The Nativity, fresco by Giotto, c. 1305-06,
depicting the birth of Jesus; in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.
Christmas Sermon 2014
Many today can't imagine that God could be born a helpless babe
by the Rev Canon Dewi J.Ll.Roberts
- that he took to himself a human nature
- that Jesus is the icon of the invisible God.
They can't imagine how this unique best act of God could possibly be true.
They can imagine other things - but not this.
The American author Mark Twain perceptively said :
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
Is the imagination of most people today, I wonder, out of focus
when they try to comprehend the Christmas Story?
I believe our use of imagination in looking at the Christmas Story gives us a deeper insight
into the Story than if we depend only on our reason or senses.
Imagine the scene of the Christ child in the crib surrounded by lowly animals, loved and adored by
Mary and Joseph, loved and adored by humble shepherds, loved and adored by the heavenly angels.
We sometimes say a picture is worth a thousand words.
The nativity scene by the Renaissance artist Giotto tells me more of the story of Christmas
than words alone ever can. And especially this particular nativity scene, the original of which
was painted at the beginning of the 14th Century.
In some religious paintings of the early medieval period Mary and Joseph
seem like cardboard cut out figures - flat and lifeless, almost oblivious
to the birth of the baby.
But not in this painting - Mary in this scene is leaning towards her baby in love and adoration. She is bonding
with the Christ child. Though Joseph I must admit looks exhausted.
Giotto's paintings are deeply compassionate -they are convincing and compelling -they enable viewers to
empathise with the key characters of the story.
I'm not saying we don't need words to know the Christmas story - but we so much more need our imagination.
But words themselves ,of course, require the use of imagination. The written or spoken word calls to mind through
the imagination the thing to which it refers.
When we ponder the Christmas story - we realise that at the heart of Christmas is love, humility, and vulnerability.
This helpless and vulnerable babe in the manger is God incarnate.
The shocking reality was that Jesus, the Word of God, the King of Kings, came in silence, unseen -or heard of -
by the world.
He entered the world without any privilege - born in a poor stable - as a frail vulnerable baby.
How amazing that God let himself be so vulnerable.
Our God loved us so much, that He let himself become small and vulnerable, and in need of Mary's nurturing
- to become one with the very heart of humanity.
What an amazing story this is.
It is beyond our understanding in many ways .
But it fills our imagination.
It will never exhaust our imagination.
It is such a beautiful story.
God is the best story teller.
We tell stories because God is a storyteller - in fact he is the story teller.
We can imagine stories because imagination is God's image-ness in us.
We use words when we tell stories - but God uses history.
Can you imagine a greater creative act than God taking upon himself human flesh at a specific time and place
- being born at a specific point in history - what a remarkable miracle this is.
The Christian writer
C S Lewis says :-
"The greatest miracle of all is that wonderful, incomprehensible act by which God became man, and was born to a
young Jewish girl named Mary, in a stable in Bethlehem, about 2,000 years ago during the reign of Herod the Great."
And C S Lewis goes on to say :-
"By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered his creation, the Eternal entered time,
God became human in order to die and rise again for the salvation of all people. "He comes down; down from
the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still ... to the womb ...
down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.
But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him."
What a wonderful story!
We could not imagine such a story if we were not created with this capability.
Imagination allows us to enter into the story- to make the story our own.
C S Lewis described the story of Christ as the true myth.
Myths convey the essential truth, the primal reality of life itself.
There are of course false myths - but according to
C S Lewis - the glory of the Gospel Story is that it is the true myth.
It is the true story - it really happened - it is that which makes sense of everything - it is that which makes sense of all our stories
- for we are all part of God's story.
May we realise the truth of the beautiful myth of the Christmas story - that Christ came from above to be born a
vulnerable baby. He came in the flesh to finally die for mankind on the hill of Calvary.
Mary and Joseph adored the Christ child , the shepherds and the wise men adored him , and the angels in heaven adored him.
May we also adore Him, May we adore the Christ who came in humility and vulnerability - to be our Redeemer.
Jesus came--the heavens adoring--
came with peace from realms on high;
Jesus came for man's redemption,
lowly came on earth to die:
came in deep humility.