God in the ordinary

6 12 2013

The most important thing about the birth of Jesus is not precisely how, when or where he was born, but that he was indeed born.  Only two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, give an account of his birth.  Mark and John may have chosen not to because they did not think it was that important, and the rest of the New Testament supports them because not a single bit of Christian teaching is drawn from the infancy accounts.  Nor did the early Christians start celebrating Christmas until the third or fourth century!

And yet these strange stories have a gritty ring of truth about them.  Some say they are just fiction, written to fit the prophecies of the Old Testament, but they’re not like that.  The fit isn’t good enough.  Instead Matthew and Luke seem to relate these odd events and in them spot echoes of these older books which they then highlight.

The most striking fact though is the way that the birth of Jesus is all of a piece with the rest of his life, and in that way turns upside down our preconceptions of what God is like.  The “wonder” of his birth is not the shared parental feeling of a new life safely delivered, but rather the circumstances in which it happens.  If the idea of God entering the life of the human race is not startling enough (and ask a Muslim if you want to know how disturbing that idea is), then take the fact that he is born in poverty, nearly destitute, and by the age of two is a refugee in a foreign country fleeing from a murderous regime.

This same child grows up to confound expectations by taking the high ideals of the Ten Commandments and lifting them to an even higher level, whilst saying at the same time that the kingdom of heaven is for the crooks and the whores and the irreligious drop-outs – the very people who are least likely to be able to live up to these ideals.  He then confronts the political and religious powers knowing full well that they will kill him, saying that in doing so he will take upon himself all the evils of the world including theirs, and overcome them.  Which he did.  Three days later.

Jesus’ life declares that you find God not in some sanitised heaven but in the grit and the grime and the graft of daily life.  Christmas just marks the beginning of that.  It’s worth a party or two – but come and learn how to find God in the ordinary the rest of the time.

Merry Christmas!




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