She cries out into the night, the smell of human and animal shit rising into the air with her screams. This couple, alone, scared, holding on to the promises they have received, promises of love, faithfulness and peace; promises of a God who has spoken shock and wonder and blasphemy, yet here they are on this night, these promises fleshing out before their eyes.
And a child is born. Naked and bloodied, crying into the darkness, needing the warmth of his mother’s embrace, the food and comfort of her breast. Helpless, useless and vulnerable, like every baby. And yet this child is born with a promise; peace.
Oh what a crazy and unknowable word that seems to be! Peace? We almost laugh and its ludicrousness, but this mother, as she holds her son close, treasures this word in her heart, uncertain and unsure of what lies ahead.
Here, in the blood, and dark and cries, God has come to dwell. The cries of this baby, the screams for warmth and food and embrace; the voice of God. What did the voice of God sound like on that first Christmas? When you hear a newborn scream, you hear the voice of God. And what did God look like on that first Christmas? As a baby is born in the pain and wonder of childbirth, here is what God looked like on that first Christmas.
Jesus has shown us what God is like.
In years to come this baby, grown up as a radical, a dissenter and a troublemaker, this One will once again be naked and bloodied, crying out into the darkness, hanging from a wooden cross, calling out forgiveness.
Is this how peace will come?
His mother will once again look at him, she will ache with pain and suffering, seeing her son brutalised and tortured, mocked and alone. Surely her desire would be to once again hold him close like on that first night, hold him close, comfort him, wipe the blood and tears off his face and sing songs over him.
As absured as it may seem, this One who cries out in the stench and on the cross, this Jesus has shown us what God is like.
Here we are again, at the scene of this birth, the voice of God crying out into the night, carried by the Spirit to us here today. And we hear the children of Aleppo, crying out, naked and bloodied. We hear the cries of families marched into gas chambers. We hear the songs of freedom as people sing and pray under the whip of the slave owners. We hear the cry of those who own and dwell in their land, a land torn violently from them by religious settlers.
We hear the cry of humanity echoing out into history, and we wonder, where is peace?
Yet here Mary is, holding her Son close, and hope breaks out into eternity, a hope treasured in Mary’s heart, a hope treasured in our own hearts. For this child has been born, love has been born, love has been resurrected, love never ends.
This baby shows us peace; the vulnerability of relationship, the dawning realisation that we are not on our own. And grown up, this True Human shows us peace; casting off all violent ways, crying out unlimited forgiveness to all, showing us that God really and truly is Love.
At the birth of this child ‘Peace’ is declared over a hurt and broken cosmos. At the resurrection this same Jesus speaks ‘Peace’ over a frightened and hurting humanity.
Indeed, Jesus is our peace.
This child born at the first Christmas cries out into the darkness, and peace echoes out, ushering in the dawn of a new eternity.