Most of the things that we really value take time to come to fruition – good cheese, fine champagne, a well-designed garden, a family. For most people, faith is like that. It takes time for people to come to understand the depth of God’s love for us, and the costliness of forgiveness. For some people, like, St Paul, faith comes in a blinding flash, but for most of us it is a slow and steady and sometimes stumbling grind forward.
We shouldn’t be surprised. There is a long wait from the proclamation of the Prophets that God will send a Saviour, until the birth of Jesus. And Mary has to wait the obligatory nine months between conception and birth. And then there is a thirty year hiatus, as Jesus grows in the knowledge and love of God and into the realisation of his own vocation. With the notable exception of Paul, it seems to take far too long for the disciples to begin to understand who Jesus is, and what it means to be caught up into his life, death and resurrection.
We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves when faith seems to wax and wane. What we need to hang on to is the reality that God’s love is constant and trustworthy. Just as waves come and go at the edge of the ocean, our hearts move strangely, but beyond the shore is the deep certainty of the ocean of God’s boundless love.
In many ways 2018 has been a difficult year for those of us struggling with faith in the life of the Church. But Christmas comes just in time to remind us that vulnerability, misunderstanding, ambiguity and uncertainty are the normal experiences of God’s people as we inch towards the Kingdom. Just as the Holy Family stumbles towards Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, so too we make our way on, sometimes strong, sometimes weak and lazy, clinging to the truth that in this particular birth, this particular baby, all God’s good promises are coming to birth in us. This is the message we carry for all the world to hear, that God is with us, now and for ever.
May you and those you love have a happy and Holy Christmas and a New Year full of good things,
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