We remain in the 12 days of Christmas until the Epiphany (coming of the Maji) is marked on Jan 6. Whatever you are in the midst of doing these days – relaxing, traveling, working – the Church invites us to stretch out our celebration. Let the news of Christmas dwell in you as Mary ‘treasured in her heart’ the news the shepherds brought. Maybe, in years to come, there are new ways we can learn to hold these 12 days of celebration.
The news of Christmas in its simplest form is “God is with us.” Not far away, not ‘aloof’, not distant, not disconnected or unhearing, but somehow present, even bodily, among us. The particular moment of God’s full presence, the moment when the curtain of eternity was pulled back, was, for Christians, the birth of Jesus. God came among us to inspire human life to fuller living, through compassion to change human hearts, to challenge religious elitism and remove any option of spiritual pride. In Jesus death, we see the depth of God’s love to forgive even the worst of enemies, and in Jesus’ resurrection, God’s love was proven to extend beyond even the grave. Life triumphant.
Choosing to be a follower of this man, of the God of Jesus, is among many things, a choice to live according to a new identity. That is, that at the beginning of this new year, as we consider the news of God’s presence among us in the particular life-shape of Jesus, we are invited to consider the shape of our own life.
-Where are we choosing to spend our time and energies?
-What comes ‘first’ on our priority list? What do we *always* have time for?
-What is our first identity? a) an animal of unreserved instinct? b) a consumer swayed by advertizing? c) a person shaped by the priorities of others? d) a person spending themselves for more experiences, more money, more prestige, more things, more relationships? We all have elements of these things, some of them good, but try this on for size as a first identity: “you are a beloved child of God who has received the gift of life, is sustained by the gifts of the earth, and bears the very the image of God.” Where are you in being able to receive this identity?
Our identity shapes our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our behaviour. Jesus lived in the fullness of human life and his identity was spoken in his baptism by the gift of his heavenly Father through the Spirit – “you are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
We hear through the ages of the church that “God has come to us, so that we may come to God.” God comes to us first in the frailty of our own being, so that, in human frailty, we may know the full life of God alongside our Lord. It is a gift.
May you truly know the love of God in your inner being, so that your outer life will reflect the fullness of God in the world.
This coming Sunday, since we are celebrating a baptism, we will move pretty quickly from the stories of Jesus’ birth to the scripture readings that mark Jesus own baptism. Please hold in yourself this week the continued celebration of Christmas and pray for young Faith who is being baptized. We will also have the chance to welcome Adelyn who was baptized out of town this summer. Bless them both.