Christmas for the Angry.
Christmas. Jolly people enjoying each other's company, good food, carols, gifts, celebrating the birth of Jesus? Or anger at feeling excluded, anger that you're expected to be someone you aren't, anger that your Christmas might not be anything like the adverts suggest is normal?
Yet adverts rarely mention we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. God coming to earth in the most unexpected way to turn our expectations upside down. A vulnerable baby, born far from home, amongst the animals, in what was probably a fairly cold, smelly stable or outbuilding. Born to a young woman who was probably poor and probably a teenage mum, and a man she wasn't married to and who wasn't the biological father of the baby.
Three different angels arrive separately explain parts of God's plan to Mary and to Joseph. The Gospels show Mary agreeing warmly to having this special baby. Both Mary and Joseph seem to trust God's overall plan. But they don't tell us how Mary and Joseph felt about:
*what this unexpected baby would mean for their relationship or for how they got on with their families
*having to spend a week going all the way to Bethlehem on a donkey while Mary was very heavily pregnant
*there being no rooms left in Bethlehem
*becoming refugees in Egypt after Jesus was born, because it wasn't safe to go home to Nazareth
I suspect that alongside their trust in God, Mary and Joseph might have felt quite angry that what God was asking of them involved hardship, lack of control, and not conforming to what their society expected. God was trusting and loving Mary and Joseph as they did their best with the human care of the newborn baby Jesus. Jesus in whom God came to live amongst us and to love us in all the many aspects of being human. Including our anger, our joy, and our fear. Jesus who loves us so much that he would die at the hands of people fearful of him, and in doing so, would save us from our own lack of love.
Jesus - radically loving, radically compassionate, radically inclusive. Jesus who, on the cross, would pray for those crucifying him, asking forgiveness.
Jesus who would also occasionally get angry. He would turn over the tables of the money-changers in the temple. He would sometimes rebuke the disciples and especially Peter when they suggested he should be protected from suffering and death. And when the Pharisees criticised him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus looked at them with anger and grief. And looking at all these examples, we can see Jesus’ anger is always mixed with grief – intense sadness that those he has come to love and save, including his disciples, are trying to put barriers between themselves and God’s radical love which knows no bounds and will always triumph, including over death itself.
So let’s celebrate that God loves us so much that he comes among us in the vulnerability of baby Jesus to share in our anger and our joy and all the other aspects of being human, saving us from the things which divide us from his love, now and for ever.