Happy Birthday Jesus (part 2)
This article is part 2 of an (edited) message Andrew Cameron gave at the Anglicare NSW Christmas Service on Wednesday December 7th 2022. The theme was ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus!’
In part 1 of what causes me to warm to the birth of Jesus, I pointed to three episodes where Jesus puts supposedly outcast women at the very centre of God’s love — where they were all along, of course. There are several other such moments, with several other women; and he does the same with children, leprous men, deranged people — and even with rich men who are brave enough to take their first tiny steps away from hierarchies of entitlement.
On top of even that, Jesus is brave and smart. Time and time again, and especially as more of the little people gravitate to him, political bad-actors menace him, trying to snooker him, or to make him look stupid, or to catch him out with some error for which to lynch him. Time and time again he outwits them, shows them up, sidesteps their games, and points to what actually matters in life. Time and time again I read the recollections of those original witnesses and feel with them the ‘ahah’ moment — that gasp of ‘how could I not have seen that, known that, felt that, before now!?
The historian Tom Holland has written a lot about how so much of what now matters to us, what we take for granted, is a beautiful echo of what Jesus Christ inserted into the world. Here is a short list:
- that there is no such thing as a so-called ‘outcast’, because God really did make each of one of us precious;
- that race, or status, or being healthy, or performance, are not what give us true connection and belonging;
- that no relationship need ever be too broken for restoration — whatever the sin, or failure, or mess, there can be forgiveness and reconciliation;
- and that no debacle, disaster, or even death, is beyond the power of redemption.
People did not know these things then, and people are forgetting them again now. But I love Jesus’ birthday because it – that is, he – gives these truths back to every human community, over and over, again and again.
It eventually emerges that in Jesus Christ, we meet the eternal Person of God (cf. Jn 1:1 –18). That has taken me a very long time to begin to get my head around and I won’t focus on it here, except to say two things.
- That Jesus was human means we begin to see how to be human ourselves in ways that are true, beautiful, and good.
- That Jesus brings God to us means the God who blazes with love remains totally for our species, and for this planet, despite how it looks some days.
We will hear again this season of a sequence of people who had somehow cottoned on that God would do something like this. It is hard to know exactly how that worked. They knew something that others didn’t, those shepherds, those men from Persia and beyond, the man Simeon and the old woman Anna. The moment they clapped eyes on the baby, they were ‘overjoyed’, the record keeps telling us. Another was Isaiah, who also intuited something like this coming down the pipe. I’ll slightly abbreviate what he said (Isa. 9:2–7):
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
[. . .] [T]hey rejoice
[like] people rejoice at the harvest,
[like] warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For [. . .] you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given [. . .]
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [. . .]
He will reign [. . .] with justice and righteousness
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
The zeal – that is, the determination – of the Lord Almighty did accomplish this, beginning on Jesus’ birthday.
Anyone who is sick at heart at the darkness, or anyone who is sick at heart hearing of people living under the bars and rods of oppression, or of them fleeing from the warrior’s boot, or wearing garments ‘rolled in blood’ – anyone heart-sickened by all that can pause, this season, and gaze at the amazing counsellor, the Prince of wholeness and peace, who continues to turn the mess around.
There are people at St Mark’s and in local churches whose vocation is to offer guidance on him, and on how he brings peace. Or any of us can simply google The Chosen, in the privacy of our own home, and see an amazing new serialization of Jesus’ life.
However we do it, and the more time we spend there, the more meaning this birthday will have.