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"Who on earth is Christ?"


Last year the editor of the Quaker newsletter asked me to write a piece with this title. I replied that I would do my best, though some would say the question was impossible, since while "on earth", this man was generally known as Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and  Mary.

The title "Christ" is the Greek version of the Hebrew "Messiah", and it's true that the Jews expected God to send a Messianic figure to rescue them from their oppressors - in his day, the Romans. But this Messiah  would be human, not divine. It was in the years following the Resurrection that the emerging church needed to find words to express its experience; that after Good Friday they had seen Jesus, alive and vigorous, not the same as he was before, but definitely not dead. Then the Holy Spirit he had promised arrived at Pentecost and was working powerfully among them. What else could they say, but that God is not solitary but a community of three - Father Creator, Son, Redeemer, and Spirit, Energiser. This Trinitarian belief gradually made its way into the Creeds Christians say when they meet for worship.

Many years ago our number three grandson Nathan, a toddler, was sitting on our dining room floor gazing through the window at a clump of Japanese anemones. He pointed to them and said "Stars!" I was immensely proud of him for managing the word, but couldn't quite see the likeness. Until I sat down beside him, and saw what he was seeing. From that angle, the flowers had a background of bright blue sky behind them, and yes, they did look very like stars, I agreed.

God must always have known that to save humankind from itself he would have to do something outrageous; not reach down from above, but ‘get down on the dining room floor', to share life with us. And because - to put it crudely - heaven couldn't be left empty - it was the Son who came, lived, loved and died, to make that reconciliation possible. Just what it cost God to do that - to ‘empty Himself' , as Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 2 - we can't begin to understand. And what the gift means to us needs more than a lifetime to absorb. We can only marvel at this generosity in the coming Advent season.

Over the centuries countless poets and theologians have found different ways of expressing the truth of Immanuel, God with us. For our generation, Graham Kendrick does it beautifully in his hymn "The Servant King - From heaven you came, helpless babe, entered our world, your glory veiled; not to be served but to serve, and give your life that we might live" -

May our Advent waiting lead us to a joyous Christmas.

 

Canon Pam