Christmas is about vulnerability.
A miraculous yet scandalous birth.
A child’s crib only fit for animals.
A young family forced to become refugees.
Innocence massacred by despotic power.
God daring to come into the world in a new-born baby.
No matter how we understand the complexity of the mystery of the Incarnation, Christmas asserts that the very character of God is revealed in a naked, dependant, gurgling, grubby, smelly, vulnerable baby. In Jesus, God became vulnerable so that we would have the courage to be vulnerable and have compassion for the vulnerable among us. This is the timeless message of Christmas.
But for most of us, the idea of vulnerability is scary. We’ve been taught the opposite. You know the messages: don’t let them see your vulnerable side because you might get hurt. Don’t make yourself vulnerable because you might appear weak. Unfortunately, we learn it from our parents, our teachers, our playmates, and our colleagues. You name it – the message is clear. Being vulnerable is a risk.
For that reason, I believe we all struggle with being vulnerable, even here, today. It takes courage. The word “courage” comes from the Latin word ‘cor’, meaning, “heart.” To “encourage” means to put heart into someone. In Middle English, courage meant to speak the truth of one’s mind or one’s heart.
According to author and research professor Brené Brown, courage is, “all about putting our vulnerability on the line.”
Based on years of narrative research, Brown has concluded that,
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”
Christmas is a risky business.
Dare we make ourselves be deeply seen and known?
In a World still filled with misplaced desires and aspirations,
distracting ‘White Noise’ and anxiety for the future;
it is a risk to be deeply seen and known.
But in Jesus, God appeared on earth as the most vulnerable creature imaginable so that we would take him into our hearts and be equally courageous and vulnerable, and then courageously care for the vulnerable among us, those with whom God is pleased to dwell. That is the Good News of Christmas and that is my prayer this Christmas Day. It is summed up in the word, “Emmanuel” which comes from two Hebrew words, `immanu – “with us,” and ‘el – “God”. A singular word that encapsulates the risk of God for us.
It is Christmas.
May we look carefully and see the face of God in those around us,
may we listen closely and hear the voice of God between us,
may we make ourselves vulnerable and feel the love of God
enter our risk-taking hearts this Christmas,
rekindling the compassion and courage to speak out
and care for the vulnerable ones,
with whom God is still pleased to dwell.
Just as God’s Son was pleased to dwell among us,
in a manger long ago. Vulnerably.
For that is what ‘Immanu – ‘el looks like.
It still does, for those prepared to take the risk and receive the gift.
Rev Derek Chandler