IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US

Posted on 22 December 2010
Ferndale celebrated the birth of the Son of God with a succession of events in Christmas week.

It began when, despite the weather, a good number of congregation and friends joined together for the traditional candlelit service of lessons and carols.

The service gave opportunity to thank Rose Ariss and Ian Meldrum and his family for all that they have undertaken to help the Café@the Square be such a success.

Mince pies and mulled wine followed.

In his message, Stephen said:

Charles Wesley, one of the greatest English Christian poets, had a habit of including lines in his songs that stretched (and continue to stretch) the capacity of those who sung them. He once wrote, the following words to describe what took place at Christmas:
‘Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made man.’
Wow!!

Yet he was only trying to capture the same truth as John in the last reading:
‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’.

So how do we put into words the incredible mystery that lies at the heart of the Christian message and how should we respond; for surely some response is right if what Wesley and Saint John said is true!?

Simply, the Christian faith teaches that at a certain point in history, unbelievably but truly, by means of his birth of a virgin, God united himself with a human being in the person of Jesus Christ.

However, he did this, not as some famous conjourer might, to draw awe and applause, but to sort out the mess in which the human race had found itself. Basically he came to bring the peace that often surfaces as a human longing at Christmas; to end the years of strife of which O little town of Bethlehem speaks.

He did so by showing what God is like: a God who loves the fallen, wounded, damaged and broken. He became one with us: for Immanuel means God with us!

He did so, by acknowledging rebellious humanity: people who gave scant thought for him except to use his name as an expletive or, at best, use him as some sort of back-stop or security blanket.

He did so by taking their punishment upon himself and providing the need for peace that lies behind every search for peace.

One of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery is a work by Geertgen tot Sint Jans. Careful scrutiny of the painting reveals some of the animals in the stable, Joseph too, is almost invisible. Someone holds a light on the left of the painting…. But it scarcely penetrates the darkness. Angels gather and Mary looks on at the tiny baby, her baby, in awe. Why? Because the source of light in the picture is the child himself. Helpless baby he may be, but the light of his Godhead cannot be effaced for those who look on. From heaven he has come to reveal God and enlighten all those who are, like those in the picture, ready to look.

And so, Christmas addresses us; each one. How do we respond to the mystery of God with us? For one carol writer at least it is the words with the following words (words that invite us to join in ourselves!):

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

 

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