Thought for the week: Christmas belongs to us all, says Bernard Coote

‘Every birth is a coming from darkness.’

‘The light of nativity is a making visible. It is a time to see possibility and hope.’ | Photo: Photo by PxHere.

Cancel Christmas? Alarm and fear were in those words, which made headlines earlier in the pandemic. It was unthinkable.  Christmas is so deep in our history and customs, religious or otherwise. Friends have long had questions and insights about its observance. They deserve a sharing together.

The story itself is unusual. It was 300 years in formation, with many versions in different languages.  A significant birth is usually tied to a certain date and place in history. In the early accounts, establishing exact evidence was not a high priority. There was something deeper.

The nature of birth is that it is unique to each of us, and the story of this birth has been shared over millennia, with all humanity. In the records, read publicly to millions every year, the story begins with the birth of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, in Luke’s gospel. Elizabeth, a relative of Mary of Nazareth, and her husband Zechariah, are told of a forthcoming birth, their first baby. They couldn’t believe it. Zechariah is made speechless for asking a question. The original editors commented, ‘These things were talked about and all who heard them pondered and said, “What will this child become?”.’ Little did they know.

Quakers have had a particular understanding of it. Sydney Carter wrote:

What happened nineteen hundred years ago
Might not have happened
How am I to know?
So shut the Bible up
And show me how
The Christ you talk about
Is living now.

Every birth is a coming from darkness. It brings the sparklight, the dawn flash of trust, discovering our unique ‘being together’.

A working couple had a baby who became an influence kings could only envy. His sayings enshrined in a sacred book in every language, and in legal statutes. The calendar reset to mark his birth. It is a story from times of fear and alarm. The light of nativity is a making visible. ‘What will this child become?’ It is a time to see possibility and hope. Not for cancelling. ‘Show me how the Christ you talk about is living now.’ This is a rare and challenging prospect. Belonging and togetherness will be a deep concern for millions of us this Christmas. We need light to unite us on the way.

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