Advent has taken us on a real roller coaster of a ride. Each Sunday we explored the concepts of hope, peace, joy and love. We’ve waited as watchmen, or watchpeople to be politically correct, waiting for the first glimmer of hope on the horizon. A bit like the battle at Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. At the first light, watch for help, for it is at hand. But we’re not needing a god-like Gandalf to appear at the top of the ridge, staff in hand, with a white charger and an army of loyal men to fight on our behalf. There’s nothing tangibly physical for us to go into combat with.
Instead we’re asked at Christmas time to engage with our senses. After all, our traditions at Christmas are all about being with our families, joyful, knowing that we are loved. We’re invited throughout Advent to allow hope, peace, joy and love to engage with us. To be a people who are alert, watchful, waiting for a sense of who God is. Knowing that he’s not going to appear before our eyes, like Gandalf did, but who, if we let him, will reside deep within and appear in our conversations and encounters. Who, when we find Him, will shine like nothing else we have ever known.
We’re asked, as human beings, to engage with our emotions. Something that our culture has repressed in so many different ways because there is a fear of the unknown. What will well up when our senses and emotions engage with who God is? Our journey takes us ever deeper into who God is. Our Gospel reading shows how John wrestled with who he thought God was, and how to present that in ways that the Greeks of his day would have been able to grasp.
This evening, as we celebrate the age-old anniversary of Christ’s birth into our human world, we too are invited to ponder anew on what God means to us. Our quest is to make Jesus known, but we can only ever make him known if we are keen to get to know him ourselves. A quest that is as old as the oldest story you’ve ever known. A quest that takes us and continues to take us on a real roller coaster ride, with highs and lows as we experience hope, peace, joy and love.
By doing so, we’re admitting to ourselves that we are spiritual beings. We’ve acknowledged that our spiritual journeys have taken us all sorts of places. We’ve wandered, come back for a while, wandered off again. But we’ve come back. And in all likelihood, will keep coming back. We received the imperative command from Zephaniah on the way, “Rejoice!” And we should be joyful when we hear what John had to say about Jesus. He is the physical embodiment of the Word. Come as a new-born, incredibly fragile as all babies are. Vulnerable and dependent on those around him. His mother Mary, Joseph, his extended family. Those who helped him grow into the man who we and others have studied. His words and the words of his followers, who have tried to pass on what they felt was true to Him and of God. And what is meant by hope, peace, joy and love. Words that will resonate with our souls, if we let them. Words that will still the roller coaster and allow us time to look around and give us space to pray into what we see and hear. This, then, is our experience of the Light. Our roller coaster ride enters the light. The Light that was the life of all people.
This is the light, if you like, at the end of the roller coaster ride. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it. This is the light that existed before the sun and moon were made. These are words of mystery. They describe something that cannot be contained in one day, or in a wrapped box.
The Light that lights every person that comes into the world. His presence came into the world, yet was already in the world because he had already created it. This is stuff that we can try to wrestle with but no one will ever have an answer for, because it simply is a mystery. And somewhere along the line we human have to acknowledge that we cannot source a logical explanation because there isn’t one to find.
This evening we celebrate who Christ is. Born out of wedlock, weak, and helpless. Thoroughly dependent on others for food, and clothing. Instead of choosing to come with a fanfare and a white charger, with long flowing robes and a white beard that turns people’s heads, he chooses the vulnerability of an infant in a manger. In this Christmas season we are invited to become child-like in our understanding, fully accepting of the grace that is on offer today. To those who receive him, who believe on his name, he gives the power to become children of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us. Human, yet divine. At Christmas time we are offered the chance to become children of God. Human, yet also of God. That is a truly humbling mystery of God, full of grace. That we are given the choice of whether we accept the invitation offered to allow God to dwell within. To open ourselves, our houses, if you will, to let the joy and love that surrounds the birth of Jesus Christ enter our lives. So that he will in turn, be born again within each of us.