Readings Psalm 8 and 2 Cor 5:16-21
There’s a recent musical I love called Waitress. The plot revolves around a woman who – to her surprise – falls pregnant just as she was gathering the confidence to leave her abusive husband. Through a relationship with her doctor and the support of her friends she gains the necessary grit to kick her husband out after the child is born. At the end of the show, she sings to her new baby – a baby she didn’t anticipate or really want, about the rush of change she is experiencing in the baby’s presence.
What I thought was so permanent fades
In the blink of an eye
There's a new life in front of my face
And I know in due time every right thing will find its right place
So I swear I'll remember to say we were both born today
'Cause everything changed
The realisation that ‘we were both born today’ – baby and mother – is such a profound and moving lyric. It captures the way that people can come into our lives that renew us, that can make us feel born anew, how their presence provides a source of new life for us. In the show this is the experience of a mother and her child, but the way another’s life and presence brings us life is not limited to that. It can be a child, but also a friend, a partner, a teacher; it could be someone who helped you in midst of addiction, or through a particular dark night of the soul. It might be someone who led you to discover a passion, or discover new worth in yourself… In that strange communion, our lives and their lives are woven into one another and we experience profound change, as the old fades and something new is born.
I found these lyrics, this reflection on how we are changed in the birth or presence of another a helpful way into to thinking about our readings and this continuing season of Christmas. The birth of Christ is also our birth. For this is what baptism signifies, our death and birth (and subsequently our life) in Christ. When we look upon the face of Christ we see ourselves and know that our lives are taken up in his, as his life is woven into ours. In the event of our encounter with Christ, everything changes. Christ’s birth is our becoming. Christ exposes the faux-permanence of the powers of Sin and Death and frees us into a life with him, as ambassadors of his reconciliation… frees us to become the righteousness of God… everything changes.
But the everything is bigger than just us. For the birth of Christ is the birth of the world anew – the bursting into life of the new creation. Christ’s birth is the experience of new life for the whole cosmos and for all time, for Christ’s eternity means that “blink of an eye” stretches across eternity. Christ’s birth is the promise to the whole of creation that groans out in labour pains waiting for the redemption and renewal of all things. Christ’s birth is the promise that know in due time every right thing will find its right place.
Christ’s birth the promise that ‘in due time every right thing will find its right place’ for the whole of the cosmos, but also, intimately, for each and every one of us. For all who are born together in Christ, all who realise that everything has changed, all who celebrate that the old has passed away and that they are a new creation know the place that we will find ourselves. We might not know the due time, but the place… that we know. For the place where all will be well, where the rectification and redemption of the cosmos will be found, that place is the person of Christ – he is our end, our telos. We who are born together nothing shall rend us apart. As Christ promises the thief on the cross, today you will be with me in paradise… with me. Those who die with Christ, who allow the permeance of the old to fade, are born with Christ to forever abide in Christ – new creations, reconciled and redeemed. It is our end, but it is also our now.
And because it is our now (and not only our end) we gather together to remember Christ’s birth and our becoming. The song’s refrain begins: What I thought was so permanent fades… Both at a societal and personal level – the “human point of view” has such a tight grip on our psyche. It is so hard to imagine other ways of being – ways not grounded in competition and acquisition, ways that don’t value first and foremost those valued first and foremost, ways that aren’t marked by division and ego, hierarchy and suppression. It is so easy to fall back into regarding one another and our world from that ‘human point of view’. And so we gather together to worship (and when we are not gathered together we clasp hands in prayer, we open scriptures, we care for another, and we serve and live with our neighbours) so that the word of God and spirit of Christ can teach us see differently, to sand away those varying human points of view confronting us daily and that take up residence in our hearts and minds. We come together to remember Christ and be re-membered to Christ and one another. We worship and pray so that what we thought was so permanent may fade. We love and serve so that we would be reminded of the new life of Christ that appears before us in the strangest and most surprising of ways. We sing our songs to be reminded that in due time everything will find its right place in Christ. And we break bread together to be reminded that the explosion of grace and hope in that echoes from that manger across time and eternity touching in on each one of our lives is an encounter with Christ wherein we are born anew into Christ’s own life! Wherein we are called anew into Christ’s own ministry! Wherein we are set again to become the righteousness of God! Everything changes. Amen.
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