This picture is by a local artist Ron Redshaw, who is prolific in his retirement. He has painted our stations of the cross, which some people might have seen. So this is a madonna and child by Ron, which he did for us back in 2012. I took this picture into one of our local primary schools this week and talked about the Christmas Story using this image. The fact that you can see the baby’s bottom caused some amusement in the school. I like this about the picture though. It reminds us that the baby Jesus was a real baby with a bottom and would have cried, pooed and weed. The Christian message at Christmas is that God has entered our world, the God who made all things, who called all things into being is with us and has entered our world. Not with fanfares and grandeur and splendour but in a baby born in a Palestinian backwater to humble parents.
I asked the children what we think when we see a newborn baby. I got a variety of interesting answers but they all agreed that one immediate reaction to a newborn baby is “aaaahhhh”! This might be combined with a little bit of “wow”. A newborn provokes in us a sense of awe for the wonder of new life. Look at those amazing, perfectly formed but tiny hands… I remember when my own children were born, feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of the moment and also feeling an immense sense of responsibility. For along with a feeling of “wow” is a worry about the vulnerability of this child and a need to care for them. I remember when we took our first child home from the hospital feeling that surely someone would stop us as we were taking a baby home and had no idea what to do with it!
The Christian message is that in this child, full of beauty but also terribly, terribly vulnerable, God was present in a unique way. Of course Jesus grew up to be quite challenging as an adult, to be a profound teacher but also someone who defied those in power. He caused enough upset to get himself executed. That wasn’t the end of the story but that is for another day! Today we dwell on Christmas, on God amongst us, the Incarnation of God. We know very little about the first Christmas. The accounts are brief and written a long time afterwards. What we can be sure of is that apart from those immediately around and maybe a handful of scruffy shepherds and a couple of odd foreign scholars (or three) this birth would have happened unnoticed. Despite accounts of choirs of angels, I’m sure that most would have been oblivious. God slipped into our world largely unnoticed. But those around would have exclaimed the odd “wow” and been moved to take care of this child. And perhaps today whenever we are moved to say “wow” at some wonder or beauty and whenever we are moved to look after someone in their vulnerability, in that moment, God is at work in our world.
So, this Christmas, let us hear the story afresh of God with us but not just as something then but let us look again for where God is at work in our lives and our world today. Let us join with God as God joins with us and let us carry a little more Wow and Care with us in our lives. Amen.
24th December 2019