It is quite amazing that although we live in a world where communication is possible at the touch of a button – with skype, face-time, email, twitter, facebook, iPhones and iPads – we often get it wrong. Emails and texts are misread, intentions are misinterpreted, meanings are lost. In some way we have a communication overload, with all the images and sounds that hit us constantly being reduced to mere noise.
It seems that even God is into this communication game. “Long ago,” the writer of Hebrews tells us, “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways.” But it didn’t seem that he had been getting too far. Throughout the Old Testament the message of God – of all that was possible for human life together – got all twisted up: justice all too quickly became the cry for vengeance; community life dissolved into tribalism; the gift of difference became a threat to be eradicated; peace shattered into violence and warfare. It had been like a game of Chinese whispers with the end point looking nothing like the original message.
But in all of this miscommunication and confusion, something incredible happens. Instead of relying on a message from afar, God comes to us, right into our very humanity, right into the thick of things. The beginning doesn’t seem to be a promising one with the very Word of God making itself known in an inarticulate, gurgling child. But God knows that this communication – the communication of the very heart of God will take time – the time it takes to create and shape a human life.
Christmas reminds us what revelation means for Christians, that how God communicates himself to us isn’t through a book of rules, or even a book of poetry; but in the human face of Jesus. Not that this is God in a space-suit come from some far off land to visit us, but rather a God that erupts right in the middle of all our human ways of being – messy, promising, difficult, fun, exasperating. Christianity tells us that there simply isn’t any other way to know God – no special knowledge or practice or discipline – only by looking at this Jesus.
But why should this be? It is because Jesus gives us a human-shaped picture of God. This shape of life: generous, forgiving, embracing, challenging, loving, is what God’s life is like. This is why the Gospels time and again tell us that to see God we just need to look at this human Jesus, the one who is constantly inviting, welcoming, loving, forgiving.
Michael McIntyre, the wonderful Comedian of Big Opening fame, comments on how Christians always seem to be eating at their major festivals. Whereas other religions fast and deny themselves on their holy days it seems quite the opposite with us: feasting on turkey at Christmas, eating Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, gorging ourselves on Easter Eggs to celebrate the Resurrection. I would recommend the youtube video, it’s hilarious.
But in one sense this is exactly the point that Christianity is trying to make. It is as we embrace our humanity, as we really learn to truly live within our own ‘flesh,’ that we find the life of God exploding within and among us. God comes to us in this Jesus to celebrate all the best that is in us and to challenge us when we fall short of that best. It turns out that God and humanity are not poles apart, but that humanity perfected becomes the best instrument for our discovery of God.
Looking around at everyone who is here this morning, it seems clear that we come in all shapes and sizes, with different ways of being and doing and saying. This is something that God delights in, walking among us in our flesh, our humanness, inspiring us to live more deeply with each other, to be more awake to each other. This new way of being human together – of loving, forgiving, sharing and caring – a way that Jesus perfectly reveals – can start for us this Christmas. Perhaps by reaching out to someone we haven’t spoken to for years; or perhaps by forgiving that person who has hurt us so deeply; or perhaps by befriending someone who is different from us and who challenges us; or perhaps by learning to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. Christmas is all about God being born in our flesh, right in the middle of our messy and wondrous humanity, and transforming it from the inside-out. If we open ourselves to his promise, we might just find that we come alive in ways that we never thought possible. AMEN.