It’s Christmas Day.. yay!..
We’ve made it all the way.. all the way through endless dinner, parties, singalong a Christmas hits, tinsel and tat and now we arrive, like the shepherds and Mary and Joseph, at this humble stable in Bethlehem… and look upon this great thing which has occurred…
But the great thing… makes me want to ask a question.
Last year during Epiphany, I asked the question, what is the speed of God? (I wonder if anyone remembers the answer)
This year, I want to ask another brain-tease; how big is God?
((Does anyone have any suggestions?))
It occurs to me on this most wonderful celebration that the nativity story really challenges how we might answer that question.
We may be tempted to think that God is as larger as the universe, or larger still… or maybe tiny, quantum… or that God is beyond size at all.
So we may imagine that in this strange and surprising baby… we witness the fullness of God somehow squeezed into a small baby. (a bit like me trying to put a sleeping bag back into its case – only a whole lot worse!)
We may ((possibly) imagine. that this baby is actually only a part of God.. maybe a bit ‘chipped off’ because very often our songs and our prayers imagine that God still remains in heaven…
The problem is that the Nativity provides a challenge by reminding us all of another assertion held within the Christina tradition.. that Jesus is the image of God..
The word image used in biblical Greek is icon, it refers to far more than simply ‘a picture of’, it’s not an image as such, it is that thing to which it refers!! Icon instead means ‘if you want to see that thing, you are looking at it!!,
So the nativity reveals the icon/image/the-seen-reality of God is something very different from our go-to images of powerful God enthroned in a vast heaven full of power and might…
No, the irony right at the heart of the nativity is that God is revealed as weak, as vulnerable, the word which has become wordless..
This ‘all powerful God’ is no such thing; no longer a superhero to save the day. this God instead has tiny hands which reach for comfort, and a vulnerability which needs human tenderness, care and love, and a mouth which cries out for a mother’s breast.
This baby really is the fullness of God; not a part of God, not God squeezed into a tine space.. this smallness, weakness and vulnerability is the full image of God – it is a challenge to the religion of empire — which has inspired wars, conquest, oppression, exclusion and the hunger for power.. This is the fullness of God being weak. It’s an image which challenges all that we expect from God!
But maybe this image of God is a little closer to home for us? A little more like us…. humble, vulnerable, in need of care, and love, all too aware of our own weaknesses.
This then is the good news of this da; this weakness this vulnerability, this ‘being-with-ness, this needing-love-ness’ tells us that our own weak, fragile and most humble moments may also be our richest moments – when love is most recognisable and most beautiful.. and it is that humble loving presence-with which can change the world for each of us.
So to end, on this bright and holy day… I will read you a short story to illustrate that point (I hope you are sitting comfortably;
It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.
“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.
“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”
Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were There. No more; no less.