Thursday, 14 December 2017

O Magnum Mysterium - and no, it's not an ice-cream!

An old hymn we sometimes sing in church has the line, ‘tis mystery all…’  I wonder if that really describes faith?

For me, much of Christianity has a sense of cohesion which I find inspiring.  I think it makes sense to have a faith in which ‘love’ is central, a love that moulds and sustains us.  It’s almost creedal to say that love is at the centre of:
                              every relationship
                              every community
                              every positive act
                                                            and surely one of the most foundational statements we have in our scriptures is the verse that proclaims with a simplicity that disguises its profundity: ‘God is love’.

And yet I would also want to willingly acknowledge and embrace that ‘mystery’ can both deepen our faith and free us from the need to have a full sheet of water tight answers to all those questions we’ve been asking since we were six.

Don’t get me wrong.  At AFC we are quite a ‘questioning’ church.  We like digging deep in our attempt to make an honest critique of life and faith.

Yet when it comes to Christmas I’ll happily settle for mystery.

The idea that God shared our life in Jesus, born at Bethlehem is as mind-blowing as it is inspirational.

At the centre of Christianity is an idea beyond explanation: that God comes alongside us.  Not a far away God, but one closer than our breathing.

Our Jewish cousins have a word for it: ‘Immanuel’ – meaning ‘God with us’.

That love of God is found in the new life of a baby, the faithful care of parents and the intuitive worship of the shepherds.

God comes close.

If Easter is the Christian festival of life, then Christmas is surely our festival of love.

One of the simplest carols puts it this way: ‘Love came down at Christmas…’

Over these coming days as Advent erupts into the joy of Christmas may God come close to you.  Maybe in the smile of a child, the flicker of a candle or even in the struggles that simply don’t go away.  Struggles which we can bear because of the love and support that surrounds us.

A verse from the Latin Mass for Christmas Day begins: ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ – ‘O Great Mystery’.

There is an implicit mystery to Christmas as there is to Love.  Yet all our lives are the better for it.

Better for the mystery which unfolded that night in Bethlehem when ’Love came down...'.

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