There is something profoundly moving about the way in which in Gods hands the seemingly insignificant becomes transformed and transformative. At Christmas we celebrate how God, in the birth of Jesus, made himself tiny and vulnerable because of his love for us all – and the whole course of history was changed as a result.
In Jesus’s parable of the mustard seed we see how the grace of God can begin in small and insignificant ways until it becomes a place where so many are refreshed and renewed – Jesus speaks of the mustard seed growing into a tree where all sorts of birds can build a nest and roost in safety.
We may feel we live in the shadow of the grand visions of the past – where people remember large Sunday Schools, and vibrant youth programs, great Easter Conferences and camps and so on. So this message of God being able to transform the small and often insignificant beginnings into something that carries the grace of God to others is a timely message for us as we begin again as a congregation to reflect on our mission and purpose in this region of Melbourne prior to calling a new minister. What are the small initiatives we can take to be neighbourly? What are the visions that seem achievable given our resources? What does it mean to be a light shining in this place, not just for ourselves but for the wider community?
The story of Christmas as told by Matthew and Luke is all about the vulnerability of God. Most of us don’t like feeling vulnerable for there have no doubt been times where we have been hurt or misunderstood, even ridiculed, when we have risked being vulnerable to others. The saying, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ comes to mind. And yet I have seen how people grow as human beings when they risk sharing their struggles, expressing their doubts and fears, and trusting them to a friend. There is something profoundly human about learning to trust another with that side of us we often hide even from ourselves. In Matthew’s nativity stories the fact that Jesus is born in Bethlehem only a stone’s throw from Jerusalem is itself a risk, with a paranoid King Herod willing to crush any pretender to his throne.
God constantly chooses vulnerability in order to engage us. The Gospel writers underscore the idea that God is not content to sit on an ivory throne in heaven. On the contrary God is hospitality, generosity, compassion and justice all rolled into one and in Jesus all that is embodied in him. Paul says that when we look at Jesus we see the face of God and a God who is deliberate in choosing to reach out to touch our lives with grace.
What small ways, what seemly insignificant actions, can we take to bless others? When I say that, I’m not wanting to sound ‘religious’. On the contrary when I speak of blessing someone I mean that whatever I say or do that may build them up, guide them, confirm them as loved of God. A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a phone call, a plate of homemade biscuits, don’t cost us much but they can make all the difference. Being kind, generous, just and understanding are a good way to begin.
There is something about Christmas that seems to make people more open to each other. May your celebrations be filled with wonder, joy and gratitude for all that God has done, and may that spill over in all our lives as a blessing for others.