During Advent we have been reminded of the tension between waiting patiently for the coming of Christ, and the urgency of knowing that ‘the times are short’. We are all aware of the anxieties in our national life over recent weeks, and the sense that we are living in a time that could set directions for many decades to come. It leads us to hold our nation in prayer this Christmas and to extend the invitation to know the peace of Christ in a time when there is precious little peace around. It also teaches us to base our hope not in the prospect of Brexit or the European Union or in any other human construct, but in Christ and his kingdom that is not of this world.
The great mystery of the Incarnation is that in Christ, God’s glory shines, not despite his humanity, but precisely through his humanity. And that means that ordinary human flesh like yours and mine, when it is conformed to the image of Christ, is capable of displaying the glory of God – through simple gestures of love and words of encouragement offered in the name of Christ. St Basil the Great has a way of putting it – that each human being is made in the image of God, but has to grow into the likeness of God by learning to walk the way of Christ and growing in the fruit of the Spirit. Origen, who got some things wrong, but many things right, put it like this: “For Christians see that with Jesus, human and divine nature began to be woven together, so that by fellowship with divinity, human nature might become divine, not only in Jesus, but in all those who believe and go on to undertake the life which Jesus taught, the life which leads everyone who lives according to Jesus' commandments, to friendship with God and fellowship with Jesus.”
May this Christmas be a time when we open our hearts and minds again to this wonderful gift of Christ, so that, as St Paul puts it, “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4.11). My prayer is that through the life and witness of our churches, God’s glory will shine and at this time of uncertainty our great city of London will know the peace that passes all understanding.