Christmas Eve 2020
Father Steven Young
"I don’t even think I want the baby anymore. I don’t think Dave wants it either. He didn’t even want to feel it kicking before. And I betcha he’ll leave it all to me. And I don’t even know anything about babies!"
"You’ll be alright. There’s nothing to it." The Father replies soothingly, cradling his
daughter in his arms. They sit together on the bathroom floor waiting for a taxi to hospital. It’s Christmas day. Just after lunch. Dad’s still wearing his paper hat. A moment ago the family, Royal with an E, were sitting on the sofa. Drinking Snowballs. Eating Quality Street. Watching telly. Suddenly, the extraordinary has blown apart the ordinary. Denise has just gone into labour. Three weeks early.
"What if the baby doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like the baby?" Denise sobs in panic between contractions.
"Of course you’ll like it. You’ll love it. I remember the first time your mum put you in my arms. Oh God you were beautiful. I knew then I’d do anything for you. Anything for you. And our Anthony."
The father encourages his child to trust in her ability to love by reminding her of how greatly SHE is loved.
If you’ve ever known reassurance like that. These Father’s words. Be grateful. Some of us are lucky enough to receive as close to unconditional love as mere humans can muster. The parent who looks at us, loves us and from that moment on will do anything in their power for us. The partner who stands by us no matter what. The friend who is always willing to listen.
My calling, this Holy Night, is to bear witness to love. You may never have received unconditional love from another human being. But you receive it now and always from God.
This Holy Night, you receive love without limit or condition from a Saviour who descends to earth. A saviour who becomes a fragile, tiny little baby. A baby born on the first century equivalent of a working-class bathroom floor. The creator of all that we can see, and touch and know, asking an unmarried teenage mother, her confused refugee partner and each of us. "Will you look after me? Will you love me?"
God’s makes Himself human to win our hearts. The Christ child shows the abundance of His love not just by loving us, but by calling us to love Him, in His most vulnerable form.
The Christ child is what perfect, unconditional love looks like. Christ is the personification of "laying it all on the line". Being willing to give it all. Risking everything. Knowing the love He gives can never be fully returned. The only one who can do this perfectly is God. Humans will always hold something back. Even if we think we do not. Our purest love will have some limit, lack or condition. There is NO such limit with God. And this limitless love is offered for you and for anyone who will receive it. It makes no difference who you are, what you have done or what has been done to you. You are embraced and loved completely by God.
The only one who can express love perfectly is perfect love Himself. The creator. The divine source of perfect love. This holy night perfect love is made flesh. God in man, made manifest. The tiny baby in Bethlehem. The small boy discussing Scripture in the Temple. The carpenter from Nazareth. The friend of prostitutes, tax collectors and adulterers. The hunted, hated man put to death on the cross. The suffering, saving, resurrected, and ascended Lord.
Our journey, as those created from perfect love, is to offer an ever-deepening expression of love. Not just conditional love, to those who love us in return – but to strive to love all creation without limit. To love others, JUST as we are loved by God. The father reminds us how greatly we are loved in order that we might love others just as He loves us.
But we are slow to listen. And so Jesus resorts to making us break things. Jesus makes us break things to discover that they are whole. That we are one. And that He is one with us.
All through this horrible year I’ve been breaking bread on Zoom. I’ve been holding a little circle of wafer up to my computer screen and reminding anyone watching that although they cannot receive the bread in person that the body of Christ IS broken for them, and that they receive Christ regardless of any social distance and in so doing we are made whole. Broken bread, wine out poured. Broken to show us that we are one body, one Spirit, in Christ.
Corona has distanced us. Masked us. Separated us. But Christ is the true antivirus. The one who can never be distanced, masked or separated. In my ten years at St Michael’s I have never witnessed spiritual growth amongst us, like I have witnessed this year. Courage in the face of adversity. Strength in suffering. Hope triumphing. Love winning.
This holy night, Jesus reminds us that He is with us now and always, even until the end of time. We may be physically separated from our loved ones but tonight believe, and know that nothing can ever separate you from the love of God. No virus. No circumstances. No lie of separation or segregation can ever sever the oneness you have in Christ.
You are loved. Beyond limit. Beyond condition. Here. Now. Always.