One of the most memorable and best loved Christmas hymns in the English-speaking world is ‘O little town of Bethlehem’. No wonder, because it speaks of an enduring spiritual truth: the need humanity has for a Redeemer.
We have lived through another year where inhumanity to our fellow image bearers of the divine Creator has brought tears of suffering. One of our senior clergy has just advised me that 45 people were killed in his home village in South Sudan, including aid workers seeking to alleviate suffering. No wonder the weight of the world’s troubles fall so heavily on us.
Even in Australia, a land richly blessed in so many ways, there is widespread mistrust and dissatisfaction, and more suffering than there should be. Curiously, this is so when we have a greater ability than ever before to actually address the domestic problems that afflict us. What we lack is the will and the drive to confront the issues that relegate some to a life of limited participation and flourishing.
Yet, in the worst times and worst of situations, salvation is at hand through God’s precious gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. ‘No ear may hear His coming but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.’ Perhaps there is no greater contradiction than that between the glory that is offered to us in Christ and the failure that we too often accept as the inevitable consequence of our human nature.
What God gives to the world in the baby of Bethlehem is a promise and a hope that even in the worst of times the best of who we are created to be can find its fulfilment.
Let us have thankful hearts as we celebrate the giving of so great a mercy, ‘God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5.8). What an opportunity for a new way, a living way that has been given to struggling humanity in the birth of Jesus! ‘O holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.’
May you have a blessed celebration of our Lord’s birth and may his peace turn hearts from cruelty and inhumanity.