Like many a modern dad, I was present at the birth of my children and I had the delight of my children being placed in my arms. I remember thinking, “now everything is different”.
It is an amazing thing to cradle a child in your arms. You marvel at the amazing gift of life. You are moved by the child’s mother. You think of the family stories and a new generation. You ponder what the future might bring.
Parenting brings with it the opportunity to give deeply and richly of yourself to your child. It also brings the gift of seeing a child develop their own unique identity including how they respond to you.
As children we discover love for our parents, as a couple we discover love for our partner and as parents we discover love for our children. We also discover that love has an infinite capacity. Our love can stretch and envelop others.
These very human learnings also find their way into the Christian scriptures, especially in the gospels of Matthew and Luke where get some very brief insights into Mary and Joseph and Jesus’ early years.
We learn of Joseph’s trustworthiness and his steadfastness. In his dreams, he is convinced to look after Mary and Jesus. We learn of Mary’s faithfulness and thoughtfulness. We are witnesses to a scene in a rough-hewn location where a child is born and cared for. The story does not end there for we also learn of lowly shepherds and foreign travellers visiting and showing Jesus honour.
The story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus captures our imagination and then takes us on a journey. We beginning at marvelling at the wonder of new life and then realise the exceptional nature of this new life. We are caught up in a story of love and realise that we are embraced by a wider love.
I wonder if Joseph looked at Jesus in his arms and said, “Now everything is different”.
The Christian faith teaches that everything is different because of Jesus. We believe that through him grace abounds and that because of him all that has ever been created can be reconciled with God. The Christian faith teaches that humanity is affirmed by Jesus and that evil, sin and death are never the end of the story. Christianity is a way of mercy, peace, justice, hope and above-all love.
Our lives are entwined with the lives of many others. My prayer is that this Christmas you may find life-giving love in the deep relationships that shape your life. In that love I pray that you might glimpse the grace of God which we celebrate in the birth of Jesus.
Bishop Peter Stuart
Commissary & Assistant Bishop of Newcastle