We don’t know at what time of the year the miracle at Bethlehem actually took place, but the Church Fathers were very wise. In their efforts to teach the faith to our heathen ancestors of this cold Northern Hemisphere they connected the birth of Jesus with the warmth and the goodwill which already existed in the midwinter pagan celebrations.
But no celebration can really explain the coming of God into the world of human beings. Only the Spirit-given words of St John, can tell of the eternal God, entering into human life with all of its difficulties. So we need to look through the tinsel, and the nostalgia, in order to see the basic, yet amazing truth.
The time of waiting is over. God has come to his people as one of them.
St John spent a lifetime looking at, and thinking about, what he’d seen in the life of Jesus, his friend and his master, and he summed it up like this:
“The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This Word, this power of God, that was responsible for the Universe, became embodied in a human being named Jesus. And John and others had known him not only as a builder, a friend and a prophet, but also as someone very special indeed. To be with him was like being in the presence of God. He was Immanuel, which means “God with us “.
Now, it might seem perverse if I remind you that Christmas will soon be over, almost before it’s yet begun. But that is indeed the case, and we shall soon move back into our daily routines.
Thoughts of Jesus, for many people, will be discarded with the used wrapping paper , and it will be all too easy to think that God has retreated back into the heavens where he will remain, all boxed up, until we bring him out again in next December’s nativity scenes.
But St John tells us to remember that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us. This Word, this Christ that was with God in the beginning, became something that we could grasp.
Christ the Word is certainly “up there “in heaven, but we must never forget that he is also “down here” on earth. And so we can see that Christ is dwelling with us still, if only we ask the right questions and look in the right places. We can still see the Word made flesh for us today, but we must find ways of transforming our ordinary daily routines into channels of God’s truth.
Most of you will value the sacraments of the church, and if that is so then it’s but a simple step to see that we live in a universe which by its very nature is sacramental. A sacrament brings into effect that of which it’s a sign, and because we’re created in the image of God, we should most clearly be able to see God in each other.
Just imagine how life would change if we made a special effort to treat all with whom we had to do as the image of God that they really are. Then we really would see the Word made flesh, and they would see the same Word made flesh in us too. Sometimes in human encounters of love, we experience special moments when something of God touches our life in a way which leaves us deeply moved. These sacred times are examples of Christ in heaven touching earth in our daily lives, and when we experience him “down here” like this, then we can say with St John that we have seen the Glory of God.
This Word, the glory of God is continually being made flesh and revealing God to us.
The darkness has not overcome the light and the Son who is close to God’s heart, continues to make himself known to us in the flesh.
May God bless us all with this revelation of his love for us this Christmas.