Recently, someone said we should make Christmas relevant to us. Actually, someone says that kind of thing every single year.
I think ’relevance’ is about having upbeat carols or an updated Nativity story, Jesus being born in a backpackers hostel or a social security office, that kind of thing. It has its place, but if we want to ‘make Christmas relevant’, we must do something else first..
We first must do the opposite and do it thoroughly. We need to make ourselves relevant to Christmas. I want us to look at our being relevant to Christmas today.
There are around 25000 people living in Bethlehem today, but at the time of Jesus’ birth there were less than 1000. It was just a village.
Yet most of those people missed what was going on. Only a few noticed that something was afoot. What was it about them?
Mary is at the centre here. When she was invited to cooperate with God’s purposes, she said
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
In other words, Mary said Yes! Her eyes were open; she knew that her Child would turn the world—and her own life—upside down.
And there’s Joseph. Unlike a lot of movies, the guy is not the main character here. We don’t know much about him. Joseph plays second fiddle. What a good man he must have been! How Jesus must have looked up to him.
And the shepherds. How many groups of shepherds may there have been out there that night? These shepherds’ eyes were open, open enough to see angels bringing good news. These shepherds were willing to get involved. They went in search of the child. And they found him.
We need to make ourselves relevant to Christmas, rather than try to make Christmas relevant to us.
I found some help from a bloke called Isaac. St Isaac the Syrian to be exact. St Isaac lived in the 7th century, about 1400 years ago. Listen to how he says we should live in the light of Christmas:
This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;
This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;
This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy –
Let us not [take] revenge;
Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.
In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.
Today the Bountiful impoverished himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.
Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.
This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.
Are we relevant to Christmas? Are our eyes and hearts and ears open to what God is doing? Are we living in response to the grace and favour that God has poured out upon us?
Don’t worry about Christmas, it’s plenty relevant. But as we gather today around the Christmas table, we would do well to open ourselves to God. Then, we may become relevant to Christmas.