God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:4–5)
We have followed the Advent story. We have looked at the Advent principle that God chooses to work through the little people, the marginalised and the outcasts. We have also seen that, in Jesus, God’s grace extends beyond one nation to the whole world.
There are facts and there are experiences and the events of the Nativity should not be reduced to bare facts; the reality is that they must be experienced. The Advent story, the great story of God coming into our world as a human being, demands a response.
The Advent story is not just a story but a drama and if you have ever been to a musical or a play you will know what happens after the final curtain. While the audience applaud, the cast comes onto the stage and takes a bow.
As we conclude these Advent meditations, imagine something similar. The curtain has just fallen on the drama and, as you applaud, the curtain rises again, revealing people and scenery.
At the front is a semicircle of people. Centre stage, with the spotlight shining on him, is the infant Jesus. Immediately behind him are Mary and Joseph, who gaze on the infant; perhaps we should add the anonymous midwife next to them? On one side are the shepherds, staring at the Christ-child with wonderment. On the other side are the shepherds and the Magi worshipping. On the edge, we can also make out the figures of Simeon and Anna.
We now notice that further back and barely visible in the darkness of the stage are, to one side, the empty thrones of Herod and Caesar and the deserted counting table of Quirinius. On the other side, also in the shadows and equally deserted, is the Temple. Caesar, Herod, the governor, the priests and religious lawyers have gone.
Now, as the audience continues to applaud, something strange happens. The cast on stage beckons us to join them.
The invitation is clear. Come and join the worship of the child! See, in this infant, all that you need: salvation, forgiveness and hope.
The question is for you, and you alone, to answer.
Do you step forward and add your worship to theirs? Does the Nativity story include you? This story – more than any other story – demands from us not simply hearing, or even appreciation. It demands our belief and involvement.