Irja Askola,Bishop of the Diocese of Helsinki

 

“And it came to pass in those days… ” The Christmas story travels over oceans and continents, transcending languages and cultures. To everyone and to all kinds of people it promises something good. 

“And it came to pass in those days… ” And it still does: amidst pressures and fears we get an inkling of something different. The Christmas story promises release from guilt and unreasonable demands. Yes, it is a promise, not a demand. 

The Christmas story is a narrative of endearing grace. Amidst the cruel facts of life appears God, who is not frightened by the sordidness of our everyday lives. He does not feel ashamed of us. 

“And it came to pass in those days… ” And it still does: mercy more powerful than mercilessness; a timid smile appearing amidst grimaces; instead of envy an extended hand and a line spoken which had been forgotten for years. 

In the middle of Christmas phobia there is a promise of a celebration which does not require oversized preparations to materialise. Many types of Christmases exist; yet there is just one promise, given to exhausted shepherds, baffled spouses, curious wise men from the East… and to all the people who drop through the cracks. 

The Christmas story is a promise, not a list of things to do or an assessment of our Christmas fitness. 

The Christmas story makes us put up with incompleteness, both ours and everyone else's. It makes us recognise good, even though surrounded by evil. It makes us appreciate ourselves and one another. 

“And it came to pass… ” And it still does. Amidst the cruelty of lost jobs and the pains brought about by human relations the Christmas story offers security: God does not set us down for employer-employee negotiations, nor does He send anyone off to the grim solitude of those rejected. Now and for ever He is Our Father in Heaven, the one who does not flee from us or simply drop in to be our Christmas decoration. He is here to stay, not worrying about result-based management, the pressures to cut costs or the human-relations climate. He is here in order that we might get a glimpse of mercy, so that we might grow to be merciful. 

A Saviour is born to us. This message gives us permission to have Christmas, which we can all celebrate according to our individual capacities.  

The Christmas story is a promise, from those days all the way to this day and age. 

 

The Christmas story is found in Luke 2.