Friday, December 25, 2020

Christ LIVED for you!

 The Corona virus has presented us with many challenges this year, hasn’t it?  This is by no means the first major Christian Festival which has had to be celebrated only through a camera lens.  It seems a long time ago, but I well remember having to celebrate Easter from my front room – at a time when even I wasn’t even permitted to be in the church building!

And now….Christmas.  Easter and Christmas – the two greatest Christian festivals which stand like bookends, or perhaps bastions, at different ends of the church’s year.  Both of them speak about the life of Christ.  His coming in human flesh in Bethlehem is the focus of Christmas.  Easter turns our eyes towards his risen and eternal life.

And yet, despite these great festivals of life, the church seems (to me at least) to be sometimes just a bit too focused on the death of Christ.  Our greatest and most ubiquitous symbol for Christ is not a manger, nor is it an empty tomb.  Instead, the Cross has become the primary Christian symbol. The cry of so many evangelists, throughout history, has been ‘Christ died for you!’. 

This of course is utterly true – and I don’t want to undervalue the rich layers of meaning which the death of Christ contains.  We explored many of them together on Good Friday – as we shall no doubt do again in 2021.  But, at this Christmas time, just as at Easter, I want to proclaim a different emphasis…a refreshed understanding of the Jesus story.  Not so much that ‘Christ died for you’, but rather, that startling truth that Christ lived for you!

Jesus’ death has much to teach us – it teaches us about the value of sacrifice, it warns us of the power of human governments to push God to the margins, and it provides theological, legal framework for the problem of sin (for those who find that helpful). It teaches us something about the love of a God who would send his own Son to give up his life for us.  But the life of Jesus has so much more to teach us.

It is by his birth at Bethlehem, in humble and lowly circumstances, that we catch a glimpse of God’s passion for the poor and the outcast of society.  It is through Jesus’ life among us, his teachings, his actions, his warnings, his encouragements, that we have the chance to really get under the skin of who Jesus was. 

Some of you have been following me as I’ve read a chapter of Luke’s Gospel each day during December (and well done if you’ve made it through all 24 days!).  I really hope that experience has helped you to get a broader, deeper and more profound understanding of the God who lived, and who continues to live in each of us.  And I hope you’ve noticed that the death of Jesus takes up just about half of one of those 24 chapters!

It is by Jesus’ life and teachings that we too may find life.  Jesus saves us by the Cross, yes, but also by the example of his life.  A life lived as Christ lived his life will be a life full of joy, of fellowship, of community, of giving and sharing, of healing, simplicity and of love.  These are not products of Jesus death – but of his life of earth.  And by his resurrection, we are promised that that life can go on for ever and ever.

So, this Christmas, let us hear again the news the Angels bring…good news for all humanity…the news, the real and present hope, that it is possible to live differently, to live lightly, to live generously, to live gloriously in the light of the example of Christ.  Christ has lived for us….alleluiah!


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