So This Is Christmas

Shobana Vetrivel   |   December 25, 2014 

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Growing up, I looked forward to Christmas as soon as the winter in Delhi set in. Christmas meant new clothes, delicious homemade goodies, attending musical performances and generally a great time with the family.

As a teenager, it meant having a blast with my friends, caroling till the early hours of the morning, organising events and even participating in cantatas which hid my flat singing. Even through all the business, the meaning of Christmas was not lost on me and it in fact enriched the celebration.

Unfortunately that didn't last long and Christmas went on to become a stressful time – starting from November things became busy and busier. Organising all sorts of events, contacting and negotiating with vendors, early mornings and late nights, countless to-do lists running in my head, so much so that I longed for the day after Christmas when I could finally crash.

I must say it wasn't all bad, I did and still do enjoy the thrill of organising and executing the myriad details of programmes and working towards a common vision with diversely gifted people. But in the midst of all the activity, to centre in on the significance of Christmas and what it means for me and for all humanity, became a refuge from the hectic madness. And that is what I want to share with you - the words that became life to me.

The first chapter of John’s Gospel is my go-to passage this season as it portrays the incarnation so beautifully. The verse that stands out is John 1: 14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. The eternal Word who spoke all things into existence chose to become a part of his creation.

The truth of the incarnation – God taking on humanity and choosing to dwell with us, getting his hands dirty, so to speak, breaks through any notion of God being far removed from the suffering of this world. I love the way G. K. Chesterton highlights this idea in this poem:

The House of Christmas

 This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Christmas means that Jesus left his home, to enable us to find ours. Our peace is truly in impossible things, the incarnation seems too good to be true, it cannot be but it is!

The two words that characterise Jesus, grace and truth, are visible in all his encounters throughout the gospels. I wish, sometimes, that I could hear his tone as he spoke with the Samaritan woman or observe the way he looked at the woman caught in adultery or gaze into his eyes as he overhears Peter's betrayal. To know that I could have bumped into him in a crowd , the way I bump into people everyday in Delhi. That he was human just like me, yet full of truth and grace all the time.

Grace and truth is what I seek in relationships and what our world desperately needs. Grace without truth is flattery and truth without grace is cold.  To experience both in Jesus is to be completely accepted for who you are and yet desiring to be a radically different and better person.

What I love about Jesus, is the traits he elevates in people – justice not partiality, humility not pride, service not accolades, mercy not judgment, faith not activity, brokenness not religiosity.  The words of this song by Graham Kendrick magnificently captures the beauty of Jesus,

Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity
In perfect harmony, the Man who is God
Lord of eternity, dwells in humanity
Kneels in humility and washes our feet
Wisdom unsearchable, God the invisible
Love indestructible in frailty appears
Lord of infinity stooping so tenderly
Lifts our humanity to the heights of His throne

O what a mystery, meekness and majesty
Bow down and worship, for this is your God
This is your God.

So this is Christmas – the time of the year that, despite its craziness, forces me to focus on Jesus, the One who displayed true humanity through his life and enables me to do the same through his death and resurrection. It spurs me to bow down and worship, for this is my God.

Photo Credit: Riccardo Palazzani via Flickr CC

 

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Shobana Vetrivel

Shobana Vetrivel enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life and the adventure of living in New Delhi. She has an educational background in social development and theology and has worked in both development and ministry settings. She currently works with Delhi School of Theology and is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology. Books, travelling, theology, coffee and deep conversations are a few of her favourite things.  
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