22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

That Humanity should become Divine

25 December, 2016 Christmas Day By Rev Dr Christopher Page


We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God has borne and never ceases to bear in all eternity... But if it doesn’t take place in me, what value does it have? Everything depends on this, that it should take place in me. ~Meister Eckhart

 

Introduction:
I do find Christmas an attractive season because it is a festival, it’s a party and children, as many adults do, like a party. There can also be in this season a lovely sense of wonder and hopefulness.  And of course we can’t speak about peace on earth and good will toward all people too often.

Yes, there is the crass consumerism and a fair bit of missing the “reason for the season” but really that’s what life is like.  It’s often a kind of mingling the best of times and the worst. A mixing of the good, the bad and sometimes the downright ugly!

This came home to me when I visited Jerusalem in 2007.  When you walk through the old city your sensibilities are assaulted by every kind of religious trinket you can find. “You like the baby Jesus? Here, only 20 shekels and I have a manger that glows in the dark!” The trader produced a cardboard box with a small hole you could peer into.  Sure enough as I looked through the hole into the box there was a little manger glowing in the dark.  Now for me that was rather a “Ho hum” experience but as I stepped aside a small boy took the box and looked in and squealed with utter delight.  Maybe in my theological sophistication I missed something.  I’m not as easily surprised by joy as this young boy was. While I may seek the mystery of Christmas in the wonder of the mingling of the human and the divine the child can see “hope born in dark places.”  Children know the magic of the season. So in our beautifully imperfect world there is always a little magic wrapped in mystery.

Finding God in Christmas
So I think, to find the presence of God; of the divine, “God with us” in the birth of Jesus, we need a good dose of “wide-eyed wonder” and children are our best teachers when it comes to this!  While we have often cluttered the Christmas story, the narrative of Jesus’ birth, with a lot of religious and theological banter, the important thing is not to lose the simplicity of the story.

Unfortunately, for many in the 21st century, the mention of a virgin giving birth; visits by celestial beings; and astrologers following a moving star means that the story is relegated to the likes of a fairy-tale.  But such things are of less concern to the child and it’s maybe because the child focuses on the central aspect of the story and the telling of the story - and children, as we parents and grandparents know, can revel in a well-told story.

On a trip to Canada a few years ago I gave a book to my granddaughter Naomi which was the story of a Wombat who through a fair bit of cleverness convinced a family to feed him, house him and serve him.  It was titled The Diary of a Wombat. One night before bed I read the book to Naomi and Joanne and Noah.  At the end of the story Naomi says, “Gramps will you read it again?” So I did.  And after the second reading she said, “And again?” Why did she want it repeated over and over again?  Because the story came alive in her imagination when it was read to her. She was there in that place with the very clever wombat.  And that’s what we need for this Christmas story – we need to find ourselves in the story and allow it to form and shape us.

When God is a Child
I love Brian Wren’s hymn that is often sung with the lighting of the Advent candles:

When God is a child
There is joy in my song
The weak shall be strong
And the last shall be first
And none shall be afraid.

The child can identify with every line in that song….. The weak shall be strong….the last shall be first…. And none shall be afraid. So when our image of God is as a child we gain a unique perspective on the world.  We tend in traditional Christian faith to be more comfortable with the image of God as a Father and less comfortable with the image of God as a mother.  And perhaps we have never even considered the image of God as a child.  A father is strong, a child is vulnerable – wide-eyed and open to life as it expands.  I think that is a great way of imagining the Divine.

I don’t usually quote Pope Benedict XVI but in his Christmas address a couple of years ago he said:

At Christmas, God is defenceless, without weapons, because he does not aim to conquer from the outside… In the light of Christmas we understand the words of Jesus, “Unless you become as a little child you shall not enter the realm of God.”

To hold a baby in your arms is an extraordinary thing.  One experiences the powerlessness of this little one.  But at the same time one is aware of the power of life that is pulsating through this little body.  The potentiality – the embodiment of hope and the fulfilment of promise, all wrapped up in this small human life.  

In the face of this new one born in a manger 2,000 years ago and in the face of every child born into this world, we catch a glimpse of the Divine; “God with us”; Emmanuel.  Yes, a child is a very apt symbol of God with us.

Unfortunately, when God is a King we are subservient to God.  When God is a warrior we follow him into war.  When God is mighty we are weak.  But when God is a child the world is a place of hope, joy, love and play and anything is possible.  What a different world we would have if we imagined God as a chubby, laughing child looking down on us giggling and wanting to play.

Well that’s maybe too comical for some but remember: Christian theology has had no problem placing God in a manger and calling him Jesus. And while at the end of the day that is too simplistic an idea, nevertheless, we can be always grateful that the authors of Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels gave us a wonderful imaginative story of Jesus as a baby and of the presence of God wrapped around him.  The gospel of Mark, the gospel of John and St Paul saw no need to give an account of Jesus’ birth, but this picture of new life born in a dark and difficult time is a powerful one.

So the Christmas story is a sort of counter-cultural story.  It tells us that the presence of God is found not only in power and majesty; not in the call of the warrior to war and violence; but in poverty and simplicity, in powerlessness and vulnerability.

It was the 3rd century St Athanasius who said, “The divine becomes human so that we may become divine.”  What better place to see the coming together of the human and divine than in a small child born into this world without trappings or grandeur or symbols of pretension.  God present and alive with us, within us, around us and beyond us.

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