This Christmas I will fall to my knees at church and thank and praise God for the birth of his Son. Why? The evidence of the early church, the eyewitness accounts from neutral or even hostile sources, the ever-increasing tangible proof from archeological digs and the abundantly meagre nature of the standard objections.
Let us remember the innocent, crying baby born in an occupied and troubled land 2,000 years ago for the sole purpose of dying. The great paradox of history. A birth that found ultimate purpose in death. God who came to earth in the most vulnerable human form. Victory in defeat. Glory in humiliation.
It probably did not happen in December and the actual date is largely irrelevant. It is that it happened rather than whenit happened that is of importance. The evidence for his birth and existence is overwhelming, but on this day, it is the meaning rather than the information that should concern us.
The great conduit of salvation is made flesh. God had sent prophets, had performed miracles and provided life and happiness for his people, most of whom then chose to ignore Him or worse. Finally, He makes the ultimate sacrifice and becomes one of us. Feels pain, rejection and the cancerous violence that has infected us since The Fall.
The Nativity, however, is only the culmination of God’s plan that began in Nazareth, with Mary accepting her role in the coming of the Messiah. Her humility and her acquiescence is, again, part of that divine paradox. In her pristine submission, she is eternally triumphant.
This is not complacency, but active collaboration. The Virgin becomes part of the great underground movement, the Queen of the resistance against darkness and death.
How different is the spirit of this woman from that which is supposed to characterize the contemporary feminine character. My body, my life, my will. Not so with immaculate Mary. My body and life and will, she says, are all the product of you and your love, my God. I am made whole by obedience.
Similarly with Joseph, her husband and the stepfather of her Son. He defies the prejudice and doubt of his culture and time to surrender to God’s plan for all humanity. How easy and acceptable it would have been for him to leave this pregnant woman and to start a different and separate life. Even his willingness to retreat from the centre of the Messianic stage for the birth and childhood of Jesus shows the revolutionary detours of God’s map.
It is a girl who, at a time when women could not even give evidence in a court of law, is used by God to transform history and begin the universe anew. God could have made the world believe, made the ground shake, made his Son an obvious king and master. But that is force rather than love and would work directly against our free will and thus contradict his devotion to us.
This baby grows up to tell us that the meek, the peacemakers and the persecuted will inherit the world, not the strong and the powerful. A Messiah born so far away, so long ago, who takes conventional thinking and understanding and translates it into a language of liberation.
A liberation, of course, so dreadfully misunderstood by a modern world. Freedom comes through wisdom and wisdom is only achieved when we fear, know and love God. The baby allowed to be born became and is the conduit for salvation yet today He is so often rejected, abused, marginalized and mocked. He knew that would happen. Knew that the war on believers, the unborn, the elderly and the vulnerable would break our hearts but not our faith and our will to fight on.
Finally, a baby who as a man dies an agonizing and humiliating death for us, only to rise again and to hold out his hand for all time, so that by accepting it, we will join Him in eternal bliss and completion. The baby becomes a man so that men and women can become as babies and crawl into his arms.
This is what the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas, means to all those who believe and promises to all those who do not. It is why I shall fall to my knees and pray and thank God. The cries of a baby that echoed around the world and still sound the opening of the gates of paradise.
Have a blessed and joyful Christmas and know that real life has not yet begun and this is only the land of shadows.