”In the events of Jesus birth, Herod and the shepherds are defined by their response to Jesus. Today, we are each defined by our response to Jesus. Even more extraordinarily, Christmas defines God. Here is the most startling of claims; this baby, this Jesus, who is God, defines God. God is self-defined as pure love, love celebrated in angel light and seen in human vulnerability, love that is indifferent to status, and that hates injustice, love the news of which is borne on the heavenly songs, but which is seen in poverty and insecurity.
What the shepherds glimpsed that silent night outside Bethlehem was an apocalypse, which means an uncovering of God’s final purpose for all the universe. […]
Today, across the Middle East, close to the area in which the angels announced God’s apocalypse, ISIS and others claim that this is the time of an apocalypse, an unveiling created of their own terrible ideas, one which is igniting a trail of fear, violence, hatred and determined oppression. Confident that these are the last days, using force and indescribable cruelty, they seem to welcome all opposition, certain that the warfare unleashed confirms that these are indeed the end times. They hate difference, whether it is Muslims who think differently, Yazidis or Christians, and because of them the Christians face elimination in the very region in which Christian faith began. This apocalypse is defined by themselves and heralded only by the angel of death.
The shepherds see the truth, eternal, unwavering, divine truth, defined not by them, but by God: it was truth for them then, it is truth with us today. Goodness knows what they were expecting, but what they find is a new-born child – tiny, helpless and vulnerable. Yet they bow down in worship. The shepherds get this apocalypse. […]
Herod and the shepherds recognise the significance of this child, yet they respond very differently. We too are defined, by our response to this child. God allows us the freedom to reject him, or, in our own vulnerability, to kneel and worship the child who is given, the true apocalypse, who unveils God. […]
This apocalypse, this unveiling, judges every world power, reaches out to every displaced people group, every refugee, every single human heart. It begins with ourselves. Both our means and our ends must meet the standard God sets for us here.
The shepherds went and worshipped. Herod sought to kill. Today’s Herods, ISIS and the like around the world in so many faiths, propose false apocalypses. But you and I are called to respond in worship and transforming, world changing obedience, both as individuals, and together, to this revelation of the baby that defines God, for it is our response to Jesus that defines us.”