People come in a diversity of brokenness, whether from birth or through accident or malicious action or as a consequence of illness or aging. This is a gift, if we will receive it, to keep us from the terrible isolation of independence through giving and receiving love as one who is cared for and cares for others - interdependence. We are disabled or enabled, to greater or lesser degrees, by the actions of community to exclude or to include us. We are further wounded by every act of rejection – and wound ourselves when we reject others. We are further healed by every act of embrace – and experience healing ourselves when we embrace others.
The heart of Christmas is Good News. Good news for all humanity. The Good News that, in Jesus, God is with us. If we cannot present Christmas as Good News, we have not understood it.
For a whole angelic host of reasons, I have cause to reflect on how Christmas might be – more than just a party season – deeply enabling for those who are most disabled by our society.
I am struck that for 400 years before the births of John (the Baptizer) and Jesus, God is an elective mute. God is so emotionally overwhelmed, so unable to make sense of human behaviour, so traumatised by his experience of the world, he withdraws into silence. I am also struck that while there were some who went about life as if God did not exist, there were others who waited all that time (not any one individual, of course, but within the community) for the day when God would speak again. And I am struck that when God does speak, through his angel, he enables the priest Zechariah to share in the experience of muteness.
‘God-with-us’ is God with those of us who have retreated deep within ourselves and who watch from the relative safety of that place. ‘God-with-us’ is God with those of us who have chosen not to give up on someone who has retreated into themselves.
Moreover, I am struck that in the baby born on ‘Christmas Day’, God knows what it is like to be totally dependent, to be unable to speak, to be frustrated by not being able to make himself understood, to be incontinent. These are things I have largely forgotten – though I may encounter any or all of them again in the future – but not God. And I am struck that in the Christmas story there is a special place for Mary and for Joseph, both visited by angels.
‘God-with-us’ is God with the one who needs a Carer. ‘God-with-us’ is God with the one whose life is largely (if not exclusively) defined, in the short- or long-term, by being a primary Carer.
I am struck that the baby in the manger grows up, and there comes a time when his family intervene because they do not believe that he is capable of taking responsibility for himself. And I am struck that when he is led away and nailed to an executioners scaffold, he has the presence of mind – and strength of heart – to provide a Carer for his mother.
‘God-with-us’ is God with the misunderstood and rejected. ‘God-with-us’ is God with those who struggle to know how best to walk alongside their child, or how to navigate the path of interdependence with them. ‘God-with-us’ is God going into the future with us, into the unknown.
‘God-with-us’ can never be abstract – for we are concrete (or at least, of the earth).
‘God-with-us’ can never be (Christmas card) ‘picture perfect’ – for we are all broken.
‘God-with-us’ means God, both disabled and enabled by human action.
And ‘God-with-us’ means God’s enabling presence holding our brokenness in a beautiful wholeness.
This Christmas, and beyond, GOD BE WITH YOU.