Toorak Uniting Church

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God comes to birth...

Luke 2: 1 – 20
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
Christmas morning, 25 December 2009

A couple of days ago I woke, in the middle of the night, to a thought that kept running around in my brain, even after I had gone back to sleep and woken up at a more decent hour the next morning.

Something like this has only occasionally happened to me over the years, and I have learned to treat these flashes of intuition with respect. I believe they are the result mostly unconscious gestation, probably taking place over a number of years, to be triggered by a combination of whatever is happening in my life at the time, general study, theological and spiritual insights coming together and (literally) God knows what else.

Although I refuse to think of these "flashes of intuition" as divine interventions, they often seem to offer me a glimpse of what one might call the "beyond", of deeper and more profound understanding and reality than the day to day.

What touched me this year may sound very simple, but it hit me with unexpected power. As if I really understood the Christmas story for the first time. Really understood for the first time what it means when we talk about God coming to birth in the world, or even more extraordinary, God coming to birth in a human being. Once I started thinking about it, that was totally amazing really. As amazing as when those shepherds heard it for the first time in the dark fields of Bethlehem. Or Mary in her kitchen in Nazareth. God coming so close that he becomes part the very fabric of our lives.

The divine, that intractable, untouchable, incomprehensible mysterious quality none of us can quite put our fingers on, that we at times encounter in our lives as a source of life and inspiration, of light and love, of strength and hope for our lives, comes to birth not only in our world, but INSIDE the stuff we are made of.

What the gospels tell us, is that the divine isn’t set on keeping its distance, but on the contrary seeks to enter into where and what we are. Seeks to come close, so close that it doesn’t remain on the outside but actually ends up inside our skin.

The overwhelming and incomprehensible greatness that we will sometimes experience in nature or in the miracles of life’s special moments doesn’t need chasing, on the contrary, it seeks to be received and welcomed. Is prepared to settle into our body and soul and fill us with its life giving, love inspiring, peace generating qualities if we are prepared to open ourselves to it.

What the gospels tell us is that when Jesus came to birth among us, it was the divine coming to birth, inside our human skin, inside that package of strength and weakness, good and bad, fragility and unbelievable resilience and that whole complex of other qualities and character traits that make us who we are. Not in and amongst those with a claim to immortality and super human strength, but amongst people who were as vulnerable, lost, lonely and easy to worry or scare like you and me.

At Christmas we celebrate the divine coming to birth in us. Becoming part of us. Entering inside us. Integrating itself into the earthly, physical fibers of our being. Not only in Christ, but in all humanity, and not only at Christmas but from the beginning as an essential part of our creativeness.

In Genesis 2 we hear of God’s breath giving birth to humanity. How we, from the very beginning, are pictured in scripture as beings infused with the divine, living on the breath of God, with Jesus Christ its ultimate fulfilment in the midst of time, revealing how a life lived on the breath of God can be lived to the full.

God comes to birth, in Bethlehem as the human child of Mary and Joseph, with a handful of dubious characters attending the party. But it doesn’t stop there. What all of scripture keeps telling us is that God seeks others that will give birth, will open themselves up to the breath of the Spirit inspiring them to a divinely inspired life where love, care, justice and peace are prime priorities.

With Jesus, two thousand years ago, the desire of the divine to enter into our blood and bones took shape in a very special and specific way. It became a revelation that touched people so deeply it survived the violence of hatred and death. But it didn’t stop there, it is happening still. Is looking for willing hearts and minds where it will be welcomed, loved, nourished and encouraged to mature and bear the fruit of the tree of life.

Luke’s story tells us we don’t have to be special to qualify for this, that all it takes is an open and willing heart and mind to fill us with divine grace, love and peace that will spill over into the world that surrounds us.

The magic of Christmas is the incredible message that if I let God, if I let the divine, if I allow what divine stands for: love, peace and wholeness, come to birth in me, if I let it under my skin, inside my heart, fill up my soul - something will change - in me and in the world around me. The darkness will light up, the touch of an angel will calm bring comfort in the night, and we will find the courage to serve, to be love, to bring peace, to grow me into a more god filled person.

That’s what Christmas is about, that’s what we try to emulate so desperately with gift giving, meals and get togethers but will never really happen until we are actually prepared to let the joy of angels singing, the longing for unity amongst people, the hope for love and peace to come and reign our world, take up residence inside our hearts and give birth to a different way of being in the world around us.

When we let Christmas really happen in us, tensions around the table dissipate, our frayed nerves calm, hope will come to chase the darkness of difficult times away, and we will find a meaningful and positive way to lead our lives.

God comes to birth in me. God comes to birth in you. The divine actually seeks us out and longs to enter into the very ordinary day to day of our existence and lighten it up with its presence. It wants to come to birth in us, and it wants the love and peace and wholeness of a new world to come to birth through us, like it did in and through Jesus Christ. In and through you and me, however unlikely candidates we may consider ourselves to be for the incomprehensible greatness of God to be taking up residence in.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2009

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