By Archbishop Colin Johnson
A child is born in Bethlehem!
New life here, urgent for growth, demanding our attention, full of promise and hope, surfacing our anxious response. It is so for the birth of any child.
“Peaceful” Bethlehem is a fantasy of romantic poets. Then, as now, it seethed with repressed political and social tension, a complicated symbol for competing dreams.
Not in an idyllic setting, not when everything is tidily in order, but in the very heart of this dis-ease, Jesus the Prince of Peace is born.
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
We celebrate the birth of a child born in Bethlehem so long ago—Jesus—yet more than a child: God in our midst.
God is everywhere, but we discover him enfleshed in a person, Jesus, so we can see up close what God is truly like.
God can be worshipped anywhere, but we build churches where we can physically gather to worship, or we would soon forget both our need to worship and our need for others to enrich our faith.
God can be served everywhere, but we are given our neighbour to have a specific person in front of us to begin practising our acts of mutual service.
God’s love for us is not saved up for some far-off future, but God meets us today in the midst of our muddling dis-ease, to embrace us in his gentle and fierce compassion. This encounter with God will transfigure our lives as we respond in faith and love.
Jesus, God with us, our saviour, is born then and now.
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 yours this Christmas.
The Most Rev’d Colin R. Johnson,
Archbishop of Toronto and Metropolitan of Ontario
Christmas, in the year of our Lord 2013