Christmas 25th December 2001
Jesus Christ and the Cross of Love
They say that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’! Well, this Christmas the fiction is proving to be a tussle between two great stories, two epic tales of good vs. evil, a two-way rivalry between a little lad, and a little hobbit, between Harry Potter & Frodo Baggins, between the ‘philosopher’s stone’ and the ‘one ring to rule them all.’ Imaginative storylines, engaging characters, exciting adventures … all in all excellent films, and great box office successes. It has quite gripped the nation, not just at the cinema, but with books and games and gadgets and outfits … Well, so much for the fiction.
And then this Christmas there’s the truth — the real account of good vs. evil. — the one that really happened, the true story that will out-tell the greatest ever fiction or the greatest ever fantasy … the plot which has been at the heart of Almighty God before time began. And that’s what brings us here tonight (today): that God’s own little hero is born, in true circumstances stranger than any fiction. Born to a virgin mother, in the poverty of a Bethlehem stable, in the frailty of human flesh, the Son of the living God, adored by poor local shepherds, summoned by the angels. No human author could have dreamt up the wonder which is this truth sent from above: that God has entered His own world, to be amongst the people He created, as a tiny human boy. Jesus: which means, “God saves.” And yet …
The very problem is that all too easily we can start to confuse the fact and the fiction. God’s wondrous actions in bringing our Saviour to us get labelled as ‘just a story;’ the fantasy world gets confused with the real world; the truth can get branded along with the fiction as ‘something for children,’ and out goes the real baby Jesus with the make-believe bathwater.
As Christians we must never be sidetracked down that road, the one that says, ‘well, it’s a very nice story anyhow.’ Jesus is the truth that sets us free, the baby truly born, who will truly grow to manhood in Nazareth, will truly be crucified and truly rise again — in the facts of His existence on this earth He actually overcomes sin and death. This actual conquering of evil is God’s own doing in Christ. And while the fictional enterprises of Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins, as they struggle against dark powers, serve to remind us through fiction that good can conquer evil, yet they can also make us think that it’s something we still have to do by our own powers. No — it’s something that only God can do for us!
In just a few weeks, the cinemas will be empty of anyone still trying to see ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘The Lord of the Rings’ — there’s only so many times you can go and see a film; but the Church never empties. Seeing the Lord Jesus never tires us, because we’re not seeing an repeat showing. In the Church, it’s not ‘I must go and see it again …’ but ‘I must go back and see Him.’ Our Sunday Mass week by week isn’t some continual re-screening, but a relationship with Christ alive amongst us, and working within us, and dying to be at one with us. In the Church, and most especially through the Mass, we are as close to Jesus as ever Mary or Joseph or the shepherds were on that Christmas night. He’s therefore as really with us tonight as He ever was in the stable at Bethlehem — and so He will be on Sunday, and each Sunday, as we give thanks for His birth, life, death and resurrection. And receiving Him in Holy Communion is to be just as close to Him as Mary was when she held Him newborn in her arms. God has done away with all evil with this great love: giving us His beloved Son, who is man with us always, God-made-man to accompany us to the grave and beyond. Fiction pales beside this truth! God really has done it! But where’s the hype? Where are the adverts on the buses and in the bookshop windows for ‘Jesus Christ and the Cross of Love’ — At churches worldwide from the first Christmas until the end of the world? Surely we ourselves are the adverts for ‘Jesus Christ and the Cross of love.’ Do we speak, or don’t we? Do we draw our families and friends along by the way we speak excitedly about this great and true thing which is ‘now on,’ and always will be on? That God has become man, and dwells with us still in the heart of His Church, in the Eucharist. Unmissable!
Fr. Philip Miller
Fr. Philip is Assistant Priest at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel & St. George in Enfield, England.
This Version: 30th December 2001