Some strange things happen at this time of year. It’s as if we suspend, at least for a bit, the sad stuff about ourselves and the world, enjoy our imagination more and put on our festive face and share a bit of Christmas magic, Ho Ho Ho!
So for example, we talk of Santa Claus coming down chimneys, we maybe even left him something last night to sustain him for his onward journey.
Maybe we watch a good Christmas movie, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘It’s a wonderful life’ or some other with a happy ending of course.
We may even a bit more charitable to those with whom the rest of the year we find a bit of a trial.
The strangest event of all that which we come here and to celebrate this morning, the birth of Jesus.
And it is strange if you think about it that the God of heaven and earth, creator of all that is, seen and unseen, come to us in a baby.
Inevitably we ask why? Why would God risk everything by pouring his love into a utterly dependent baby?
Last week we welcomed a couple of our primary schools here for their Christmas worship. The children had been assigned a task to write a sentence or two about why Christmas was special to them. Many of them spoke of it being a time for family and food, quite right too.
However one child began by saying “Christmas is all about love.” For me, he’d got it he’d answered the question. For the reason the word is made flesh and dwelt among us is love.
And though that love might appear strange to us, at Christmas we remember how God chose to inhabit this humanity we share, to as Rowan Williams put it recently “transfigure it from within.”
So a strange thing happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. God risked everything so that, to quote Williams again “wherever we turn we see a humanity God believed to be supremely worthwhile.”
The incarnation we celebrate this morning continues to have consequences now, for the hallowing of humanity then, reminds us that every life matters to God. Whether it is here in Whitkirk or in Homs in Syria. Whether it is a healthy fit and active person or one struggling with dementia. We all matter.
Consequently it’s no coincidence that after the joy of today in the church calendar at least, we focus on the sometimes harsh reality of human experience. Tomorrow we remember St. Stephen, stoned to death for his faith and then a couple of days later we recall Herod’s slaughter of the Holy Innocents.
But to return to Jesus, whose birth we celebrate this morning for in his story the strangeness goes on. Throughout his life he resists the easy choice. No doubt he could be difficult to live with and if we fast forward some 30 plus years his life ends on a cross.
Except that isn’t the end of the story. The resurrection is another a strange and mysterious event that changes everything once again, but that’s for another day. Easter and Christmas, the cross and the crib are though bound together through love.
And this love can and does change the world, if that is, we let it. For we’re so often motivated by the wrong things, by the need to succeed, the need to look or be a particular kind of person. Yet here is a different way grounded in love that says you matter, that you have a part to play, that you’re loved.
As we open our hearts and minds to the one who comes, we are bit by bit, day by day, ‘transfigured from within’ by love.
This morning as we look at the crib we glimpse what that love looks like for it isn’t strong, sorted and in control but the opposite weak, a bit messy and vulnerable, things which if we are honest we know well for ourselves.
And it is also because of love that this baby and the man he becomes doesn’t compel or demand our obedience. He wants us to find our own way home. That homecoming isn’t easy for his is a strange voice amidst so many which clamour for our attention. Yet just as a baby does when it wants to be picked up, Jesus holds out his arms to us from the crib and invites.
The Christmas magic for me, is not about Santa or Jingle Bells or Winter Wonderlands but about the God who comes and invites us to see what might be.
You see, Christmas is all about love.
May that love strangely embodied in a baby speak to you this joyful morning and always.