From the Chaplain | Rev. Willie Liebenberg
As we draw closer to Christmas for 2019, we are still facing devastating drought and bushfires. It feels as if we are suffering from a constant attack of vertigo, a feeling of dizziness where the ground under our feet seems to be rolling and moving. Thus, I cannot look at the traditional manger scene against the backdrop of our current situation here in Warwick and the wider regional community without feeling deeply challenged.
Consider this scene: a birthing place amidst animals, outside of the inn; parents worn out by a long journey; a land under occupation; shepherds who were ritually unclean and excluded from worship. I cannot look at this picture with all of its symbols of vulnerability and not be confronted by the harsh truth that is the message of Christmas – the message of coming to a new life in God and of fresh beginnings. The message of Christmas is not about having more, but about being more. I believe this Christmas, with all its challenges, will be one of having less and being more – less receiving and more giving.
Bob Snyder writes: “The first Christmas is a miraculous story of the eternal God’s son, becoming of no reputation and then humbling himself to accept a cruel death on a cross. Sure there were angel choirs. Kings came from far away to worship Him. But the true Christmas story is about smallness, humility and servanthood.” Christmas must redirect our thoughts and challenge us to think differently, to dream bigger and to imagine more comprehensively.
Our people on the land are tired and exhausted and we need one another to collectively help realise our Bethlehem – our place of hopes and dreams. Christmas gives us a window through which we can see each other and through which we can see our neighbours and our God.
The birth of the Jesus Christ brings new life and the hope of new beginnings to our personal lives and relationships. No matter how bad things are, we all have a choice. We can make things worse, or we can choose to make things better. Paraphrasing what someone once said, “you cannot outwit fate by standing on the sidelines and placing little side bets on the outcome of life. You have to play the game – if you do not play, there is no way you can win.”
Christmas remains the story of recognising God in unexpected places. We often miss the place where God is creating something new because, like the Wise Men, we instinctively go looking for God in the places of power, in the Courts of Herod when all the while God is stirring to life in a stable. God reminds us that it is humble people who shape history. God loves the insignificant, illegitimate, defenceless, the tabooed people – God’s grace is in them. That is where God’s love is being born. That is where the Christmas story continues – in our lives because we are those people.
Joy to the world the Lord has come.