“Unto Us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given”
The Cathedral Close has had its fair share of baby news this year. In the autumn we had news that one of our board members had become a father to a first son. On 1 December one of the teachers in the Grammar School gave birth to a second son. And we are awaiting the birth of a first child to our education officer and his wife, predicted for today, Christmas Day. We have been treated to pictures of early scans and have lived with frequent bulletins thereafter.
In all these instances (and others) there has been excitement and anticipation and expectation. We rejoice with all these parents, whose babies may expect all that is best, that life can offer and their parents can afford. Each new-born infant is part of a recurring miracle and a gift from God. There are of course instances where childbirth is not such a happy occasion.
For an unmarried girl to find herself pregnant, deserted and alone; for someone for whom another mouth to feed in a home riddled with poverty; for the mother whose baby is severely mentally and physically handicapped; for all of these the birth of a baby is surrounded by fear and dread, and is not such a happy event. In the birth narrative of Jesus as set out by Matthew and Luke, we see evidence of all these emotions. Mary is confused and frightened by her pregnancy. Joseph too is worried and wants to do the right thing. There is the issue of homelessness and the lack of basic clothing for the baby.
On the other hand there is joy and celebration with the visits of the shepherds and wise men. At his birth, Jesus Christ, God incarnate recognised and identified with a messy world. A world in which there is joy and sorrow, wealth and poverty, peace and war, love and loss, heartbreak and hope. And nothing much has changed since. But we cannot leave it there, with recognition that all is not fair or equal.
The Saviour of the world imparted some teaching, building upon and going beyond Old Testament laws, on how we might treat others, especially those in need, and who are distinctly less well off than we are. We may know and can reach out to individuals, who are lonely or away from home, or those who lack food, heating or clothing. We can also help through charities set up to meet such needs. These charities have suffered a severe setback this Christmas, following financial scandals in connection with one or two of them. Most do a good job, assisted largely by volunteers, with a minimum number of employees for day to day management, paid a modest enough salary. By all means check out the charities and ask to see their balance sheets, but don’t stop giving while there are still those who are homeless, or caught in a poverty trap, or even wondering if anyone cares, or whether life is worth living. The Incarnation is about God coming to earth in human form, to enter into and to identify with humankind in all our emotions and situations.
May each one of us discover the true meaning of Christmas and thereby be blessed with the gifts of the Christ Child – Love, Joy and Peace.
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