Down to such a world as this

School photo day – we survived!

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Dull preparations such as hair-cutting and ironing were plodded through. The one school-branded jumper I had bought was located amongst the pile of plain ones. And thankfully, during the window of time between me dropping Freddie off at school and the photographer snapping away, my son did not get felt-tip pen on his clothing or face. (How do Year Ones do that?!)

Against all the odds we now have a decent photo to adorn the wall and to serve as a Christmas present for relatives. Phew!

Over recent days, as this photo has smiled out at me, I have been excited to be getting ready for Advent, the time in the church calendar when Christians prepare their hearts for celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. One of the things I will be doing to prepare my heart is listening to recordings of carols sung by the choral scholars at Cambridge University (oh OK, I admit it, I have been known to listen to this album in the middle of July too!)

This year I have been particularly struck by the words of the nineteenth-century carol “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” – you can listen to it here. The writer of the lyrics, Edward Caswall, describes an amazing event found in the New Testament. God has appeared “on earth below”. “He who built the starry skies” is now lying in an animals’ feeding manger, a human child like the one in the photo above. This mind-boggling event should not surprise us, as it is something “promised from eternal years” (see the prophecies of the Old Testament – Isaiah 9:1-7, for example). God made a promise and kept it – a child is born. Jesus is both fully human and fully God. Caswall comments:

“Sacred infant, all divine,

What a tender love was thine,

Thus to come from highest bliss

Down to such a world as this.”

Such a world as this.

The child in the school picture has been born into a scary world. Vile things happen to little children like him. I long to protect him. If I want to, I can paper over the cracks with Santa and tinsel, try to hide the nasties from him.

But I am grateful to have something truly earth-shattering to share with him. I am grateful that, although I am powerless to rescue my son from “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1), I know the one who can.

Jesus Christ knows how imperfect this world is – because he stepped into it after we had messed it up. More than that, he stepped into a particularly grim part of it, born like many children as a refugee, homeless and unwelcome. The light of the world chose to step down into that darkness. “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

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