Sunday, December 24, 2017

A child is born 24: Birth and rebirth

If you've missed any of these posts and want to read them click on the Advent 17 link (also in the right hand sidebar) and you should get the whole series.

To all who received him, who believed in his name he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of human will, but of God.

We have heard 23 stories of physical births in the Bible, but we will finish with an equally important spiritual birth, the new birth God promises to everyone who is open to receive it.

The famous prologue to John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”  functions a bit like a birth story. It sets the scene for Jesus’ adult ministry, just as the shepherds and wise men do in Luke and Matthew’s accounts. At the heart of John’s message is the good news that God in Christ comes to dwell with us. In the birth of Christ to Mary, we find new birth too. We are ' given power to become God's ' children. We can learn to live as part of his family, as we were always meant to, at home with him, sharing in his life.

It isn’t a new idea. Back in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel were told by Moses that “you were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, you forgot the God who gave you birth.”  (Deut 32.18) We were always God’s children, right from the beginning, and God longs for us to remember this, living the life of love and peace which he intended for us. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4.7). As we follow Jesus, says the New Testament, we can rediscover our original sonship and daughtership, draw close again to God with confidence, and learn to live out the “family likeness.” That’s what John means when he says that we need to be “born again”.(John 3.16)  We are born again in Christ, and he is  born again in us.

·         In what way would you like to be “born again”, have a fresh start, this Christmas?

·         Do you feel that you are part of the family of God, his beloved daughter or son? If not, what stops you feeling like that, and what can you do about it? (I am always happy to listen if you want to talk!)

·         Pray for yourself, that you will find the “new birth” you need this Christmas.

      I hope you've enjoyed this series on Biblical births. Here is a poem I wrote many years ago to accompany the gifts I gave my friends. It seemed an appropriate way to end this series. 

What gift?
A poem written to accompany my inadequate Christmas presents to my friends.

I longed to give you gifts that spoke the tumbling darkness
and the still beyond.
I longed to give you gifts that said
"The best things in the world have happened,
  new-made, in the sharing of our dreams."
I longed to give you gifts that said,
"We have brought in the tides together.
  With each word offered we have swept the beaches
  sculpted sand,
  and washed up flotsam,
  and the drowning sailors."

But, though I did my best,
the shops, filled with dream-hungry people,
shouted empty platitudes,
and come what may,
a foil-wrapped parcel is a clumsy substitute
for heartbeats and a hand's touch.

So, without the words we still must wait
while this expectant world enwombs its God
and moulds his body in the pulsing darkness
wrapping white bones with the stretched flesh of our cares.
And still we wait,
while he swims through the salt sea
learning length of leg and reach of flailing arm.
And still we wait.

And after all this...what then shall we find?
What gift deliver?
What new child, wet, wriggling, bear in blood and tears,
when shoppers all have wrapped their dreams in sleep,
and God, for you, into my cobweb net  of hopes
himself, at last, is born?

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