The Revd Robin Sims-Williams
Presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree, stockings are hung, biscuits baked, many, many mince pies consumed, fizz is chilled or maybe it’s already drunk, and the roast is ready for cooking tomorrow. At last, the night everybody’s been waiting for, when the bearded man in red comes to visit. Don’t worry - Jeremy Corbyn isn't here.
If you have small children, there is a decent chance that one of the toys under your tree might be a doll from the Disney film Frozen. Frozen dolls - one of the top toys yet again this year. Since coming out in 2013 it seems to be the most desirable merchandise on the planet. Perhaps a recent awakening will change that…
I won’t go into the story ofFrozen - the reality is I don’t know it - I’ve never seen it, Frozen is so popular you don’t need to actually know the story for the songs and toys and costumes to take over your entire existence. However, the last song in the film is called ‘Fixer-upper’ It’s all about how the romantic duo in the film, neither of them perfect, are still ideal for each other. They are both fixer-uppers and while it doesn’t claim they can be ‘changed’, loving one another will make them the best they can be. The song goes on to recognise that everybody is a bit of a fixer upper. That we each need each other and that love brings out the best in people. A good warm Christmas sentiment - so I could just stop there.
But true love is also honest, true love is real, it cannot deny that we all have our faults…
The Shepherds waiting on the hilltop are surrounded by the glory of the Lord. Their blemishes, the dirt on their feet, the state of their clothes is suddenly wholly visible. Against the brilliance of the Angelic host they must have been all too aware of their own faults and failings. It makes them feel vulnerable, even terrified. Like when your singing carols in a pub along side a group of choristers, suddenly each quaver, each flat note in one’s own singing becomes all too apparent. Like the feeling when you are just starting something new and come upon somebody who you would aspire to be like, if you weren’t so awestruck by their brilliance.
Sometimes we end up being too honest to ourselves, at times we become somewhat self-deprecating, but it is that slightly messed up, untidy, dissatisfied self, the perspective of ourselves we keep just for us and maybe those we trust. It is that real person which Jesus is born to love, and love to the point that we can become the best version of ourselves. Advised by the angels, the shepherds then go and visit this new baby.
Whenever I go to see a new baby it’s usually the parents I focus on, they are the ones I already know, they’re also better at conversation. But there the baby lies in it’s parent’s arms. They are usually overwhelmed, I know I was when our first child was born. This precious gift, not to be taken for granted, after all it’s not always easy having a baby. There she was lying in her basket, asleep in the middle of the room. Our instinct was to protect her, but we had no clue what to do with her. She’d been carried safely for 9 months. Jesus was the same, and a tough 9 months, full of stress, through potential divorce, subjugation, a long journey to Bethlehem. You can imagine Mary standing at the door and saying ‘Stay away from my baby.’ That’s how I imagine the royal family feel when the crowds gather outside the Lindo wing - I’m sure at one level they just want to be left alone for this intense personal time.
But then I imagine Mary welcoming them in and inviting them: ‘Would you like to hold my baby?’ God comes into the world as a vulnerable child, defenceless and shares himself openly with all of us. Jesus’ vulnerability reminds us of our own. It is through that vulnerability, the ability to be killed on a cross, which allows Jesus’ love to win out. That vulnerability disarms those around him, who continue throughout his life to overcome him, but are never able to. The power of open vulnerability is written into our society’s conscience. Why else would it be that Luke Skywalker finally defeats the dark side when he throws away his light sabre? OR that one of the responses to the atrocities of the second world war was to define a set of rights which, if we value them and stand by them, make us in some undeniable ways more vulnerable.
In reality, much like the Frozen song says, we are all in need of each other, and of that true and pure love which conquers all, which makes us both vulnerable and immensely powerful to transform the world around us, that love which comes from God. A Love so perfectly embodied this night by the gift of a child born for us all, the gift of God’s own being with us, drawing us into God’s own being. A gift which, without denying the difficulties we may have, invites us all to celebrate a Blessed and Happy Christmas.