Christmas eve was lovely – midnight mass at St Luke’s. Church is v. important round here at Christmas. Mainly because, underneath all the debt, divorce, drink driving and mindless consumerism, Christmas is a celebration of God becoming human (well, at least it has been since we hijacked it from the pagans…) – the idea of the incarnation, the unknowable God making herself known, being born in a shed and spending his first few years alive as an asylum seeking refugee, is the pivotal point of the Christian story, the point at which an impersonal transcendent God became immanent, lived on the planet and demonstrated a radical alternative to human self-centred destructive living. It all began with ‘peace on earth, goodwill to all men’, and continued when Jesus started his ‘ministry’ by claiming the words of Isaiah as his own ‘I’ve come to bring good news for poor people, fix the broken hearted, give sight to the blind and tell you that God’s on your side today’.
Jesus’ birth contradicted everything that people thought about the idea of the coming messiah. It was weak, he was exiled, he wasn’t royal he was a tradesman and the son of a tradesman. If he’d been born in London now he’d be a refugee, a builder from Albania or Iraq. He didn’t come to set up an army, but to demonstrate that love conquers all. That God is love, and when we are motivated by that love, good things happen – the meek inherit the earth, the kingdom of God is there for the poor, peacemakers and prisoners of conscience are blessed, even in the midst of that persecution. It’s a crazy vision of ‘the kingdom’ and one that has sadly got lost in favour of ‘blessed are the mad power-crazed PNAC jihadists, for theirs shall be the White House’.
Which is why I celebrate Christmas – a reminder that Jesus turned all that on its head, said the last shall be first and the first, last. Said that God was bodily present in the homeless and if you help them, you help God, and if you don’t, please don’t try and tell her how holy you are. It’s a story about changed priorities, a story about Jubliee, about God being on the side of the downtrodden.
For the poor, Christmas is about hope. For Christians, it ought to be a wake-up call, a challenge and an inspiration. It is for me.
Soundtrack – Kate Bush, ‘Aerial’ (I bought this for TSP for Christmas, and it’s magic)by