There are many ways to tell the Christmas story.
Eslington School had their nativity play here last Thursday, and their production was about a magical journey, and included a talking Christmas tree and a magic star. I also heard of a 4 year old who refused to be anything but a dinosaur in the nursery nativity play and so the play was re-written to include this character. I have seen a lovely picture of a child in dinosaur costume tenderly cuddling the baby Jesus.
Matthew and Luke tell the Christmas story about a baby born in Bethlehem after an unusual conception – a very human story.
And today we hear a different Christmas story, from John. John tells us about the coming of Christ in terms of philosophy and poetry. Some might say that this is the divine story of Christmas, the story from God’s point of view.
John’s Gospel – and today’s passage – starts: “In the beginning …” When you get a moment, take a look at the beginning of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It also begins “In the beginning …” and tells the story of God creating the world. There is a theme throughout that first story in Genesis: God said, “Let there be …” and we hear of God creating light and land and living creatures. God speaks, and things come into being. And what God speaks is his Word. God’s Word makes things happen. God’s Word makes things live.
So in John’s Gospel, when John says “In the beginning …”, he is reminding us of that first creation, and signalling to us that he is telling us about a new creation. In this new creation, God’s Word itself, the Word God said, the Word God spoke becomes light and life. The Word is Jesus Christ, and John is telling us how Jesus comes into being – the Christmas story.
Into a dark world, Jesus brings light: light to places of hate and violence; light to people who are suffering and hurting; light to minds that are clouded and ignorant.
Into a world of lies and deception, Jesus brings truth. Into a world that is hurt and broken, Jesus brings grace – love and forgiveness.
It is a very different way of telling the Christmas story, but it is the same story: that God loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world to be born as a human child, to live among us and teach us how to live with love, with truth, with forgiveness.
And each one of us will have our own Christmas story, the story of how Christ came to be born in us and bring God’s light and grace and truth into our lives. Many of you have told me your stories: about how there was darkness and difficulties, and then someone introduced you to Jesus, and everything changed. For other people, you have gone to church all your lives, and the bible stories are all so familiar, and then one day, it’s like a light goes on, and you come to know Jesus for yourself.
Today we celebrate all those stories.
At St Aidan’s School on Friday, I asked the children what they were giving for Christmas, and they told me they were giving love, hope, compassion, joy, forgiveness. I was so proud of them and of the teachers who had taught them, proud that they had made Jesus and his values part of their lives. This was how they were responding to the Christmas story, and how they would take the meaning of Christmas forward.
As we kneel before the manger, we welcome the Lord Jesus once again into our lives, and make space for the Christmas story to grow in us.