Our CEO, Scott Sanders introduces our "Being Present" Advent series with a reflection from Isaiah on what it means to pursue peace during this season.
Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God incarnate! Our covenant-keeping God, who was so faithful to his promise to reconcile humanity to himself, that he made himself present among us.
This is no classic mythological tale of a powerful god who made an appearance on earth and dabbled in the affairs of mortals. Our Saviour did not come with the pomp and military might that he was expected to.
Instead, the Christmas story describes a God who chose to reveal himself in the most vulnerable of all human states - as a newborn baby. And who chose the ‘perfect setting’ for his birth to be the grit, chaos and oppression of a provincial census, an overcrowded hometown, and an inn with no space for a pregnant and ‘due-any-minute’ young woman.
This is not a God who was looking to do ‘just enough’. This was a God who desperately craved reunion with his people.
It’s not surprising, then, that the story goes on to describe this God of ours - even from the very first day, when still a tiny baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in an animal’s feeding trough - with his arms stretched wide to include ‘outsiders’. With wise men drawn by an evening star to worship him. With weather-beaten shepherds treated to angelic choirs and directed to the newborn baby. With even animals included in the birthing room.
For though we could never have designed such an unexpected plan, yet we can recognise its poetry and perfection.
Of course our God who locates himself amongst the oppressed would be born when provincials were forced to journey so that their oppressors could count them, like cattle.
Of course the God whose heart is towards those who are marginalised and poor would be born to a couple that were given only the leftovers of a hospitality culture, resulting in a newborn being laid in a manger.
Of course the God who would heal the unclean and dine with sinners would allow the majesty of the moment of his birth to be witnessed by the everyday blokes who worked with animals.
And of course He – whose death would make a way so there was no longer ‘jew or gentile,’ nor any other obstacle to salvation – would be celebrated with kingly gifts brought by foreigners.
And though we can say ‘Of course!’ now, we must not lose the wonder of the birth story of the extraordinary God we serve. From the very first moment he made himself present among us, he lifted up the lowly and downcast. A servant king born given to all, bringing peace on earth and goodwill to all humankind.
Over the last 25 days we’ve heard from a beautiful and diverse range of Christians, sharing together on common ground what the coming of Jesus means for our world, witnessing to God’s goodness in our lives, and inviting us to share this good news with those around us in our hurting world.
And so, today, as we conclude this series with the celebration of Christ’s birth, may we truly be present with God, be present with those around us, and be present with the excluded in our communities.
May the Jesus we find in the Christmas story be born and reborn in our hearts every day, that we might be more like Jesus who, with arms-wide-open, chooses to be present with those who are hurting most, and places himself right in the middle of humanity’s mess.
This is the final reflection in Common Grace's Advent series on "Being Present" this Christmas. Thank you for journeying with us through Advent, and we hope you have been challenged and inspired by our amazing 25 contributors and their reflections on what "Being Present" means to them this Christmas. If you missed a day or want to revisit a specific reflection, you can read all 25 reflections here.
Daily Reading Luke 2:11
"Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."