Jesus—The Christmas ‘Present’
It’s time for a fresh realisation of ‘God Present’. Wonderfully, Jesus is exactly that—the ‘God Present’. He is the Immanuel; the ‘God is Present with Us’ gift that lifts our realisation of who we are, and who God is, and how we can enjoy life with Him in a way that re-shapes our lives and the life of our church.
This ‘God is Present’ truth has always been. Moses discovered it in an extraordinary way at the burning bush—the fire that did not consume, but was for always… And in the God who then declared in response to Moses’ question ‘who are you?’, ‘YAHWEH’—‘I AM’. I AM God who is both always ‘Present’, and so always ‘A Present’.
‘Jesus Immanuel’ enables this to be ‘in your face’, and an extraordinarily diverse gang of parents, shepherds, magi, and priests recognised it and pondered on it; and then waited for the realisation of all that this was to bring: the new wine of the Spirit, offered to the lowliest of course first—their ‘container’ will always be the most suitable for this new God ‘presence’. Mary, the lowly one and the holy one, ‘overshadowed by the Holy Spirit’ in a unique way was ready and eager for a repeat dose at Pentecost when that first filling of God’s people took place.
Jesus, our ‘God Present’, required an entirely distinctive ‘packaging’ from which we learn such a lot about the kind of re-shaping God seeks of us and his people. We are so familiar with it: he was to be born of people from Nazareth, the insignificant place from which it was unimaginable that ‘anything good’ could come and, as if that wasn’t lowly enough, there was to be no room for him, even in Bethlehem, and it was necessary for his cradle to be an animal feeding trough.
He longs to inhabit his world and his people—and does so. in lowly ways and with lowly Jesus shaped people. Our packaging too needs to be shaped by him: the pot needs re-shaping by the divine potter, the wine needs to be given a fresh skin, his people need to form a different kind of Temple where there is no false competition with buildings or other idols.
Jesus, the ‘In your Face God’, needs our daily attention, for the world will always drag us into worship of false, short term and decaying alternatives; and tyrannical rulers and powers will seek to assassinate. Zimbabwe reveals both the massive corrupting effect of power, and yet also the extraordinary patience of a people who know the Prince of Peace despite all attempts to eliminate him.
There will be much that will seek to squeeze Jesus out—even for us this Christmas. He is however the ‘Jesus–Immanuel’ ‘God Present’ gift that offers so much that is so essential for the spiritual health and well-being of our world.
Have a holy and lowly Christmas
Painting by Yvonne Dean of St Aidans Buttershaw