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God with Us

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Christmas - God with Us

by The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO | Archbishop

When our children were little, one Christmas tradition was finding a fresh Christmas book to read at bedtime, over and over, until it became part of us. One was a simple story told through illustrations rather than text, A Small Miracle by Peter Collington, which has since been dramatized. View A Small Miracle on YouTube

Collington tells the story of an old woman who lives alone. Her cupboard is bare, so she takes her piano accordion into the town nearby, busking on a busy street. As the day goes by no money lands in her tin, leaving her with no choice but to sell the accordion to an antique dealer. Just when things can’t get any worse, soon after she is robbed. At the church where the pastor had been putting up the Christmas crib on her way into town, she sees the thief making off with the collection box beside the manger. She manages to save it, and gets inside the church only to find the nativity figures scattered all over the floor. Carefully, she puts the nativity back together. Frail, and hungry and desperate, the old woman collapses on her way home, and lies unconscious in the snow.

At this point of no hope and no help, the miracles begin. Mary and her baby along with Joseph and the Magi arrive, the nativity figures come to life. Surrounding the old woman, they lift her up, and carry her home, leaving food on the table, a fire in the stove, and a Christmas gift.

As so often, belief in Emmanuel, God-with-us, emerges in action, as the nativity story comes alive not just in the distance of our minds, theoretically, logically, but in the nearness and concrete physicality of the doing. It is precisely when we act as if the story is true, that we discover that it really is true. We discover the truth of the mystery of the Incarnation; God with us, God with us, God with us. Like the repetition of the bedtime story, Christmas becomes part of us, and shapes the ways we care for one another.

This year we are more aware than ever of the weariness so many people are carrying into Christmas. Those who lead us in government and public life, those who have been on the front line of COVID-19 almost without a pause since February, those who have been attempting to rebuild their lives following fires, storms and floods, those who have lost work, those separated from family and friends, those who mourn, all are near at hand as we come once more to a season that is not particularly festive. Even here in what has so far been the safest place on earth, there is deep anxiety about the future.

Better than speculation, better than fretting, and truer to the Good News of God’s love, is what we can do – generously and selflessly serving each other, in small acts of thoughtfulness and kindness, as well as contributing to community welfare in every possible way, the care of lonely neighbours, the simple present we have learned about afresh this year of giving care and love and friendship in Jesus’ name. God comes near in self-giving, walking alongside us, inviting everyone to do the same.

If your Christmas celebration isn’t going to be quite what you might have hoped for remember the gift of God with you, tell others the story of Jesus present in your life.

The Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, a young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy AO desk

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