I have been wracking my brains for a week in an attempt to say something useful to you about Christmas paradox. You will know something of this when you think that God who is everywhere becomes somewhere; or again God who is other becomes one of us. Christmas is full of paradoxes, opposites which defy explanation.
Then pennies started to drop for me. It is extremely stressful to attempt to explain the inexplicable. Such activity can generate exhaustion, frustration and irritation. Centuries of history show you religious scholars attempting to reduce God to the explicable. So rather than stress, may I drop a few pennies of observation for you to take with you and spend this week?
Christmas paradox shows you that this story is not human in origin. As soon as the first Christmas arrives, God is shown to be more than one, as well as one. Secondly, Jesus is shown to be human and divine, simultaneously.
We humans prefer our stories to make sense, to resolve, to fit together. Christmas does not. No one would make this up because it’s inexplicable, indefensible, incomprehensible. Christmas is not human even though it centres on one human.
The old man Simeon, who greeted the eight-day old Jesus at the Temple, realized that this baby would grow into a man who reveals hearts.
Your reaction to the Christmas paradox reveals your heart, and that of others. Faced with an inexplicable Jesus, people want to explain him, reduce him, marginalize him, ignore him or even attempt to destroy him.
None of these things work. Paradox reveals your finite mind and limited heart. It exposes your boundaries, shines a light on your floors. Could it be that one of the causes of our stress pandemic is our struggle with paradox?
I doubt if you make connections each week with workplace stress and paradox but think again about how many coworkers live with a suspicion that things don’t add up or make sense. It’s there in the background and Christmas brings it to your attention.
Why has your good friend got cancer? Why are some unable to conceive? Why do good businesses fail? Why does this world suffer so?
Behind our sincere questions lies a struggle with a paradox. Two or more things do not add up.
Christmas is a joyful story, yet full of mystifying paradox. Next week I’ll attempt a poetic illustration of this truth for you.
Christmas, therefore, is disturbing. It’s very inexplicable nature invites you to say, “I do not understand” followed by “I cannot explain it”. Pause and feel your reaction to that. Does it relieve the need to struggle and stress? Actually it does.
Yet paradox drives us to our knees, not in despair, but wonder. It is not with failure, resignation or rebellion that you fall, but awe. As you fall down with the shepherds, with the wise men, with Mary and Joseph, with Simeon and Anna, you will find that you join, not in the company of the defeated, but worshippers. Then you meet the paradox.
As you worship the Son you meet the Father by the Spirit. You cannot explain it, but you can experience it. As you worship the Son of Man you realize that he is Divine. As you worship the newborn one-day old King, you meet the eternal I Am.
So when you go to work this week and wonder what you do for a living, your answer is “I worship a paradox”. Then look at everything you do and realize it is all worship – everything. Every task you undertake this week is worship of the paradox. Don’t be surprised if some things don’t add up, they were never meant to add up in your mind.
So after wracking my brains for a week, I realize there is one last thought for me about Christmas paradox.
If you think you can understand Christmas, you really haven’t understood.
If you think you can’t understand Christmas, you really have understood.
But you still can’t understand Christmas.
Better to worship.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
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