“This changes everything.”
A couple of days after the birth of our first child, it really dawned upon me that as parents, we were going to be, for almost the rest of our lives, the target of relentless marketing from a myriad of sources. It would never stop; it would first be directed at us as parents, then at us through the child. I felt like I was caught; my deep hopes for my child making me a target exposed to the commercial world.
A birth certainly changes everything. For many of us, it’s a wonderful experience of seeing new life grow and flourish in a way that at least in some measure, is planned and according to expectations. That’s not true for all births; some bring profound challenges; challenges that test people to the uttermost.
Christmas celebrates a birth that brings both deep joy and deep challenge. As the story is told, it’s a birth that’s highly irregular—out of wedlock, disconnected from the ritual and support of the traditions of birthing in that time and place. If this is God present amongst us, as the story tells us, then it’s not according to the rule book.
But that’s just it: the life of Jesus Christ is lived in all the joys, hopes, and challenges of every human life—his life is in solidarity with ours. God does not come as wholly other, with coercive power; God comes in the vulnerability of the babe of Bethlehem, in the vision of world renewed as Jesus taught, in the hope of the resurrection.
Christmas will always be about a God who comes to us in a way that repudiates all our justifications for the coercive use of power. Such justifications have been a dominant paradigm for human civilisation. From Jesus’ lowly birth, with its invitation to trust and wonder, to his death on the cross, in solidarity with us all, and his resurrection, this life says, God is with us—“Emmanuel”. This life changes everything.
Rev David Baker
Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod