Sunday, December 25, 2011

The First Noel

“When they saw that star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”

~Matthew 2:10 (NRSV)

The wonder that is the Christmas story, like any good story, can be taken from any angle and appreciated for the depth of meaning, and the history implicit, in one event—such is the wonder of God’s creation that semantics are rich and mean so much.

We have the shepherds’ story, that of the Magi, and Mary and Joseph, themselves. As would be typical at any birth, there is wonder; how much more so at the birth of the Saviour?

The Enactment of a Long-Awaited Hope

In all our lives the experience of hope for that which has not yet been realised is common—even if that be veneer thin.

The Jews had been waiting 700-odd years since the first prophecy announced the coming of the Messiah. The hope of the Saviour had become rhetoric; many could be forgiven for believing, within their own hearts, that such prophecy was indeed a fairytale.

And if there was a hope, it was after a military ruler; one who, like Moses, would rescue them from the tyranny of a third-class life of deprivation and social nonchalance. That was the reality for the Jews at the time of Jesus’ birth.

The long-awaited hope was realised at the first Noel.

But that long-awaited hope was not what most expected and, indeed, the hope we have experience of today bears infinite significance compared with even the hope resplendent in the crucifixion; for no one present that day would see any hope.

Time, as we understand it, has little to do with the outworking of Divine plan. The full impact of redemptive milestones is not felt immediately as we would see it. We do not see as God sees (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The Worship of Faith / Faith of Worship

The Magi, the shepherds, and indeed Mary and Joseph, all of a sense were present to worship the babe wrapped in bands of cloth.

But who (apart from parents), truly, would worship a baby without the inspiration—the revelation of the Spirit—having already overtaken them?

Yet, they who would worship this baby at the first Noel did so by trusting that voice of the Spirit. They acted in faith upon what they heard, audibly or within their own spirits. The enactment of that faith was worship—to obey the Lord, despite the lack of physical evidence that would cause many others to doubt and debunk any idea to follow.

Such faith and such worship at the first Noel is an example to us, even today, to trust in the hope that has not yet been fulfilled—a Hope that is surely coming.

But, it is also true that we can live the hope of the resurrected life in Jesus in this in-between time. The first Noel initiated that!

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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