These days there’s a lot of death around both locally and internationally. Locally we are dealing with issues of the beginning of life and the end of life and again the shadow of death falls across that kind of debate, as we look at abortion and euthanasia.
Internationally, well you’ve got immigrants all around the world striving for a new kind of life, clawing their way to hope and finding death on the way.
The Mediterranean has become a graveyard yet again and you have all these people, desperate, coming from places like Latin America and being met by the might of the US military.
So the shadow and almost the smell of death sits across the planet and touches us here, even in Australia.
Now in such a moment it can seem almost perverse to celebrate life, in all its beauty, its power and its fragility, but that’s what we do at Christmas and it really is why Christmas matters in the world, as the world really is. Because whatever about the shadow and the smell of death, the fact is we celebrate life, as gift, as blessing and not curse, and we celebrate life as the blessing and the gift of God because all human life – in fact all life, speaks of God.
Where else can life come from? God is life, we say.
So if there is life, there is something of God, and that something becomes most intense in the child who is born in the stable. The child who is God with us.
But life is always: God with us – in some way, and that’s why we say life in all its forms is a blessing and not a curse.
Now the shadow of death falls even across the crib of Jesus because King Herod stalks the baby, wants to get rid of the child. Why? Because he’s afraid of the baby.
Weak and powerless the baby may be but Herod is terrified of losing everything because of this child, who is born as king and therefore a threat to Herod.
So we have to then decide whether we line up behind Herod with all his fears, fear of losing too much, his drive for control.
Or do we line up in fact behind the wise men, in their searching? They don’t stalk the baby, but they search for the child. Not out of fear, but out of a sense of gratitude for the gift that is given. And therefore they bring gifts.
Herod, driven by fear, wants to kill the child, the wise men, driven by gratitude, come to worship the child.
So as we celebrate life in the midst of death, there’s the choice that lies before all of us at Christmas time. Will we line up behind Herod? Or do we line up behind the wise men?
If we can line up behind the wise men, we too find our way into the life that is gift the experience of gratitude and the joy that Christmas promises.
So I wish all of you every blessing of Christmas, Merry Christmas with all that that means, but may it be a time of joy and gratitude for you and your family.