The Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
I have to admit that I really love the twelve days of Christmas.
December is inevitably a fairly crazy time here at the Cathedral with wall-to-wall carol services and thousands of people coming through our doors. Then there are the domestic jobs of getting the house ready for visitors, a steady round of Christmas parties and meals and so it would be easy to feel that it’s all over once you get to Christmas Day. But that’s when the fun really begins and we have twelve days to celebrate the birth of the Christchild.
When I was growing up this was also the time for writing thank you letters to relatives and friends who had given me presents. There was an article in the newspaper yesterday that writing thank you letters is too embarrassing for young people so if they do anything it is by text. Call me old fashioned, but I still think sending and receiving a card or letter means so much more than an electronic message.
Being thankful is a vital part of the life of faith. At the very heart of the Christmas festivities we celebrate with thankful hearts that ‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.’ There was nothing at all random or left to chance in the way that Jesus entered our world. Mary and Joseph were part of God’s plan and Jesus was born in God’s time; rooted in time and in place, in first century Bethlehem. By becoming one of us and sharing our human experience, Jesus raises us up to God and restores our dignity as his brothers and sisters, as children of the Most High God. David Jenkins, the former bishop of Durham used to say that humanity wasn’t up to it, so God came down to us and raised us up to God.
The Incarnation, God becoming one of us, is what marks Christianity out from all other faiths. It’s also what lies at the heart of our thanksgiving in this season. Jesus laid aside his glory as God’s Son and became one of us, born of a woman in the squalor of a stable, and so we are clothed with Christ and raised to the heights of heaven. That one event in God’s intervention in human history, changed our experience for ever. As St Paul writes in our second reading, ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all … are one in Christ.’
Writing thank you letters may have fallen out of fashion but our own thankfulness for the birth of Christ, the one who breaks down the barriers that separate us, the one who shares our humanity and makes us whole, should be without end. As we look to a New Year which holds who-knows-what, may we put our hope and trust in the child of Bethlehem who makes all things new and draws us deep into the loving heart of God.