Expectations are high at this time of year. Many of us look forward and plan special times with family, friends and our church community. At times, we over plan! For some, Christmas brings sad memories or reminders of disappointments. These contrasting experiences reflect our personal journey and feelings associated with Christmas.
The Christmas narratives in the Gospels include highs and lows, certainty and uncertainty. They are not narratives of ‘smooth sailing’. No accommodation, the celebrations of angels, wise men and shepherds all mixed together with a background threat to the life of the Christ child and the need to flee.
In these narratives, we see God’s direct entry into human experience in the vulnerability of the baby. In this environment of uncertainty, and in the most unlikely place, God enters the world. Here, in the place where animals live, is God. Not in majestic grandeur, but in humble joy. What risky and generous love this is.
God takes the initiative, and invites us to experience life in new ways. Forgiveness, grace and unconditional, vulnerable love are the signs of God’s presence in Jesus. Mary’s song celebrates this and helps us see the beauty of the gift of new life in God’s Kingdom.
Over the past weeks I travelled to South Sudan. I saw so many good things – where people are being resourced and equipped to be able to take responsibility for themselves. Midwives are serving in communities, children are being educated, and local rural people have growing incomes. The need, though, is still great.
We were given gifts of embroidered sheets that, in the terms of the economic resources available to local people who gave them, are costly. We were embarrassed and quietly offered to contribute to the cost. Our offer was politely and respectfully rejected. We were informed that the gifts were symbols of joy and relationship and so the cost did not matter! How humbling this was for us.
In another setting, a widowed mother spoke with joy about the change a simple plough had made in her ability to generate income – an increase of 300% in produce that means she now earned $30US a year from farming instead of $10!
Christmas celebrates the generosity of God and we give thanks for all the ways we experience this love. Here is a challenge to us: to be generous so that others experience new life and new opportunities. Please include those in need this Christmas in your planning and giving.