Before we leave Christmas behind I want to look again at the context in which God became flesh because we can pull some interesting details from it.
The first detail I’d like you to see is that when God became flesh he was really pushing the boundaries of our freedom. The incarnation sits on the very edge of human freedom. If God did anything more we’d have no choice but to believe… and instantly our freedom is gone.
So the whole belief thing and the Church – remember that Christ and the Church are inseparable – is a personal choice. Yes, absolutely, but in acknowledging that it’s a personal choice, we must also acknowledge that God has done everything possible to swing our choice in his direction while leaving us just enough freedom to be able to reject him. This is a very thin line – maxed out very deliberately by God.
I’d also like you to notice the role of the political leaders – Caesar Augustus, Herod and the various layers of Government and leadership – in the arrival of the Christ-child (Cf Luke). They had absolutely nothing to do with it! In fact, they provided nothing more than the historical backdrop, nothing more than a way to put a date on the events. They were by-passed – as Mary marvelled in her Magnificat; “he has pulled down princes from their thrones…” How? He just by-passed them making them largely irrelevant and went to the lowly stable where only the lowly, and those who make themselves lowly can recognize him. This hasn’t changed.
But later they did try to get in on the act, to thwart it, Herod particularly. So his eventual involvement is one of opposition. This is most interesting because this hasn’t changed either – politics is still largely opposing the influence of the incarnation, non-violently of course, and ironically it does so on the pretext of choice!
The next detail I’d like you to see is the proximity of really dark evil to the unfolding of God’s plans. As the Christ-child arrived into the world Herod’s power was threatened. Initially he played politics with the wise men, trying to trick them into telling him where he could find the child Jesus so that he could eliminate him, but when politics fails he unleashes a terrible evil ordering the death of every new born male child. What I want you to see is the proximity of the darkest evil to the unfolding of God’s plan in the world – this is the price of human freedom – and it hasn’t changed either. Wherever God’s plan is unfolding you will have evil too, and the greater the plan, the greater the evil, but only for a time. Always remember that spiritually we must be deceived into focusing on the shadows, on the darkness rather than the light. It happens all the time – right now in the Church it is happening; has happened.
The final detail I’d like you to see is how the unfolding of God’s plan is always tottering on the brink. God’s plan is dependent on Mary’s ‘yes’, on a solitary woman’s ‘yes’, on a ‘yes’ that asks this woman to let go of all her plans and stare, and step, into an abyss (from a human point of view). It’s dependent on Joseph accepting Mary’s version of events. It’s dependent on Joseph’s dream, on the wise men’s dream. What I want you to see is the thin line, again this thin line. God’s will always looks like it’s about to flop, from beginning to end, from incarnation to resurrection and into the future.
Doesn’t it look like that right now?
But it’ll never fail… never.