25 December 2023
Christ is the “Word Made Flesh”, John tells us. In Christ, God’s grace and love, God’s compassion and mercy, God’s wrath and forgiveness are verbally, physically, practically and eternally proclaimed. This is a well-known truth, but what we sometimes forget is that the proclamation is not just for us, but, as we embrace and follow this incarnate Word, the proclamation is also through us. We do not just enjoy the benefits of Christ’s birth, we also become messengers of this Good News, carrying the benefits of the Word who dwells among us to all people. Ultimately, if we don’t begin to live the word that the Word proclaims, we haven’t really heard it at all.
Let today’s celebration be a time of proclamation, and of renewed commitment to being “little incarnations” of God’s Word in our small corner of the world.
Isaiah 52:7-10: The joy of seeing the messenger of good news, who announces peace and the reign of God, and of knowing God’s protection and care.
Psalm 98: A song of celebration of the God who comes to save God’s people, and who comes to judge the earth in righteousness and justice.
Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12): God has spoken to us through God’s Son, who is the likeness of God’s being, who has
been appointed as ruler over all things because of his love of goodness, and whose rule is just and eternal.
John 1:1-14: The eternal Word who created the world has come into the world as light shining in darkness and has given life – as children of God – to all who believed in him and received him.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
At the heart of this year’s Christmas readings is the proclamation of God’s reign. Isaiah celebrates the Messenger who proclaims the good news of God’s reign. Psalm 98 describes God, and all of creation, announcing God’s victory and the coming of God’s just judgement. In Hebrews, the desire of God to communicate God’s love and grace is described – God spoke through prophets, but now speaks through God’s Son. In the Gospel, God’s Word is embodied, incarnated, bringing life and a relationship with God to all who receive Christ. This message of proclamation is a timely one for us. On the one hand there is God’s constant communication to us – the grace and faithfulness of God, culminating in the moment of incarnation – the final word, the ultimate communication – in which God reaches out to us. On the other hand there is the invitation, and the challenge, for us to receive and respond to this communication. And, of course, the promise is that when we do hear, receive and respond, we find ourselves in intimate, transforming relationship with God in Christ. It’s a simple, but profound, gift that God offers us through this day.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Christmas can feel like a time when it is inappropriate to deal with the ‘big issues’ in our world. There is a sense in which people long to lay aside the concerns and struggles and take a moment to do nothing other than celebrate. This is a good response to this time, and the desire to celebrate is an important one. But, celebration does not require us to turn a blind eye to the painful realities of our world. Further, the message of this day is a cause to celebrate in the midst of grief – God continues faithfully and constantly to communicate and reach out us. God never ceases coming to us to bring justice and grace into our lives and world. God’s patience and perseverance never fail, and in Christ, God’s reign is already available among us and within us. So, in the light of this, we have an opportunity to reflect and recognise all the ways in which God is speaking in our world. We have an opportunity to notice and celebrate the places where God’s reign is already visible. We have an opportunity to renew our commitment to being messengers of God’s reign. Even as Christ is the ultimate messenger of God – the Word of God made flesh – we are also God’s messengers, reflecting God’s reign in our actions, and making it known in our words. If Christmas is to have meaning for us, we need to continue the gift of incarnation by becoming ‘little incarnations’ each one of us. And as we commit to this, the world is changed – in subtle but significant ways. Like the God we serve, let us never grow tired of proclaiming God’s justice and grace.
The challenge of the Christmas season is to retain a listening and receptive heart in the midst of everything that is going on at this time of year. While it can feel right to fight for the name “Christmas” in the face of political correctness, I wonder if, when we seek to assert our Christian ‘rights’ and claim this holiday for ourselves alone, we don’t lose more than we gain. Is the Christlike thing not to serve others by making space for their faith and celebrations as well? Surely Jesus is more concerned with the attitude of love, grace and service than with a name for a holiday? We can be tempted to denounce the secularisation and commercialism of this holiday, but perhaps the best way to proclaim God’s grace and reign is to welcome all who would celebrate, for whatever reason, while showing through our own actions a different way of celebrating this time. Initiatives like ‘The Advent Conspiracy‘ are a good way to do this. Further, if we are truly to proclaim God’s reign in this time, we need to be open to incarnate God’s grace and love in every moment in the way we treat our neighbours, in the way we relate to those who think, believe or act differently from us, in the way we involve ourselves in our communities. It’s sad that often the season that celebrates Christ’s coming is filled with the least Christ-like behaviour from followers of Christ. How can we rather be ‘good news’ to those around us?
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
The Final Word
Welcome To Our World
God With Us
You Have Come To Us
Who Is He In Yonder Stall
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Joy to The World
What Child Is This?
Here Is Our King
Joy Has Dawned
A Liturgy for Advent & Christmas
The Word Became Flesh