Love was born long ago in Bethlehem. The love of God was born in an unlikely place, at an unlikely time, to unlikely parents. Love is always seeking to be born among us and within us. And we need love to come again into our tired world. (RCL Luke 2:1-20)
Christmas morning 2020 view from my home in Denmark, Western Australia.
We have come to believe that Christmas should be a wonder filled time of unbridled joy, peace, hope and love. And I do hope that you have had Christmases like that. Indeed I hope and pray that you and your family are having a lovely and loving time over these holy days. But the world is a hard place for many of us sometimes and for some for much of the time.
And so Christmas does often evoke some ambivalence as we welcome all that is joyous and try to reconcile the sad and bad news from near and far, personal and public. Many of us will be missing someone this Christmas through death or some kind of separation – including that many in the world are again in isolation due to the pandemic, many of us know and love people who are very ill or depressed, and of course the news from around the world tempers our joy and hopefulness. Such sad and challenging news seems harder to bear at Christmas, somehow out of step with the joy, peace and goodwill we are hoping for our world. Although we do not feel like all this hard news belongs at Christmas this is very like the world in which the first Christmas took place. Jesus was born to poor parents of an oppressed people at a terrible moment in history.
One of my favorite poems that speaks into this brew of wonderful and troubling news is by our Australian poet Michael Leunig:
Love is born
With a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead
And in the most unlikely place
Love is born:
Love is always born. (from The Prayer Tree by Leunig)
On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus and celebrate that in this birth the world was changed, heaven and earth kissed, and time was divided into before and after.
Love was born to an unsuitable and unprepared young mother.
Love was born to an unsuitable and troubled man.
Love was born among the lowly creatures of the farm yard.
Love was born among local shepherds and sought out by foreign kings.
Love was born in a manger, a feed trough, a stable.
Love was born among the unlikely in an unlikely location at an unlikely time.
Love was born where love was most needed – among the unlikely and the unlovely. Love was born where love was most needed – and love took root and grew among the poor, the marginal, the outcast, the prophets with ears and eyes, the religious who desired truth more than certainty.
And ever since love has come knocking in the unlikely places within our hearts, in our community, in our world. Love comes knocking and suggesting itself to us in moments of surprise, joy, fear, hurt, despair. Love comes knocking speaking words of hope, challenge, newness suggesting old truths and new unanticipated possibilities. Love lies hidden waiting for us in relationships we thought beyond repair, in the faces of those we fear because of their difference, in the tasks waiting our commitment, in the songs waiting for our voices, in the rest waiting for our taking. Love lies hidden waiting for us just out of view but ever so close. Because God, because love it very self, became human and came among us, love is always being born. And this has made all the difference.
Love has not necessarily made life easy, but love has made life possible.
Love has not necessarily made truth obvious,
but love has made truth desirable.
Love has not necessarily made success inevitable,
but love has made hope realistic.
Love has made all the difference in the likely and unlikely places.
In another Christmas poem Michael Leunig has said it this way:
I see a twinkle in your eye, This shall be my Christmas star And I will travel to your heart: The manger where the real things are.
And I will find a mother there Who holds you gently to her breast, A father to protect your Peace, And by these things you shall be blessed.
And you will always be reborn And I will always see the star And make the journey to your heart: The manger where the real things are.
So at this holy time I pray for you and for all of us: joy, hope, peace and good will toward one another. And despite any and all trouble such hope is well founded because long ago a child of God was born, and because love continues to be born in our hearts each and every Christmas.
Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ, come be born again in our hearts and minds.
November 2016 celebrating the cycle of birth, life, death and eternity in my hometown.
Last year's Christmas reflection (based on John 1:1-14) Because of Christmas is also available.