Wednesday, 12 December 2012
A Christmas message
The bible tells us that when the wise men arrived to see the baby Jesus 'they fell down and worshipped him' (Matthew 2:11)
I find that rather strange.
Grown men, wealthy men, respected and respectable men walk into an unknown peasant home, see a baby and don't just delight that their journey has come to an end, don't just kneel down, but (and the original Greek is quite clear here) 'fall down and worship him'.
It is embarrassingly physical.
Of course there are certain emotions which might make us fall down and worship.
It could be sheer fear: the bible tells us of the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. He set up a statue of himself and ordered everyone to fall down and worship it. Everyone did. Because if they didn't, he had said that they would be thrown into a flaming furnace.
Or perhaps it is desire that makes us fall down and worship: the desire for power, beauty or wealth. The desire to be loved. We don't need to be a Faust or a Dorian Gray or an Anastasia Steele to know desires which make us worship what should never be worshipped.
But it is not fear or a twisted desire for beauty or power which makes the wise men fall down.
Simone Weil wrote of an encounter she had with God when she was praying in a C12th chapel in Assisi, Santa Maria degli Angeli, a chapel St Francis used to pray in. She writes, 'Something stronger than I was compelled me for the first time in my life to go down on my knees'.
I suspect that when the wise men walked into the house and saw the baby, they realised that they had met with God.
- not the power of God: the power we see in exploding super-novae, or hurricanes or tidal waves. Not the power we see in astonishing miracles or the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
- rather they met the astonishing mercy and love of God: that God would leave the power behind in order to become a helpless baby, a human being, born as one of us. He became one of us in order that we might know him, in order that we might become like him.
John writes, 'From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace'. (John 1:16)
And so they fall down and worship - not some perversion that calls itself love, but True Love itself.
My hope for this Christmastide is that we will meet with True Love Himself - and whether that is in church or on the bus or at home, we will encounter something, no, someone stronger than ourselves, and that we will be compelled, possibly for the first time in our lives - to go down on our knees and worship.