“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered….Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2)
Yesterday morning sitting in Chapel at the Synod Office, I heard these words again, words so familiar from decades of listening to them in Church and even as Linus recites them on TV in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I have heard the story so often, and yet was deeply moved again by its simplicity and ordinariness. It is the story of so many in our world today. A family uprooted by government regulations issued at a distance. An unmarried, expectant mother, an anxious father unprepared for what was in front of them. The urgency of birth and the need for shelter, any shelter, immediately. And a child – innocent, needy, challenging, indeed life-changing.
That child, Jesus, turns out to be Emmanuel – God-with-us. Born in the midst of the ordinary to give us a glimpse and hope in the extraordinary mercy and grace of God’s love for us.
John Betjeman, English poet laureate, set his poem “Christmas” in a commonplace English village, among ordinary shoppers readying themselves for the festivities:
“…And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?
“And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
“No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.”
It is true. It changes everything.
May Christ the Son of God, born of Mary, fill you with grace to trust his promises, find joy in his service and peace in your lives.
Blessings for Christmas.
+Colin, Archbishop of Toronto and of Moosonee.