While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger (Luke 2:6-7).
This week I was visited a housebound parishioner who is going to spend Christmas on his own. Between a cup of tea and a biscuit we discussed how the society sees Christmas and how the media interpret this Christian festival.
“For me Christmas is the most magical time of the year” says one TV presenter. “For me is all about the abundance of festive food” says another. But the catchphrase that you hear most often these weeks is “For me, Christmas is all about family”.
The relationship between Christmas and family is so engrained in our culture that we can hardly imagine willingly spending Christmas away from home, without loved ones, and on our own.
As our collective memory affirms, even an incorrigible grumpy man like the Scrooge of Dickens’ Christmas Carol bows to family rituals and knocks at the door of his nephew on Christmas Day. In my own culture there is a proverb, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” meaning, You spend Christmas with your family, but Easter with whoever you want.
However, St Luke gives us another prospective. Look at Mary and Joseph. Consider their journey and the difficulties they must have encountered. Consider the lowly state of Jesus’ birth.
In your minds and hearts travel to Bethlehem and see this miraculous thing that has come to pass. See Jesus as son of a couple of homeless poor and refugees, first adored by the shepherds who were very much akin to social outcast. This is the one of whom prophets spoke; around whom the history of salvation and the whole of creation revolve.This is God who comes to be with his people and comes to share the conditions of the lowliest, from this humble beginning to death on the Cross.
Indeed, Christmas may be about family and loved ones. But above all is about this great mystery; God – the one to whom all majesty, all glory, all honour belong – coming to us as a lowly baby born in poor conditions. Moreover, this coming isn’t secret or incognito, just to have a look first-hand at creation. He has come to be God-with-us announced by angels and adored by creation.
So looking at the crib and thinking of the stable of Bethlehem, I believe that Jesus tonight is born in the families that have been evacuated because of flooding. I believe Christ is born tonight at Paddington Station where thousands of people have been stranded recently without means of reaching loved ones in the South West. I believe Christ is born tonight amidst the difficulties of those who make us of our foodbank. He is born tonight in the intensive care units of our hospitals and in the shelters of St Petroc’ Society. I believe Christ is born tonight with that lone parishioner I was visiting, who has no-one to share Christmas with. I believe Christ is born tonight amidst the sufferings of this world. I believe Christ is born tonight to side with those at the margin of society.
Let us pray,
O Jesus, living in Mary,
Come and live in your servants,
In the spirit of your holiness,
In the fullness of your might,
In the truth of your virtues,
In the perfection of your ways,
In the communion of your mysteries.
Subdue every hostile power
In your spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen.