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I saw a picture this week of three men and women in battle fatigues scrambling across ruined buildings with torches searching out and finding in the dark night, a mother and child.  The torchlight revealing a crumpled, weary young woman holding tight a small baby, keeping safe in a ruined bomb shelter, while bombs were dropped on the city.  The context of the picture was likely intended to remind us of Ukraine, but it could have been anywhere in our world today, where war and terror have laid waste and all that was known is now unrecognisable.  

Two thousand years on, Herod’s terrible destructiveness continues to be repeated over and over again by fearful leaders determined to hold onto power and control others at all costs.  The Messiah is not yet known to all the world. 

The name of this picture was ‘The Epiphany’.  A miracle has been seen, God is found unexpectedly among all the destruction, death and terror as a new baby has been born. In spite of the devastation, ordinary people have smiles on their faces as they find hope and a reason to be joyful and praise God.  We too, come in our dreams and in our lives, to worship, finding hope and light in the midst of darkness and chaos, like those soldiers in the picture.

The story told by Matthew’s gospel writer reminds us and reassures us God makes plans from the underside of history.  God is never predictable.  God of the vulnerable child persecuted by kings and empires, is a God who is hidden in poverty and the ruins of war, away from the glare of celebrity and wealth, unexpectedly celebrated in the darkness of the night, by outsiders such as the shepherds, and strangers, the prophets and sages from the far east, who followed God’s call to honour a new and unlikely looking king.  We discover God’s definitions of King and Messiah have been redefined forever.

The shepherds left all their sheep to go searching for the one who would lead them home.   The magi left their country and all they knew, to follow God’s star, seeing God’s message revealed throughout the cosmos for all time and all people, being spoken by messengers to the whole world.  God tells us, this small child, divinely revealed, came for everyone.  And when all the drama of the announcement was apparently over, Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to leave their own country fleeing yet more violence and death from their own ruler, becoming refugees, choosing to trust and follow God’s dream for the whole world.

This week, in Christmastide we honoured the Feast Day of The Holy Innocents, the children said to have been murdered by Herod as he sought to kill both the prophecy and the child promised as the one to replace him as king of the Jews. 

On Christmas Day I spoke about God’s invitation and desire for us in times of fear:

‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.’ (Luke 2:10) 

The vulnerable baby lights up our world for all children in need of hope, care, love, compassion and solidarity.   The baby Jesus, lights up our lives as we remember there is no need to be frightened, even though this small baby grew up and was killed.  Jesus’ birth was always going to be a threat to those who ignored God and chose darkness from the very beginning, and so they killed him and in a different time and place they thought they had succeeded. 

However, whether in Bethlehem or on a hill, whether in Ukraine or in our own communities and homes, in refugee camps, or in our youth detention centres, there are those who still try to put out the light and hope of God.  However, we know Jesus is the true promise of divine love made real.  In the midst of our fears, with threats to our faith, and for some people, to their lives, God contradictorily and radically invites us to give thanks and praise, trusting in God’s righteousness and in God’s great mercy, and reminds us, we need not be afraid. 

Today we are joyful for these children among us, giving thanks for Archer, Eloise and Lachlan, for their precious lives, for Ashlie and James’ decision to have them baptised here at St Mark’s, dedicating them to God and knowing they are always members of God’s family here and everywhere.  In the darkest of times or in the happiest of times, they will always be a child of God.    As we celebrate their lives with them, as they live into the plans and desires God has for them and all of us, we can be assured Jesus is always walking alongside us. 

Today, we remember a small baby, God’s Son, Jesus, as Messiah and Saviour. The shepherds went home after encountering God and so did the magi, sharing the good news.   One day the soldiers will go home.  One day mothers and babies sheltering in bomb shelters and refugee camps will once again be safe and live as equals, and one day, God’s justice will shine brightly over all the earth.

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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