In every year, we find that Christmas means different things to different people. For example, the shopkeepers and the advertisers have been urging us to spend our money on Christmas goods because they see Christmas as a good time for business. All over Australia people are travelling to be with their families for Christmas, to share good things and good fellowship. They feel that Christmas is a good time to be with family. On the other hand, there are those who find that Christmas is not a good time at all. It can be time when people remember what they have lost, or what they never had. Christmas can be time of loneliness and grief for those who have lost family and friends during the year. It can be a time of frustration and pain for those who cannot afford the celebration. But Christmas is also a time of generosity, when people remember that not everybody has enough, and the Christmas Bowl and the Salvation Army and Anglican Community Services are busy distributing Christmas hampers and toys to those who need them.
For those who are Christians, Christmas is all these things and more, for here we are in Church. Today we gather, with Christians all over the world, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. From the greatest of cathedrals to the smallest of bush churches, from congregations of thousands to two or three gathered in the name of Christ. The songs we sing have different words and different tunes, and the ways we worship are many and varied; and yet we have all gathered to give thanks to God for the birth of this one child, Jesus. No other person in the history of the world has had such an influence on the world and its history, nobody else has aroused such strong feelings. And every year, we struggle to understand what Christmas is really about, and why this particular child should be so special.
Perhaps we should start with a baby, and try to remember what it is to hold a new-born child. They are so small, so fragile, that we feel compelled to hold them and care for them. There is something about babies which moves us all. We look at a baby’s hands, and the tiny, perfect fingernails which they have; we see the miracle of a new beginning of life; and we find ourselves using baby-talk and growing sentimental and clucky.
Perhaps this is part of the message of Christmas, that God is making his appeal to us in a way that we cannot resist. Jesus was born with the same start in life as any other human - God committed his love to us in the hope that we would care for it and bring it to full growth.
The mystery of the birth of God is not to do with the angels, the shepherds and the wise men with their gifts - that all came later. In the birth of Jesus, God is telling his people “whenever you see a baby, remember me, for this is important.”
It is good to remember that it is not only the baby Jesus whom God has brought to birth, but each of us and every one we meet is born of God, and bears the image of God into the world.
When we think of Christmas we should not forget the prosperity this time brings to the shops, neither the family get-togethers and reunions. Care for those who need it is vital at any time; and compassion for those who are in sickness, grief or any other trouble is always important.
The Christian traditions, too, are well worth celebrating. The mystery of the Virgin birth, the stable in Bethlehem, the Star in the East - these things are important in their own way. But at Christmas it is good to bear in mind that the miracle of the Incarnation occurs in every human being, each one made in the image of God, each one infinitely precious and beloved by God. This is really important.
Whenever we see another human being, our friends, our family, the people we pass by in the street, even the reflection of our self in a mirror, let us see God reflected in each, and remember.