john davies
notes from a small curate

updated regularly
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK


    Blue Coat School 18/12/2002

    Luke 1.41-56

    We may have lots of questions to ask about Christmas - about the truth or otherwise of all the various Christmas stories. I don't intend to follow the example of the vicar who got into in trouble last week for wondering whether, if he travelled the speed he needed to, to get round everybody's homes in one night, Santa would self-combust.

    The Christmas stories we tell in our churches are equally implausible when they're held up against the clear light of scientific inspection. They're based in history. But they're all of them wrapped up in mystery. They each require some sort of faith to bring them to life, they need our imaginations to help let them live.

    We know that Mary, an ordinary young woman from a straightforward home, asked many questions about the story the angel told her; because the answers she arrived at are recorded in the song of praise she sang to God, which we sometimes call the Magnificat, and which was read to us just now.

    Mary realised that because God chose to come to earth through her, an ordinary young woman in an average village, the world would never be the same again. This event in history turns our expectations for life upside down, creates whole new possibilities for the future. It's a sign that "nothing is impossible with God," as the angel said when breaking the news to Mary.

    Mary saw that Christmas carries a message of transformation. She understood that with this baby, God was offering us new answers to our questions about our own lives, about the life of the world around us. Surprising answers, maybe, answers which require the eyes of faith to understand and realise them. But answers available to all of us who still have a lot of questions to ask, a lot of issues to sort out.

    One of my friends, Alan, turned fifty this year and his son Liam turned 18, then promptly announced that he was moving out to live with his girlfriend, a month later announced they were getting engaged, and the following month broke the news that there was a baby on the way.

    All this came as quite a shock to Alan. Raised a lot of questions for him. Caused a few struggles and tussles in the family as you can probably understand.

    But now Alan's looking forward to the baby coming. He's making jokes about becoming a grandparent and it's obvious to everyone that when the child does arrive, he'll be the proudest man around.

    Why? Because a baby is the greatest gift. Even an unexpected baby; even one whose arrival throws the world into turmoil for those around it.

    That's ultimately what Christmas means - it's about a baby coming as a gift to us. The questions worth asking ourselves are not about combustible Santas, they're about whether we'll accept the gift, and what it may mean for our lives if we do.