The older I get, the more I love Christmas, with all its glitter and fluff and celebration, bringing light and joy into the dark and cold of winter. And the old principle of “Advent first, Christmas later” is rapidly falling behind me, not least because the childlike excitement of lights and trees is infectious. There’s something so safe and warm and comforting about it all.
Which is of course wonderful – but I find myself wondering whether we love Christmas so much precisely because it makes God safe and warm and comforting, and brings Him down to our size. In part, that’s the point of it all. In Jesus, God dwells with us as one of us. He could have appeared as an adult. He could have come fully formed, bursting on to the scene like a superhero. But He doesn’t. He comes in utter vulnerability, needing the care of human parents, learning the human condition through direct experience, not just because He’s God and knows everything already.
There is something very warm and comforting about this in the darkness of our lives, in the shadowed places where we can feel so very alone and scared. God is not so big that He can’t fit into those places. No corner is too dark for Him to shine a light upon, and chase the shadows away. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1.5).
But let us also not domesticate Jesus into just a cute and safe little baby. For there was little that was cute or safe about his arrival in the world, born to a teenage single mother, far from home, and then a refugee in Egypt from the cruelty of Herod who wanted to kill him, before finally returning to Galilee years later. If we make Jesus too safe, too cute, then we also remove His power to help and heal us – and surely, as much now as at any time in the past two millennia, we need the healing power of God’s love, in our lives, in our society, and in our world.
The prophet Isaiah wrote thousands of year ago (and Handel famously borrowed!):
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6).
May the God of all peace bring you peace this Advent and Christmas, and may that peace remain with you. Amen.