As you will see from our church programme, Christmas is interrupted and is not the way that we would have chosen to plan it. Of course, the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was not the way that we would have planned it. As God said through his prophet Isaiah, ‘My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than yours’. If we had planned the arrival of God’s King to this earth, we would probably not have done it the way that the Lord came up with. Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit outside of wedlock which put question marks over the paternity of Jesus. The timing and the circumstances of the birth were far from ideal. The children’s carol ‘Little donkey, carry Mary’ is very romantic, but the reality of travelling for days on the back of a donkey whilst being full term in pregnancy must have been extremely uncomfortable, not to mention risky. The maternity ward was far from ideal, rather like one of our Stansted parishioners some years ago who gave birth on the kitchen floor with the local dairy farmer delivering the baby! The whole idea of God becoming a vulnerable human being seems from our perspective to be a risky plan. Infant mortality was a very real risk and there was no NHS to provide neo-natal care for God’s son. The original Christmas story and the subsequent life of Jesus the Messiah is not how we would have scripted it. This was a big problem at the time because his birth and his life were not what people expected or how they thought it should be. Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that they were anticipating. He did not bring them what they wanted and what he did bring, they didn’t want. St John said that ‘The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it’. What he is saying about Jesus is that the people of that time didn’t ‘get’ him. He didn’t look the way that they thought a Messiah should look. People today make the same mistake when looking at Jesus. His ways are much higher than ours and his plans are unfathomable, but his light is still shining in the darkness. This year the light of Jesus Christ is not locked up in the church. The Stansted Church Christmas tree is outside the building. The light is shining in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Rev Dr Christopher Noble – Rector