O Holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.
The chances are we all sang these words once or twice over the Christmas period. We heard the story of the baby, born in a manger and proclaimed saviour of the world by a choir of angels. We hear also of the visit of the magi, the kings or wise men to that distant stable with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh; a distant stable, long ago and far away. Yet in this carol we invite that event to cross the great divide of time and space and happen here and now. Be born in us today!
Looking at the world around us it is easy to get the impression that events are spiralling out of control. We hear of the shootings in Birmingham, the danger of war in the gulf, the threat of terrorism; all reminders of the ability of man to lose the plot as far as Godís plan for the world is concerned. As we meet to pray for peace and the love of God to heal the divisions and wounds of the world we feel solidarity with Jeremiah in his plea, ĎO LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.' Are we just a remnant of a past age? Are we becoming irrelevant to an increasingly secular world?
The birth of Jesus, long ago and far away, gave rise to the birth of the Christian faith in the world. The birth of Jesus within us here and now is as vital to our own relationship with God. Jesus himself uses the analogy of being Ďborn againí when talking with Nicodemus. We, however, whether or not we consider ourselves to be born again, are not babies. In accepting this spiritual childhood we accept the responsibility of parenting. A child is a difficult thing to bring up. It demands our attention, our resources, our love, and requires a change in our relationships with others and the way we feel about ourselves. In parenting that child born in us we are nourishing the presence of God within us.
The presence of that child within us is proof to us that we have not lost the plot. We meet together to show that we do believe in Godís plan for the world. We believe, as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians, that we were chosen by God to fulfill his purpose in the world, not only before we were born, not even two thousand years ago with the birth of Jesus, but before the world was made. We can help in the fulfillment of Godís plan because we have accepted the presence of his Holy Spirit to empower and guide us in life. While we ourselves cannot hope to heal the worldís wounds, solve the worldís problems and make it a safer and more welcoming world to live in, we believe that God can work through us to do just that. So in order for us to be effective in His plan God, as the babe born in us, must work from within us.
In Johnís Gospel we hear of John the Baptist, a witness to the light. Before Johnís ministry Jesus was unknown, the world didnít know him, it didnít accept him. Through Johnís witness to the light Jesus gained his first disciples and the process of the rebuilding of Godís kingdom on earth had begun. John was not the light, but he brought others to the light. That is our role. John intrigued people because he was a prophet who Ďwalked how he talkedí. A strange man out in the wilderness whose life reflected the belief he held within him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit it will be the way our lives reflect the parenting of the Christ-child within us that will intrigue and draw others to accept his light in their lives.
If others see us arguing among ourselves, acting selfishly, intolerantly or dishonestly then though we hold the light within us the world will not know it. If we treat each other as parents and godparents of the child within ourselves and within each other, setting examples of tolerance, gentleness, self control, joy, and love then those who encounter us may more easily be drawn to the light, accepting Christ for themselves and being empowered to become children of God.