That was the Year that was.
Looking back over the past 12 months it would be fair to say that it is probably a year to try and forget. That being so, in many years to come people will no doubt say “Do you remember 2020?” Perhaps in a hundred years from now, a history programme on TV (or whatever the equivalent is by then) will show a documentary about one of the worst, if not THE worst global pandemic known to humankind, during which millions of people died. There will of course be so much evidence to sift through that it wouldn't be difficult to produce many documentaries!
Over 2000 years ago however, there was just oral tradition, word of mouth, a celestial anomaly, prophecy, an angelic congregation and a spectacular world changing event,
subsequently documented and written about and linked to other events in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eye witnesses shared what they saw and told what they had heard; Angels. An incomprehensible pregnancy. Dreams. Visions. They witnessed a new beginning which was met with rage and anger in some quarters, and with obedience, wonder, awe and worship in others. A Gospel paradox if ever there was one.
Today it is hard for some people to see beyond the Sunday School nativity of their childhood beliefs with an “Ahh, so cute” factor of 10. Indeed someone this year commented to me “How can you believe in such ‘Fairy Stories?’ ” A statement that in my view shows ignorance about the Bible which is often treated as if it were some kind of ancient novel. A book that science has obliterated.
Yet that is so far from the truth. For a start the Bible is not one book but 66, in different genres and does not ask the same questions as science. It asks questions of faith. It charts in many different ways, God’s interaction with humanity. It does not try to prove or disprove God; God just is. God is there to be explored and connected with as well as warning us not to give up on God. Far from disproving God, many a scientist like the eminent Alister McGrath (Author of the Dawkins Delusion) consider science to be a gateway into even more wonder, awe and connectedness with the one who has intervened in the world in the gift of his Son.
When a young woman called Mary was informed of the task she was to undertake for God, she didn’t discuss her options. She was terrified, but ultimately she obeyed and was delighted to be a part of God’s plan. When Joseph thought to ditch his betrothed
girlfriend, a divine dream changed his mind and he responded with grace. When shepherds wanted to run a mile because they couldn’t believe what they were seeing, their inquisitiveness also made them rush to find out more. Had a child that would save God’s people really been born? When star gazers saw something unusual in the sky, they understood a different perspective. They saw a sign! One they had been waiting for from written prophecy and they followed that star and found the baby, fell to their knees and worshipped the Christ and giving significant gifts that were prophetic in themselves.
There are people who try to deconstruct and explain away all these things, but ultimately in the end faith brings us to a different understanding. A different life perspective. They are not fairy stories to cast aside as irrelevancies but the places, spaces and life events where the Divine and the Human meet. Perhaps summed up in the Christmas Blessing:
May the joy of the angels,
The gladness of the shepherds,
The worship of the wise men
And the peace of the Christ child
be yours, be yours this Christmas!
I wish you all, at the end of this most difficult year, a very Happy Christmas and a most blessed New Year!
With Every Blessing
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