Nativity star
Meditation and Reflection

Follow that star tonight, Bethlehem, Bethlehem…

Thousands upon thousands of people will go to church tonight, and that’ll be it for another year. They’ll hear about Mary and a donkey, a star and three kings, shepherds and angels, a stable and a manger, and a baby. And they’ll sing about them, too, mostly without thinking too hard about the lyrics; many with a tear in their eyes remembering happy Christmases past; of joy and laughter with loved ones who are no longer here; of dreams unfulfilled, hopes dashed and innocence lost. They won’t ponder too hard on a star looming over Bethlehem. They’ll think even less about the seismic significance of ‘the gospel’ – a baby called Jesus, the Son of God, who was born…

He existed before, of course: being the Son of God, he was pre-existent with the Father in the beginning. If that makes sense. But in Bethlehem, beneath a star, he became flesh: a divine Sonship by the Spirit of God acting upon Mary; a supernatural procreation which split human history in two. The Messiah, the Christ was sent by God and descended to become a baby, born of Mary: a divine-human person; a God-man who was fully man and fully God. It’s called the Incarnation, but few will grasp the profound drama of that event. It’s just a bit of magic and silliness, really. Even fewer will know of the Old Testament promises of apocalyptic expectation; the stuff of legend. And who, singing about herald angels or the coming of the joyful and triumphant faithful, will bother to wrestle with miraculous conceptions, relinquishing and self-emptying; or the unity of two natures, the fusion of divinity with humanity in mysterious unity?

It’s easier to go to church on Christmas Eve to sing about a star over Bethlehem than it is allow oneself to be confronted week after week by the Jesus who is possessed of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. The vulnerable baby in a manger lays down his sweet head while the cattle are lowing, and he presents no threat to anyone at all. We can do that particular Jesus once a year very easily. The tinsel helps. But the Jesus who demands a final, personal decision; the Jesus who demands your soul, your life, your all… well, he’s a bit different; a bit more demanding, a bit more unnerving. If you follow that star, it leads to a confession that reaches way beyond a glittery Christmas card. It confronts your denial and doubt. It forces you to face your own false truth and permit entry to the True One who was revealed beneath a star in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago; who descended from heaven to give his life so that man might live for evermore.

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today.

May the joy and peace of Christmas permeate your hearts and homes at this celebration of the Nativity.