Each family Christmas is a little different from all previous celebrations. We have grown a year older. We gain and lose family members and our relationships deepen or become more distant. The twelve months between these landmark dates may bring changes to health and status, to finances and expectations, sometimes unperceptively, or with shattering suddenness. Like the shifting elements in the patterns of a kaleidoscope, we see the colours and shape of family life settle and move to new angles and perceptions. Fresh cares arise, or liberty beckons when duties have reached completion.

Yet the essential core elements of the Christmas story return to our view year upon year, like the hands of a great cosmic timepiece marking the date anno Domini. However much the pace of life spins and quickens, there remains a gloriously reassuring stability in the record of that very special gift of God’s love to all humankind.

The Prince of Peace has come amongst us, knowing our hopes and frustrations, our sorrows and anxieties, our joys and triumphs.

In his “Ode on the morning of Christ’s nativity”, John Milton brings a sublimely poetic style to his meditation on God’s infinite grace and provision.

“That glorious form, that light unsufferable
And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty
Wherewith He wont at Heaven’s high council-table
To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,
He laid aside; and, here with us to be,
Forsook the courts of everlasting day,
And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.”

To the early church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul expressed a similar revelation.

“For God who said, Let light shine in our hearts darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

The glory of God comes to us clothed in humanity and veiled in flesh, expressing the awesome dimensions of divine love, that would otherwise be utterly beyond our finite comprehension.

“I should like to see your God,” said Emperor Trajan to a Jewish Rabbi.

“No mortal eye can look upon Him,” the Rabbi explained.

The Emperor continued to insist.

“Well then,” the Rabbi suggested, “we might begin by looking on one of His ambassadors.”

He bade the Emperor gaze up at the midday sun, shining in a clear sky.

“I cannot,” the Emperor confessed. “The light dazzles me.”

“And that is only the glory of one of God’s creatures,” the Rabbi exclaimed.

An old Christmas card, preserved from some long-past season, depicts two shepherd boys with jaw-dropping bewilderment and fascination all conjoined on their up turned faces. Their full attention is given to something that the artist cannot attempt to describe. We can guess from the beautiful records in the Gospels, that a great wrench has torn open the dark night skies, and Heaven is spilling out with an exuberance of spine-tingling joy at the birth of the child Jesus.

Three decades later, another slash of divine power tore open the Veil of the Temple so that by mercy, grace and forgiveness we might have peace with God.

Bits of tinsel, glitzy wrapping paper and sparkly street decorations all vie to capture our attention, but may the true light and warmth of love rekindle faith and exhilarate each one, heart and soul this Christmas.


Iris Niven

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