Perhaps we need to keep bringing our gaze back to the Christ child

Mary Copping, 18 December 2022

Isaiah 7: 10–16; Matthew 1: 18–25

Happy Christmas! We’ll hear a lot of that in the coming days and say it often ourselves as well. But often Christmas, as we know, is not a time of great happiness and certainly won’t be for many this year – refugees trying to find a place to stay, other people who find themselves homeless, those who are struggling with money and wondering how to make ends meet, those who have difficult relationships which will be tested at this time. And course it certainly wasn’t a happy Christmas for Mary and Joseph either – far from it.

They were a simple couple from simple backgrounds, obedient to God’s call. They had to leave their home because they had to do the census in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. After that they had to escape to Egypt, where they were refugees.

One can imagine also that there were difficult relationships for both of them when they announced that Mary was pregnant, unmarried, and the father was the Holy Spirit. And how did they manage for money? They certainly wouldn’t have had much and would have relied on others to help them out. Of course it was a time of wonder and joy for them at the birth of their beautiful new baby, God’s baby, God’s Son, but a huge sacrifice for them both.

So let us not expect too much of ourselves or of other people at Christmas, but have our focus on the sense of the deep joy of God sending his Son to earth – the joy of Immanuel, God with us. What a wonder!

Both Mary and Joseph were faithful and obedient – faithful to God’s call, and obedient to all that he asked them to do – even though it wasn’t an easy road for either of them.

Yet let’s imagine Mary and Joseph in the stable with their precious baby, first receiving the visit from the shepherds, who gazed in wonder at the Christ child – a special, precious moment for them all. Then later the three kings, the magi, bringing their gifts to this special baby – again, a precious moment. Yes, things must have been difficult for Mary and Joseph, but there will have been many glimpses of wonder and joy during that time.

As we look towards Christmas thinking about what is to come, who we are going to be with or whether we’ll be alone, how much money we’re going to spend and the people we have to get on with – perhaps we need to keep bringing our gaze back to the Christ child. We can thank God for the wonder of sending his Son to be the saviour of the world, to be born as a vulnerable baby, needing his nappies changed, needing to be fed and cared for by his wonderful earthly parents.

Perhaps also let us give thanks to God for the little glimpses of wonder that he shows each one of us as we move towards Christmas. Perhaps the wonder of the children singing carols at the school or the nativity play, perhaps a carol at the carol service yesterday which touched our hearts, perhaps seeing a newborn baby, which filled us with awe at new life, and there may be many other special moments.

I’ve been helping at my daughter’s school, which is a special school, and on Tuesday I was invited to watch their Christmas show. It was so moving – the children all with special needs but every child had a part, every child was valued. The parents looking on were willing their children to do well and the aim of all the helpers was to make sure that those children gave of their best. The show was full of love, gentleness and hope. This to me was a Christmas moment of wonder, and I am sure that many of you will have other moments to thank God for.

So we can give thanks to God for these glimpses, not expect too much of Christmas – which after all seems to be only one day, as many will be out shopping again on Boxing Day. One year, on Boxing Day, someone asked me, ‘Did you have a good Christmas?’ Was that it – one day?! Christmastide, for Christians, is a season of the liturgical year, beginning on Christmas Eve and lasting until the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. There are several celebrations within Christmastide, including Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day, Childermass (the Feast of the Holy Innocents) and the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.

Christmas is about Immanuel – God loving us so much that he sent his Son to die for us, and Jesus coming to earth to show us who God is, to show us how God acts and to show us God with us. The miracle of the Virgin Birth is God’s new creation come to earth, a new start for us – God coming into a world full of brokenness and sadness, bringing new life, new hope, love, joy and peace. As foretold in Isaiah, ‘Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel’.

Christmas is about Immanuel – Jesus coming to earth to show us who God is, to show us how God acts and to show us God with us.

So this Christmas let us, amongst all the glitter and materialism, keep our eyes fixed on the one who was sent by God to save us, the God who cares about us that much. Let us sense the deep joy of God sending his only Son, the joy of Immanuel, and pass that joy on to others. What a privilege, what a comfort, what amazing love God has for us!

The Christmas blessing says it all:

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary
and the peace of the Christ child
be ours this Christmas. Amen.