My wife and I have known and enjoyed some good friends for over 25 years – friends who were at our wedding, and with whom we’ve hung out while they were living here in Kitchener for a time.
But about ten years ago, they moved out west – a few to Saskatchewan, and a few to Alberta.
We’ve missed them.
Now, with Face Book and Twitter on the scene, I’ve, gratefully, been able to keep in touch with them…
…while sitting in front of my computer, sitting at my keyboard, or in front of my phone,
…sharing banter, jokes, and snippets of news about our lives and families,
…the occasional photo.
That’s the good thing about Face Book, Twitter and other similar sites: One is able to keep in touch with friends and family living far away, and to keep the relationship going, at least to some degree.
Even video-chatting using Face Time or Skype – I do this with my twin brother who lives in Arnprior (outside of Ottawa).
It’s been great.
I get to see his face, and gestures in real time, and get a far more personal sense of him through his image on the screen.
But eventually, over time, it’s not enough.
Social media, emailing, Face Time, can only go so far in maintaining or deepening a relationship with others.
As amazing and helpful as technology as been, it still is limiting, allowing only for partial communication, a partial knowledge of the other person.
Better than any email, any video-chat or social media online discussion can be – in terms of communicating what you want communicate, and gaining greater knowledge of each other as persons – is the simple yet profound act of meeting face-to face, in person.
When one meets face to face, in person, standing or sitting in their physical presence, so many things that couldn’t be communicated through the web can now be fully disclosed, fully revealed and received.
Hearing the sound and tone of someone’s voice right before you, noticing someone’s facial expressions, mannerisms and physical gestures in real time, can reveal so much of their personality, their character, and what they’re trying to communicate.
Everyone receives such a greater sense of their being, their personhood.
You get to better know someone; and they you.
Social media through the internet allows only partial knowledge of someone, knowing only about someone.
Actually being in their presence, allows for full knowledge of someone, actually knowing them.
This difference, this shift in relationship from partial to a fuller knowing, is exactly what Christmas is all about.
In the past, people’s sense of God, of divine being, was partial, more knowing about God, than knowing God.
In the passage from Hebrews, we read how “in the past God spoke to us in many, varied and partial ways” — through the words of prophets, or burning bushes, the splitting of the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments, through angels, and scripture.
God was trying to get our attention, and speak to us through these limited ways, yes offering us glimpses of God’s majesty and power, offering us some partial knowledge of God, but always relating to us at a distance, in an arms-length fashion, never fully disclosing or revealing God-self to us.
This method of relating changed with the birth of Jesus.
Ultimately God realized that the best and only way really to get to know us, and to become better known, was to come to be among us, as one of us.
“No one has ever seen God” the gospel of John proclaims, but now God has finally drawn near to us, to meet us directly, face to face, in the person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Fully God, and fully human, the person of Jesus is the full-blooded, in-the-flesh, visible expression, tangible imprint of God’s being.
Who Jesus is, and what Jesus did throughout his lifetime on earth, among us, reveals to us what God is all about: loving, compassionate, presence, full of justice and truth, for all people and living things.
God’s meeting up with humanity for the very first time, in person, in-the-flesh.
An amazing moment in time that we celebrate at Christmas!
And what amazing moments they continue to be, in our time, in our day!
To notice, and lift up these moments, when love and peace and reconciliation suddenly and unexpectedly become enfleshed, real, tangible before our eyes.
When goodness and grace from God suddenly and unexpectedly appear in our day to day, ordinary, and broken world – even in places we’d hardly expect!
…. And for us to be transformed by that moment….
This year’s Christmas marks the 100th anniversary of a moment in history, 100 years ago, on Christmas Eve 1914, when the presence of Jesus suddenly and unexpectedly became enfleshed and real.
The place was a battlefield, in a war zone, in central Europe, as British and German soldiers fought each other in those dark days of World War One.
Winter 1914 was cold, wet and miserable in those trenches for those soldiers.
But on December 24, 1914, Christmas Eve, a group of soldiers, remembering it was Christmas Eve, paused in their war-making, and started extemporaneously to sing “Stille Nacht” – Silent Night.
Soon that singing arising from the trenches was the only sound in the battlefield…
You could hear a pin drop.
Everyone was stunned into silence, soldiers from both sides of the battle line.
Gradually, more and more soldiers were laying down their guns and bayonets, and joining in – not only with “Silent Night”, but then “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and other familiar carols, in the English and German languages all at once, joining with one voice, one song filling the sky.
They began climbing out of their trenches, and walking towards each other in “No- Man’s-Land”, reaching out to shake each other’s hands, to trade chocolates, cigarettes, and to show each other photographs of loved ones back home.
Some even managed to have quick pick-up game of soccer.
This amazing moment of peace, reconciliation, friendship – even if it lasted for only a moment in time – became enfleshed, real, like a gem falling from the sky, even into the midst of war, something even more powerful than war.
God meets humanity in the flesh, in Jesus.
And God continues to meet us today, in the Spirit of Jesus, appearing in the faces of friends, family, even of enemies.
Jesus, in the faces of those around us.
We pray we may see it and notice it when it happens … and to be changed and transformed by it…