From the Archbishop

Make this Christmas 'a little more extraordinary'

By Dr Philip Freier

December 11 2019 

Our journey to Christ-mas, if it is well made, is to travel in God’s time from the promise to the fulfilment. We start at the beginning, on Advent Sunday, with the promise of God. This is a promise that exceeds our expectation and arises not out of our worthiness but out of our need. This is the “sacred time” beginning of the journey. Unlike the linearity and measuredness of our usual reckoning of time, sacred time erupts into our ordinariness when we stop, pray and worship the God and Father of all. It comes into our life when we read Scripture as revelation to be received rather than as a puzzle to be solved. Sacred time calls us into the sharper anticipation of history reaching its fulfilment in the new heavens and the new earth when the Lord returns.

From the perspective of our usual grasp of time we can see the clarity of connections between Jesus’ world and ours. Ever since Mesopotamia became the cradle of civilisation nearly 5000 years ago there have been conflicts and war in that region. And ancient Israel suffered in particular. The Bible chronicles the impact on God’s people of the powers of the day, great and small. Whether Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians or Romans, moments of peace were soon overtaken by invasion and dispossession. Yet it was into this cauldron of trouble that God chose to place the hope of humanity as a helpless infant, Jesus, born of Mary in Bethlehem.

God’s time and our time come together in the birth of Jesus. They seem like opposites yet come together in the birth of the Messiah in a remarkable way. In our time, we recognise the similarity. Our entry into the world that Jesus shares seems ordinary because we’ve all come into the world in this way. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we will become, this same beginning is shared by all. In Jesus’ birth it is also truly extraordinary because this act of God’s vulnerability is unprecedented in human history before or since. God was showing through the birth of his son that everything was risked, with the benefits only accruing to people like us. Jesus also promises that as we share his birth so we are also able to share his death and his life in eternity.

“People like us” were certainly there at the time. Faithful Mary and Joseph, raging Herod, marvelling shepherds, the persistent sages from the East. All of them share something in common with us too. At our best and at our worst, the gift of Christmas is present for us in our time as much as theirs. Risking all and changing everything about what it means for us to have a life renewed in Christ is God’s gift to us then and now. If you are tired of the ordinary, make your Christmas a little more extraordinary this year. Reflect on what the Father of all Creation was doing through the birth of Jesus, enter the mystery of his life at a service of Christmas worship. Sing some Christmas carols with your friends and family, go to the core of the gift in its simplicity and awesomeness. Slow down and read the Bible and let it speak to you to your situation and to your world. Let the Scriptures speak to you through the Spirit.

Praise God this Christmas and every Christmas, for on that day is born the hope of the nations, Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

Have a blessed Christmas.