Watch the video message here:
Full Christmas message:
Every Christmas I am aware of those who grieve, and perhaps this Christmas it is particularly poignant as we continue to live a time of loss as a country. People are grieving those who have died and there has been the loss of contact with friends and family. There’s a loss of employment and livelihood, and the loss of so much that was once familiar.
That important word ‘with’ seems only to be heard in a context of restriction – who we can and can’t be with, and how close we can be with, and keeping faces covered when with.
Yet that repeated message of ‘hands, face, space’ is all about keeping one another safe. It’s about love. And that brings me to Christmas, which has not been cancelled – we can’t undo the birth of Jesus Christ.
There’s an alternative Christmas message around those words ‘hands, face, and space’ and it’s still about love and protection but it’s about God, who rather than being determined to keep clean hands and stay distant, instead chose to come into the mess of the world to be with us and to rescue us from our self-destruction.
Picture that nativity scene the very first Christmas with the baby Jesus lying on straw in an animal feeding trough. Alongside the exhausted parents there are some visitors, shepherds from the surrounding hills who were on night duty – you might even have called them key workers in first century Palestine.
Their hands which had touched dusty earth and sheep, draw close to this baby. And as they look, they see the face of God uncovered, and they are filled with joy. Here is God who is not distant but who draws close in love. In fact, one of the names given to Jesus was ‘Immanuel’ which means ‘God with us’.
One day the hands of the baby-grown-to-be-man were nailed to a cross, dirty and bloodied. His face, that of God, contorted in anguish. Yet, as friends fled to keep distance, God drew ever closer in the darkness of pain with a love that sought to keep us safe and protect us from ourselves.
Three days later when Jesus Christ came back from the dead, and with wounded hands looked in the face of friends and followers, he revealed that hope is stronger than despair, and that death will not have the final word. Distance and separation from God was not to last. The light shines in the darkness.
The Christmas message of ‘hands, face, space’ is one of hope and ‘with’.
God’s hands are stretched out to hold you whatever you are experiencing. God whose face is seen in Jesus Christ, and God who cannot bear to be separated from you and longs to draw closer than close because you are loved.
There will be restrictions this Christmas and people we cannot be with; and hand washing, face covering and distancing are important reality – but not so with God.
I wish you a hope-filled Christmas. The light shines in the darkness. God is with us.