Each year I find myself reflecting on the familiar Christmas story from a slightly different angle. After two thousand years, what could there possibly be to say that hasn’t already been said before? Well, maybe not much. After all, nothing has changed! And yet, at the same time, everything has changed. Whilst God has not changed, and the story of God’s love for us remains the same, we have changed, and our understanding has too – it is (hopefully!) broader and deeper and nuanced, not least because humanity has learned so much in the past two millennia.
And at the same time, humanity has (quite spectacularly!) not changed, and seems to have learnt far too little about love and peace and co-existence. We might know how to split the atom, but there is still blood being spilt all too frequently.
In the darkness comes Light. Into the midst of life as it is, in all its mess and chaos and unpreparedness (despite repeated announcements to “be prepared!”) God appears. The funny thing is, He doesn’t come with the usual kind of fanfare, and nobody really notices, except Mary, Joseph, some shepherds on a hillside, and probably the entire town of Bethlehem – gossip travelled pretty fast in those days, even without Twitter / X. “Fake news!”, many would have shouted. “Are you sure?” And for those who had seen and experienced God’s coming in Christ, had seen the angels or some other miraculous visitation, the reply would be unambiguously, “yes!”, the experience so compelling that there was no room for doubt.
Recently I heard that the committed and prominent New Atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali had become a Christian. In her article on Unherd she writes: “Russell and other activist atheists believed that with the rejection of God we would enter an age of reason and intelligent humanism. But the “God hole” — the void left by the retreat of the church — has merely been filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma. The result is a world where modern cults prey on the dislocated masses, offering them spurious reasons for being and action — mostly by engaging in virtue-signalling theatre on behalf of a victimised minority or our supposedly doomed planet. The line often attributed to G.K. Chesterton has turned into a prophecy: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.””
Whilst some of her reasons for becoming a Christian may not seem entirely relevant here, it seems to me that her core point above is entirely relevant: the rejection of God creates a huge void that becomes full of mess and chaos. This chaos and mess is so frightening that to even look at it, let alone try to distentangle it, seems an impossible task. So we give up.
But God does not give up. God is not afraid of chaos or mess. Not at the dawn of creation, when the Spirit hovered over the formless void (Genesis 1), nor when He became part of His creation as Jesus, and not now when he knocks at the doors of our souls, asking whether we have room for Him, whether we will allow Him to come in and sort out the chaos and mess in the voracious void that secularism has created in our hearts and minds.
Into the darkness comes Light. Into the chaos comes order. Into the void comes creativity and new life.
May 2024 bring you peace and blessing and the knowledge of God present with you and within you, and may He give you the grace to share His light and His peace with the world around you.