The key message of Christmas is that God in Jesus commits to dignifying and transforming human ordinariness, not to fantasies about a super-hero figure or military conquerer, the Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, President of the Methodist Conference in Britain, has declared in his seasonal message.
He writes: "When Jesus Christ came into our world he was more ordinary and human than many expected – both then, and now. The ancient Jews had expected Messiah for a long time, and their expectations increased over time. Older expectations of the coming of a great but essentially human King became anticipation of a more supernatural figure. They expected a mighty warrior who, Superman like, could remove invaders from the land, and purify the Temple with a wave of his hand. Or he would be the perfect Law keeping machine, the immaculate Pharisee."
But "into the world God comes, self sent, as a baby. Among all the super expectations, Jesus Christ comes, plainly human", says Dr Atkins.
He continues: "It’s ironic that many people today are so perturbed by the miraculous nature of the Christmas story. 'You do realise stars can’t switch on and off, don’t you?' 'A virgin birth? Yeah, right!' It’s ironic because the people of the period were more perturbed by the very ordinariness of it all. 'The Messiah, here in this barn? Born of folk like this?'”
"The coming of Jesus, against many expectations, today as then, is of one who comes near, is like us, involved with the here and now and not just the there and then. There is stupendous height involved in the coming of Jesus, but not remote distance. His name makes that clear – he is Immanuel – God with us."
Christians need to change their conceptions of God in Jesus Christ, Dr Atkins concludes. The reality is much greater, but not in the way we usually think as human beings.
A similar note was struck by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in a Christmas Eve article appearing in The Times newspaper, where he wrote: "[T]he [Gospel] story goes on to say something quite strange and surprising. God steps in to sort it all out. But he doesn’t step in like Superman, he doesn’t even send a master plan down from heaven. He introduces into the situation something completely new – a new life; a human baby, helpless and needy like all babies."