The Crib and the Cross

Merry Christmas everyone!

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This hasn’t been the sort of Christmas that anyone would have hoped for, planned, or wished. But, as Alice reminded us on Christmas Day, Jesus was himself born into some very less than optimal circumstances. That, indeed, was very much the point. When God comes among us, it is always like this – you have to look in the places most people would prefer not to visit, engage with the people most of us would prefer not to know, and pay attention to problems that most consider unimportant.

Saint John, whose Feast day it is on Sunday 27th December, understood this I think. In Christian art, he most often appears standing at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The scene, often known as the Rood, was removed from many of our church buildings at the Reformation, where it used to stand between the altar and the nave. It is a reminder that the victory of God is of a very strange kind. God in Christ triumphs over sin and death by submitting himself to the very worst that our human nature can throw at him, placing himself at our mercy in order to work a miracle of mercy.

This begins for us at the crib, but over that crib there is always the shadow of the cross. In both cross and crib we see our God made visible as one who has chosen vulnerability over strength, weakness over power, need over plenty, exclusion over popularity, all in order to win for us the possibility of eternal life.

As we continue to celebrate the birth of Our Lord this Christmas season, the witness of Saint John reminds us that this baby is the Word made flesh, God’s own self being united with our humanity so that we can be re-united with God. Merry Christmas indeed, and God bless us all, every one.