By the Rt Rev Laish Z Boyd
“Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the angel has told us about.” - Luke 2:15
Christmas is about God coming into the world in a phenomenally unusual way, and establishing a new and radical relationship between the human and the divine, the physical and the transcendent.
This is the case whether you see the Christmas story as an event recorded in the Word of God (the Bible), as a spiritual event, or as a parable – and that story is all of the above.
The Christmas Story is about turning everything upside down, about doing things differently than they were done before, and every element of the story exhibits this:
Mary is told that she will bear God’s son although she is engaged to someone, Joseph (Luke 1)
Joseph has every right to disgrace her publicly and walk away, but instead retains the engagement and accepts the child as his own. (Matthew 1:24)
Common shepherds see a vision while on night duty, and they come to find the new baby. (Luke 2:8-16)
Three distinguished and learned foreign visitors study prophecy and astronomy. They travel a great distance to find the baby Jesus and to bring him gifts. (Matthew 2:1-12)
Simeon, a godly old man, rejoices to see the baby Jesus and says some strange things about what the child would be: he says that Jesus will cause the fall and rise of many people in Israel. (Luke 2:34)
These are all examples of God turning the established order upside down.
No one even imagined or expected God to take the form of a human and to enter the world through a human mother like everyone else. No one expected Jesus’ teaching to upset the established order like it did. He challenged his hearers not just to do things like they always did, or for “doing” sake alone. He called His hearers to form a relationship with God rather than simply following a prescribed form. He called people to act humanely, first and foremost, because God is a person in His Son Jesus. This new compass was to be our guide rather than simply doing what people always did.
A parable like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) and a story like that of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector or Publican (Luke 18) both make a point: true religion is not about who you are or about what others regard or perceive you to be; true religion is treating others in a way that honours them as fellow human beings; true religion is treating people respectfully in spite of who we are and who they are. True religion is allowing ourselves to be controlled by what God thinks of us and of our actions.
The babe in Bethlehem and the man Jesus both challenge us to pursue and to live this truth, even if it is difficult, or makes us uncomfortable, or “cramps our style”, or causes us to change radically the way we have always done business.
If we were to “drill down” into this point, here are some questions we would have to ask ourselves honestly as we pursue true religion and the real meaning of Christmas:
How is God calling me to make a radical change in some area of my life?
What can I do in a new and radical way to be more pleasing to God?
What is God calling me to do that will take me out of my usual place but nearer to His will?
What is it that will take me out of my comfort zone but into the will of God?
What opinion of myself do I hold on to even though it degrades and devalues others?
What are the things in my life which affirm me but displease God?
When we answer these questions honestly and allow the answers to change our behavior, we begin to approach what is the real meaning, purpose and intent of Christmas is. Jesus came into the world as a baby to change us into who God would have us to be. When we do not these things people do not see the spirit of Jesus in us. Then the gospel becomes a joke and Christianity seems like a waste of time to those who observe our attitudes and actions.
This Christmas let us take stock of where we are and make every effort to be what we ought to be. This is why the babe of Bethlehem came into our world, and may we never forget it.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Anglican Diocese of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. We wish you and your families every blessing and more. May Almighty God grant you resolution and fulfillment now and always.