Or would he come in as a guest and then take over as the host, as he did with the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus in the aftermath of his crucifixion and resurrection? For it is not “our” Christmas, but his. And he tends to come in unexpected ways, and therefore often unrecognised, the extraordinary appearing in the ordinary, a flicker of light that is often overlooked.
“Longing for light, we wait in darkness”, as the hymn by Bernadette Farrell puts it. A world in which people are forced to move on from place to place. A world in which people try desperately to get to safer and better places for themselves and their families in leaking and sinking boats across the Mediterranean; or flee as refugees from persecution or oppression in places like Iraq and Syria. Just like Mary and Joseph who were forced to go and be registered in a distant place. Just like, later, they had to flee with their child from the power of Herod and go to Egypt.
Some people wait in the darkness of their own lives. Grief, pain and sorrow. Broken relationships, hopes and prospects. People excluded, marginalised or stigmatised – sometimes because of mental illness that is beyond their control. Christmas can be a hard time for those who are lonely or down.
Yet to each of these situations, Christ comes like he did in the birth which we celebrate. Unlooked for, or searched for, or longed for or prayed for, he comes. Not tearing the skies apart. Not as a mighty alpha-plus person. Not as an alien being. But as a tiny baby, born into poverty and need, human, vulnerable and dependent.
God comes to the heart of our human experience in Jesus. The divinity of Christ is clothed with our humanity so that our humanity can be clothed in his divinity. As Charles Wesley wrote:
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel!”
So make space for Jesus this Christmas. Look for him in the ordinary things, the light in the darkness that the darkness has never managed to extinguish. Celebrate him there. Respond to him there. Become like him. Let the light of his love show through the way you treat others.
May our lives and our churches be places of true joy and peace this Christmas time. May the grace that came into the world that first Christmas fill us and connect us together.
The blessing of God be with us all this Christmas time and throughout the coming year.