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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Uncontrollable Mystery on the Bestial Floor

Zero Stats
I'll check the stats in a month or so: I expect no-one will read this blog. Not a zippy title, I have to agree.....

......but since the title is not my creation, spend a moment unpacking it. Start at the end "Bestial floor": it's Christmas remember, and what happened in a shed-for-beasts two thousand years ago? Move a little further to the left: "mystery": the child in a manger was God and Man; not a little bit God and a little bit Man, but fully God and fully Man. Who can understand that? Uncontrollable? I'd guess the author meant something like unfathomable or ineffable or sublime.

The title came from the very first edition of what was meant to be a popular theological magazine that, as a young theologian, I had subscribed to. Fancy opening the first page and being confronted with such a fog of incomprehensibility!

Fog everywhere
But it isn't only theologians who obscure the meaning of the babe in a manger. A Christian said to me this week "we've castrated the message of Christmas" and after listening to a vicar waffle at my child's nativity play I can see what he means.

We have sanitised and sandpapered the edges off that first Christmas.

The naked (ugly) truth
The naked truth is that the birth of Jesus was something of a scandal and embarrassment. Jesus was born, viewed by the world, out of a questionable relationship (she was not yet married) to an unknown woman betrothed to a poor unknown man in a backwater town in pitiable and no doubt smelly conditions. No kings or politicians announced his arrival, and the only ones who knew he was born were a pretty dismal lot. Shepherds? Low life. Astrologers? Dirty pagans. Simeon and Anna? Doddery old folk. And that's about it. Let's not smarten up the story or whitewash it in any way. Let's leave it pitiable, pathetic and foolish....

The Way it's Supposed to Be
.....because that is the way it is supposed to be. The Son of God came into this world in obscurity, shame and poverty for a very good reason. It was the way it was supposed to be. Because in this way, there is not one man nor woman living on the planet who can say "God doesn't understand me". The very lowest, the dirtiest, the saddest, the most ashamed and the poorest, can know that he understands our human life from the inside. One of Jesus' most wonderful titles is "Immanuel" which means God with us. Not God Above us, not God Judging us, but the God who has walked in our shoes and understood our plight, and who, amazing though it may seem, welcomes us, by his incredible grace, to dine with him in his Royal Court, as his Sons and Daughters, for free!

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