The world at the moment seems a real mess – terrorism, the refugee crisis, climate change, economic woes, political turmoil and so on. But in one way or other the world has always been a mess. It certainly was when Jesus was born.
In Palestine at the time there were dramas of every kind – not least of which, from a Jewish point of view, was the Roman occupation. Whatever about the famous pax romana, things were anything but peaceful in the Holy Land. As one conquered warlord said of Rome, “They create a devastation and call it peace”. Into that mess Jesus was born; and the mess is symbolised in the Christmas story by the circumstances of the birth – no room at the inn, the farm animals, the feed-box into which the newborn is placed.
When the child is born, God enters into the human mess to transfigure it. The transfiguring begins at Christmas but will be complete only once Jesus is raised from the dead and even the mess of death is transfigured. The shadow of the cross falls across the crib; but so too does the light of Easter.
If all we see is the mess, then we miss the magnificence of God-with-us. It’s been said that “the world is intelligible to those who are properly intelligent”. Faith is the proper intelligence that allows us to see the magnificence at the heart of the mess – to see that the child born in such messy circumstances is God-with-us, the one who transfigures all our mess, even bringing life from death. So let faith be the light of your Christmas this year.