December 2014

"I AM the bread of life"
[John 6. 35-38]

In order not to be distracted by the tinsel Christmas, it is wise for serious Christians to reflect each year on the deep signi ficance of the Incarnation: "In the beginning was the Word ... and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." The meaning of this event for the world i s inexhaustible. It signifies in a direct and positive way God's "YES" to creation, and more particularly the "YES" of Our Lord I AM spoken to humanit y. We live in a period in the world's history when human beings are devalued in so many ways, not least by the world's bullies who perpetrate violence an d oppression, and by society's cheats who cream off other people's resources and livelihoods by selfishness and greed. It is therefore increasingly impor tant for the prayer of the Church to be underpinned by the silent prayer of those who listen deeply to God's truth.

The truth of the Word-Made-Flesh is accurately portrayed in John's Gospel by many Sayings, of which this month's is just one example. Those who hunger cry out for "bread" (nourishment ). Humanity's real hunger is spiritual, of which the physical lack of food is a symptom. It is only the Living Bread who can truly satisfy this craving. T he Bethlehem story sparks off deep longings in us: and the name "Bethlehem" means literally "House of Bread."

By giving us the Living Bread in th e form of Jesus, God fulfils these longings. He re-values humanity, and points to the source of all the blessings, which is "Heaven", the spiritual realm , His own dwelling-place. His "coming down" (descending, see Ephesians 4.9) has its counterpart in the "lifting up" of our hearts in worship and adorat ion. Our Christmas worship and prayer is part of the process of being "born again", or being "born from above" (the text of John 3.1-8 can be translate d either way). Together with our fellow-worshippers, we hold ourselves and our world up to God for the healing balm of his spiritual blessings. This we do in the Name of Jesus-Messiah whose birth we celebrate. This is the birth that sets the seal on the intimate and loving relationship between the human and t he Divine, the material and the spiritual.

Preparing for Christmas in our contemplation this month, we become the meeting-place, the focus of the com munion between heaven and earth. "Incarnation" is the bringing of the heavenly into the earthly, and we ourselves are involved in the process.