Friday 25 December 2015

‘God is the distilled essence of love made absolute.’

Reflection for Christmas Eve Midnight Communion Service,
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 2015.

Sometimes, and I recognise that this may be an occupational hazard,
            I find myself pondering the nature of God.

And late at night, as the world turns beneath
                        and the stars wheel above,
            the veil between my frail understanding
                        and the infinite beyond
            can sometimes begin to lift,
                        and the ineffable other can seem intangibly close.

And so we arrive at my thought for tonight,
            as the day of Christ's coming dawns imperceptibly upon us.

And my thought, this night, is this:

God is the distilled essence of love made absolute.

We use many ways to describe God,
            many ways to try and put human finite words
            around the infinite other,
with the Bible itself offering us many options,
            and Christian history, tradition, and theology
            adding further to our list…

God is father, God is mother, God is Spirit,
            God is justice, righteousness, and peace.
God is our rock and our redeemer,
            God is our ever present help in times of trouble.

God is… God is… God is…

But tonight, as we await the coming of God into the world:
            God is love.

Not love as we might ordinarily understand it,
            not love as between two people,
but the distilled essence of love;
            love that is strong enough to transcend time,
            love that is tender enough to surpass mortality.

God is love.

But this is no unearthly abstraction of love,
            this isn’t just some ethereal force of love
            that permeates the fabric of the universe
            and with which we can intertwine our lives.

This is love made flesh,
            this is love made absolute.

In the baby of Christmas morning
            we meet the God who is all love
            becoming real in human time and earthly place.

In the baby Jesus we meet the God
            who is the distilled essence of love, made absolute.

This is where the otherworldly meets the world,
            this is where blood and water and flesh
            become infinitely more than the sum of their parts.

In that one moment of the birth of the baby to Mary,
            each moment, of each human life, throughout all of human history
                        is transformed by love;
            because this birth is the absolute moment.

If it happens once, it happens eternally.
            If God is made flesh in Jesus Christ,
            then God is made flesh.

And so we gather to greet the Christ-child,
            and we gather to share bread, and wine;
                        we gather to remember broken bodies, and shed blood;
            and we gather to bring our own frail bodies
                        into the presence of the divine.

Our bodies break, they grow old, they fail us and betray us.
            And yet God becomes flesh.

In Christ, the God of love is made absolute,
            and the distilled essence of love
            takes each moment, of each frail human life,
                        from cradle to grave,
            and encompasses it in love that never fails,
                        love that never passes,
                        love that never fades.

So as we come to meet the newborn Christ,
            we bring our own frailty to the manger,
            as we bring our own bodies to the communion table.

And as we share bread and wine, we meet with Christ,

            and we are made whole in love.

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