation to greet the arrival of the son of God.
But this was all God’s plan, to show that in Jesus a new world order had begun, where values would be turned upside down, the weakest become the strongest, the last become the first. In her labour Mary could not have heard angels singing of his arrival to poor impoverished and excluded shepherds, nor have known the great distance that some star gazers were travelling to find her child who was destined to be the greatest king of all time.
When her baby cried – the purest and loveliest sound for any mother and this time, a signal to the world that God had come among his people- she might have relaxed a little and remembered Gabriel’s words about her son- ‘he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end’.
And where better place for that reign to begin than in the rough and ready ordinariness of life? Just where the wealthy, rich and famous, the selfish and self-important would not expect God to be, but where the sinner, the loser and the stranger would most hope to find him.
Jesus waits still to be found among the dirt and disappointments of life, to comfort and lift up the fallen and to offer hope to a world where the poor, the oppressed and the different suffer day by day. He waits for you and me, for our families and our friends- and all we have to do to change the world is to look for him!
And the angels sang to the shepherds ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom he favours’.
May God’s favour rest upon you this Christmas time… Revd Sharon.