Celebrating God with us

Posted in: Comment
Date posted: 18 December 2017

A "Happy Christmas" message.

The older I get, the more I seem to fall in love with Christmas carols. These oh-so-wordy, button-down arrangements, and their millions of verses – which as a kid used to bore me to tears – are now among my surest winter warmers. Like a nice mug of cocoa, or a cosy Christmas jumper.

How did this transformation come about? Well for one thing, I learned the meaning of all those strange, but weighty old lyrics. Setting aside the sillier ones about figgy pudding and ‘Christian children … good as he’, I began to see the joyful thread that runs through so many of our favourite carols – ‘Emmanuel, which means God with us’.

Emmanuel. This isn’t just a nice abstract idea. It’s a very tangible one. As John’s Gospel famously reminds us, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ Or, as the Message translation aptly puts it, ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.’ This is the thing that our carols get so rightly excited about:

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

For those of us passionate to see the Church responding to today’s climate crisis, such carols are, perhaps, all the more precious. They speak of a God who stoops down to know and serve his mortal people, but more than that: they speak of the God who has always sought to walk in his garden too (Genesis 3:8). In the incarnation, as these hymn especially remind us, God has entered not only into flesh and blood, but into all the joys and tremors of the physical world we share. In other words, his saving work has a bigger scope than we may often think. That’s joyful news!

Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

And with that thought, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a very happy new year!

Stephen Edwards

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