Take the time to rejoice in the Lord today — Bishop of Algoma’s Christmas message

Let’s not be in a hurry to get to Golgotha — Stephen Andrews 

An old Appalachian folk carol goes: ‘I wonder as I wander out under the sky, / How Jesus the Savior did come for to die’. It is a simple, yet profound sentiment, and probably anticipates many messages this Christmas that will make a connection between the Crib and the Cross, between birth and bereavement. It may even be asked whether we can truly hear the joyous news of the Saviour’s nativity without a sense of foreboding. As Simeon says to Mary in Luke’s birth narrative, ‘you too will be pierced to the heart’ (2.35). A modern Christmas hymn by Thomas Troeger concludes:

     The tools that Joseph laid aside / a mob would later lift

     and use with anger, fear, and pride / to crucify God’s gift.

My wish for us, however, is that we could stop the world for this one, holy night. Let us linger in this moment, and not be in a hurry to get to Golgotha. The time of Lent will be upon us all too soon. Rather, let us dwell for a time with astounded shepherds and adoring angels, with the busy and distracted crowds, with the anxious and brooding parents. Let us live in our imaginations in an occupied land among a peasant people longing for hope and food. And then let us gaze on the occupant of a rude feeding trough and see there the embodiment of the peace and sustenance long foretold by ancient poets and seers.

Thomas Troeger again:

This Child will be Emmanuel

Not God upon a throne

But God-with-us, Emmanuel

As close as blood and bone.

Surely, on its own and in its own time, the birth of the Babe in Bethlehem was good news. Leave aside for the moment all that comes after – the teaching, the miracles, the gruesome and tragic end followed by the great surprise that spawned epistles and tomes of theology trying to make sense of it all. We’re talking here of God confined in our humanity, dependent on the maternal care of a teenage girl. As close as blood and bone.

In a world that values life based on its utility, and in a culture that thinks of life as if it were an episode of reality TV, we must see ourselves in that manger. It is in that manger that we find our true humanity – a humanity loved by God so much that he would take blood and bone to himself; a humanity loved by God so much that even in the squalor and ugliness that mars our existence, we can find true joy.

It is this joy that Fawna and I wish you on this Christmas.

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