What's your favourite Christmas carol? There are some (pardon the pun) crackers. My two favourites are Of The Father's Heart Begotten and See Amid the Winter's snow. The former wins hands down on putting into beautiful words the heart of Christian faith, and the latter wins on capturing something of the joy and the mystery of the Christ-child. My favourite stanza of 'See Amid the Winter's Snow' is this:
Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was thine
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.
Down to such a world as this. Such as what, we might ask? Well, think back over this year. Over the next week or so, there will be all sorts of television programmes looking back over 2013; I predict that Andy Murray, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will feature heavily. Not to take the shine off a Brit winning the Men's Singles at Wimbledon or the birth of a royal heir, but there are countless other stories which won't be told in these retrospectives: happy stories of looking forward to holidays and fun evenings out with friends; everyday stories of getting up in the morning and going to work, looking after children and the elderly; grindingly hard stories of poverty, unemployment, illness and bereavement; heartbreaking stories of the real human experience of living in a war zone, of being a child soldier or a persecuted Christian fleeing one's home village in Syria or holding on to home in the grim knowledge that this decision might well mean death.
Down to such a world as this. This world, with its injustices and inequalities, with its tragedies and atrocities, with its starvation and its obesity, with its poverty and its hyper-consumerism, with its sadnesses and its joys, with its possibilities and its realities; this is where Christ is to be found.
The name spoken by the prophet, 'Emmanuel', the words of the angel to Mary, 'The Lord is with you', and the words of John, 'the word became flesh and dwelt among us,' all tell the story in which all human stories are given meaning and hope: the story that through all and in all, God is with us. With us because so great was his tender love that, risking the pain and hardships of human life and death, he came from highest bliss, down to such a world as this, so that in the midst of such a world as this, we might glimpse something of the highest bliss of heaven, and transform such a world as this by that vision.