Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014


There’s something wonderful about Christmas. No, this is not a prelude to the usual misty-eyed celebration of Santa and early sales and soap stars in panto. It is, in fact, a celebration of a different sort. The way I see it, the Christmas story is so good because it does everything wrong.

Let me explain. For the young couple the scandal of pregnancy before marriage put them in one of society’s wrong categories. The 54 mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem was the wrong thing entirely for a pregnant woman at full term. The cattle shed was the wrong birth environment, and the socially unimpressive shepherds were altogether, well, wrong. Add the hasty exodus to Egypt and the separation from the support that a small town like Nazareth would have offered to a young family as well as the foreign astrologers, and it’s clear that God’s choice of entrance for his flesh and blood plays by a decidedly alternative set of rules. Put another way; so much of it was so wrong by so many of our standards.

The Christmas story has plenty to teach us, even today. The truth about it is that by siding so clearly with such an undesirable set of circumstances, God places value on that which we so often despise. Where we are tempted to separate ourselves from that which we consider to bear the hallmark of failure, God embraces it as his own. Where we avoid, misunderstand or fear those on the margins, the Gospel message would have us stand alongside them.

Fast forward to the end of Christ’s life and the message to us, his followers, is even clearer. We are told to love the unloved, to reach beyond that which is comfortable and be, as Job was, eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a father to the needy, the sort of people intent on taking up the case of the stranger.

Throughout his life Jesus’ decision to align himself with those who were social misfits and outcasts challenged the received wisdom of the day. Whether they were of the wrong sex, wrong age, wrong race, wrong state of health or wrong career, Jesus’ practical compassion – the offers of healing, defence, food, friendship – underlined the fact that his was a radical new message that was not meant for the few, but for the many.

As for what all this has to do with us, the answers are clear. Our mandate is to walk side by side with those on the margins of our society. Just as it was in the middle east two millennia ago, today there is no shortage of the ‘wrong’ people for us to be the right thing for.

With its refusal to accept what society tells us is the right value to place on things and people, the Church has the mandate to transform the lives of those who are currently being failed by their surrounding society. Take a closer look at them - the asylum seekers, the migrants, the homeless, the travellers, the poor, the lonely, the widowed and the orphaned, the hungry and the naked, the less beautiful, the less well connected, the less well resourced, the less well adjusted - and it becomes clear: these are the people that our God chose to surround himself with. These are the people that our God chose to be.

What does all this mean for our idea of worship – that mysterious thing that seems to have a little to do with what we sing and a lot to do with how we live and serve our Creator. What does it mean? Perhaps nothing more than this; what do we care more about – being seen to be doing things right, or taking that risky, painful, obscure path down which we’ve heard God’s whisper? When did you last get things wrong?

 

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