In this December issue our thoughts turn towards Christmas, and in a 2020 Covid Pandemic world with its once-in-a-lifetime restrictions, possibly more so than usual.
Have you ever been in a position where you felt vulnerable? What was it like? Did you feel threatened? Defenceless? At risk? Or did you actually suffer the darkness of abuse? Maybe you look back and realise how vulnerable you were at that time.
When we recognise that someone is in danger of harm, we might describe them as being vulnerable. That is, something needs to change to make them safe. They may not be able to do that for themselves.
When the Covid Pandemic broke into our awareness early in the year, the word ‘vulnerable’ suddenly became common coinage. We needed to be aware of those who are vulnerable in our society. The older people are vulnerable. Those in care homes are vulnerable. Carers are vulnerable. Those with underlying health issues are vulnerable. NHS workers are vulnerable. And so on— The threat in these cases – the enemy – being Covid-19.
Christmas. Let’s remember the wonder of the birth of Jesus. The stories, the stable, the carols, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men. Let’s consider Jesus; the Son of God, the Word of God, the one through whom everything that was made was made. The one who upholds the universe by his word of power.
Then consider Jesus, the glorious one who, although in the form of God, emptied himself of everything but love, not grasping onto equality with God; taking the form of a servant, being found in the likeness of men. There he is, clothed in flesh and lying, a new-born baby, in a manger. Isolated; just a few strangers, poor shepherds, calling to see and to worship him. The poor recognised him first. Angelic revelation had been brought to them. The Father in his excitement and pride over his Son, seeing that the poor had an opportunity to share in the joy of their creator.
Just how vulnerable could God become?
Jesus was born into the human experience of vulnerability at birth. He who came from a glorious heavenly home came to earth and stepped straight into rejection, poverty and homelessness.
It became truly dangerous later on. The Wise Men had acted unwisely and went to the worldly rich and powerful, even telling King Herod that they had come to worship the new king of the Jews. In his anger and insecurity, Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem on a search and destroy mission. Every boy two years old and younger was to be found and slaughtered. Jesus, vulnerable, now the target of wickedness and persecution.
An angel warned Joseph to take the child to Egypt and they set off under cover of night. Sanctuary; Jesus the refugee, an asylum seeker in a foreign land.
We see God choosing to gate-crash into human experience as the Saviour (you shall call him Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins.), choosing vulnerability as his entry point with all its pain, danger, fear and insecurity. In Jesus we have a High Priest who can sympathise with ALL our human experience.
The vulnerability of his birth points towards the vulnerability of his triumphant death.
Fast forward to the Easter events, and we see Jesus intentionally choosing to become vulnerable, electing to walk into the death trap that awaited him in Jerusalem. Being led away by the guards. Thrown into a hole in the ground overnight. Attending unjust trials, being stripped, mocked, spat upon, whipped. This time it wasn’t the baby lying vulnerable in a manger. No, this time it was the Son of God, King of the Jews, vulnerable, hanging in shame upon a cross. No hiding place; hanging there helpless, abused, naked, open to the gaze of all. The sword that failed to finish him off at his birth now piercing his side. But no late triumph there; He had already committed his spirit to his Father. Though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me…
God almighty, the creator of all things, upholder of the universe, slipped unseen into the world by becoming vulnerable. God himself dealt with our sins and all the demands of the law, nailing them to the cross and bearing them himself, setting us free, through his vulnerability.
Then, out of apparent vulnerability, victimhood, suffering and death, came – resurrection! Love poured out. Satan overturned; he had thought that the victory was his; he held the power of death. But Jesus conquered death, robbing Satan of his power. Where, O death, is your sting now?
Jesus identified with the poor, the abused, victims of pogroms, the persecuted, asylum seekers. The resurrection and exaltation complete the story.
When Abram was called to be foundational for God’s new community on earth, a Patriarch, he experienced something of God’s heart for us when he was willing to see his only son, the much-loved heir of the promise, sacrificed. But he was reasoning that God was able to raise the dead.
Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God
He who was rich became poor, that we who were poor might become rich.
He who was secure became vulnerable, that we who were vulnerable might become secure.
Let’s not be unnecessarily fearful when we feel vulnerable. Jesus has been there. Because of him there is a hope for you, and a future. Darkness does not win; the light extinguishes the darkness. There is resurrection. Vulnerability can throw us onto a redeeming God.
When we come to celebrate Christmas this year, let’s act responsibly. Keep safe. Protect the vulnerable. While the pandemic fills our thoughts, do not forget the poor, the isolated, the homeless, the marginalised, the refugees, the asylum seekers, for Jesus is found amongst them.
Vulnerable God, you challenge the powers that rule this world through the needy, the compassionate, and those who are filled with longing. Make us hunger and thirst to see right prevail, and single minded in seeking peace; that we may see your face and be satisfied in you, through Jesus Christ, Amen.Janet Morley
Heavenly Father, we thank you for being a good, good God.
This Christmas we remember the family and friends of over 1 million who have died through the Pandemic; those who will grieve in this season. Be a Comforter to them.
Please help us to rejoice in Jesus’ birth across a Christmastime that will be unlike any other for most of us. We lift up to you those who will feel lonely and isolated. And Father, will you enable a safe vaccination program to be released and administered as quickly as is safe; not for us only, but amongst the world’s poor; those who Jesus most identified with when he was born.
And help us this Christmastide to share in the songs of angels and shepherds over a baby born in Bethlehem.
I bless you in the name of Jesus, that he might give you the strength to enjoy Christmas, to persevere for a better day.
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion.Roy Godwin
Some of the References: John 1:1-2; Heb 1:2-3; Philip 2:5-7; Matt 2:6-18; Matt 2:12-15; Matt 1:21; Heb 4:15; Col 2:13-14; 1 Cor 15:55; Heb 12:2; 2Cor 8:9; John 1:5.
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© Roy Godwin 2020