Christmas Day: God's birth?

By Simon Barrow
December 25, 2014

What is that we are faced with when we contemplate the birth of Jesus in the east?

For Christians the extraordinary claim is that, in the shape of this vulnerable baby conceived in lowliness, born in obscurity and welcomed most by outsiders, God has come to us in the flesh.

We would be wise not to try to figure this out in philosophical terms, but to receive it in human ones – in the very terms on which incarnation speaks, in the flesh.

This is not because God’s commitment to revealing the divine in what is thought of as non-divine is beyond serious, intellectually sustainable reflection.

It is because the idea that we know enough about what God can and cannot be in order to be able to decide whether the Christmas story is ‘fact or fantasy’ (as we like to put it) vastly overestimates the capacity of the mortal to grasp the immortal.

We cannot ‘own’ God in Christ, either in conceptual or material terms. Christians above all need reminding of this.

What is born for us in and as Jesus, the grace of God that changes everything, is beyond calculation and beyond ownership.

Above all, it is way beyond our using it as a ‘religious weapon’ to assert the superiority of some (probably ourselves) above others.

No, Jesus breaks all the rules of domination, power through coercion, possessiveness and religious or social superiority. That is why those who operate by those standards are out to kill him.

Instead, the Christ invites us to join him on the journey to God. A journey where the first find themselves last, and those considered last lead the way. Where the unexpected becomes usual. Where justice and peace embrace. And where the love of power gives way to the power of love.

So welcome, Jesus! Kind of. We know that if we take you seriously we will never be the same again. Help us to welcome that idea, rather than to try to resist it or turn it into a product.

* More on Christmas from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/christmas
* Christmas truce? Help make it permanent: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21032
* The AlterNATIVITY Advent Calendar (with Bloomsbury Baptist Church): http://christmas.org.uk/docs/calendar/index.html
* Advent: God's alternative agenda: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21096
* More on Advent from Ekklesia here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/advent
* More on Bloomsbury Baptist Church here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/bloomsburybaptistchurch
* Visit the ALTERnativity website: http://www.alternativity.org.uk

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.