When my little niece Mari, who is 4 years of age, was asked a few weeks ago,
how many Christmases have there been altogether ? She wasn’t too sure how to answer.
She thought for a few moments and gave the answer four, four Christmases.
Of course, from her perspective she has only known a few Christmases.
And when she was told the Church has been celebrating Christmas for about 2000 years -
she was absolutely astonished. She couldn’t get her head around this huge number.
For a four year old child 2000 years is incomprehensible.
Even for us as adults 2000 years is a very long time ago.
But why has the Church been celebrating Christmas continually for approximately 2000 years ?
It’s not because the Church believes that Jesus was just a good man.
It's not even that the Church believes that Jesus was simply a great prophet,
similar to John the Baptist, or Elijah or Moses.
No, the reason the Church celebrates Christmas is because she believes
that in Jesus we see God Himself.
Emmanuel God with us.
God in Christ pitched his tent with us.
And he desires to pitch the tent of his life even in our hearts.
was the great medieval mystic Meister Eckhart who commented that
incarnation of the Word in Jesus of Nazareth long ago is of no interest
unless that same word becomes incarnate in us today.
Clearly for us here this night the Christmas Story is of great interest and importance to us,
or we would not be here. But are we spectators rather than participators in this story.
The mystery of God’s Word made flesh, is not something to be admired from the outside.
Rather it is something to experience, it is something in which to participate.
God in actual fact, wants to pitch his tent in our hearts.
He does not want us to gaze at the Christmas story from afar, he wants us to partake of it.
Have we opened a cleft in our heart for the light and life of Christ,
to enter in?
Have we let Christ’s healing balm be administered to our eyes so that we see
in the babe in the manger, the fulfillment of our heart’s desire?
The Christian faith is really a different way of seeing.
If all we see in the babe in the manger is a beautiful baby, and a delightful tale
which evokes a nostalgic feeling within us, then it is doubtful
that we have come to this different way of seeing.
In the strange and strikingly beautiful account of the healing of the man
born blind in John’s gospel, we find an iconic representation of coming to see.
Jesus spits on the ground and makes a mud paste which he then rubs onto the man’s eyes.
When the man washes his eyes in the pool of siloam as Jesus had instructed him, his sight is restored.
And his disarming response to those who question him after his healing is :-
“all i know is i was blind and now i see.”
It was St Augustine who saw in the making of the mud paste a metaphor for the incarnation :
the divine power mixing with the earth, resulting in the formation of a healing balm.
When this salve of God made flesh is rubbed onto our eyes blinded by sin and fear,
we come again to see.
Have we allowed too many Christmases to pass by before we come to a new way of seeing,
a new way of experiencing Emmanuel, God with us, even God in us?
Just as a baby was born in a stable long ago, a small fragment or spark or seed
of God in Christ is born in each human being.
That holy, inexplicable-reality may grow or not grow within us, depending in part on us.
And God waits. He waits for us to open even a small cleft in our heart for him to dwell,
he wishes to pitch the tent of his being even in our hearts.
There is an extract of a Jewish-Christian text of the 2nd century which
reminds us of God’s desire to be known and received by us.
“His love for me brought low his greatness.
He made himself like me so that i might receive him
He made himself like me so that i might be clothed in him.
I had no fear when i saw him
for he is mercy for me.
he took my nature so that i might understand him
my face so that i should not turn away from him.”
We cannot fathom the mystery of God’s love for us in the incarnation, of the Word made flesh -
That God wants to dwell with us.
But let us not just sit back and wonder at the enormity of it all.
Let us not be spectators and observers only, of the Christmas story.
Rather let us participate.
How many Christmases have we truly known Christ in our hearts -
is it quite a few - or maybe is it none so far?
God wants to pitch the tent of his life within us.
God is waiting -
let us open a cleft in our heart
for Him to come and
make his abode with us and in us,
may he be born in us today.