Tomorrow is Christmas Day, the first of forty days celebrating one of the most important teachings of Christianity: that Jesus is, as he claimed before his crucifixion, God. At tonight’s midnight mass, we will have as our reading from the gospels the beautiful ‘prologue’ from John, one of his closest friends, which attempts to express this amazing truth:
That God, the Source of all being, the Reason that the universe is ‘incomprehensibly comprehensible,’ as Einstein nearly put it, was and is the itinerant teacher, healer and exorcist who was executed for being the rightful king of the Jews in implicit opposition to the authority of Rome.
It is an amazing claim, so amazing that many people simply refuse to consider whether it is true. But God spent centuries preparing his chosen people for this amazing event: our new testament reading for tonight’s midnight mass is from the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews, a portion of an argument using verses from the Jewish scriptures (what we Christians have as the old testament) to establish that the Messiah, the promised king who was to come and rule according to God’s will, was never going to be a mere human being but was always, in God’s eternal plan, going to be God himself.
I suspect that everyone, or at least the overwhelming majority of people, reading this knows the story of Jesus’ birth, if only from nativity plays and Christmas carols: angels announcing that Jesus is the Messiah and the Lord, foreign dignitaries paying him tribute, even the somewhat questionable interpretation of Isaiah that insists there was an ox and a donkey present.
But the real question is not how well you know the story: it is, Have you really considered whether or not it is true? Have you considered, without close-minded prejudice, what the bible actually says about Jesus and who he is? The question, as Betjeman hauntingly repeated in his poem ‘Christmas’, remains: And is it true? For if it is, it is the most important truth there is. If Jesus is God himself, what he said and did (and does and says) must be of supreme importance for each and every one of us. Merry Christmas!
Fr Mike Healey (priest-in-charge)