Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day 2016

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

I was pondering the nature of God this week.
          I think it's my job, so I let my mind run with it.

And I found myself asking:
          Can God be known in the midst of human life?
          Who is this God of whom we speak?

What does it mean to confess faith in God,
          in the face of our experience of what it means to be human?

From Berlin to Aleppo,
          to the many and hidden sufferings and sorrows of our own lives;
where and who is this God of whom we speak?

The stories of Christmas Day are not always a helpful thing to us here.
          Improbable stories of divinely ordained parthenogenesis,
          inherited traditions of god-babies, wise men, and shepherds.
          Medieval mysticism and Victorian sentimentality.

And yet, maybe, somewhere in the midst of all this;
          maybe, indeed, through all this,
we catch a glimpse of something deeply profound.

Where is God? Who is God?

God is there, in the manger, blinking unseeing through baby eyes.
          A tiny, helpless, hopeless scrap of life,
                   which nonetheless speaks uniquely
                   of the commitment of God to human frailty.

Part of the problem with speaking of belief in God,
          is that there are so many definitions of God
                   that we are invited to believe in.

          God who intervenes directly in human affairs,
          God who judges the unrighteousness,
          God who punishes the wicked.

And the problem with these invitations to belief
          is that they are, for some of us at least,
                   unsustainable in the light of our knowledge of science,
                   or our experience of the depth of human suffering,
                   or our beliefs about mercy and love.

And I am, so to speak, atheist with regard to some of these Gods,
          and agnostic about others.

So where, then, might we seek a God in whom we may have faith?
          Where do we find a God who faces unflinchingly the darkness of the world;
          a God of love and mercy as well as justice?

Well, today, we are invited to seek God in the baby.

This is God whose intervention in human history
          is very far from the offering of easy solutions
                   to the petty or pressing problems of our lives.
This is God found in human form, from baby to adult;
          God immersed in humanity to transform it from the inside out,
                   not from the outside-in.

This is God vulnerable, God impoverished, God-forsaken.
          This is God in the manger.

Bad things happen to good people,
          and good things happen to bad people;
this last I know to be true because good things happen to me.

And this is where we find God.
          In the midst of life.

The miracle of Christmas is not that an absent and distant God
          miraculously intervenes in human history.

Rather, it is in an invitation to us all
          to experience the miraculous moment of recognition
                    that God is found in human form, from birth to death.

'God is here and God is now', to quote the hymn we sometimes sing.

God is love, God is life,
          God is hope, God is peace,
God is here.

Immanuel, God with us.

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