I am writing from what is certainly the most upmarket hotel that I've ever stayed in - and with my rugby travels I've been fortunate enough to stay in a few. Now those who know me well are also aware of the slight struggle that I faced before accepting the very kind invitation to spend Christmas in these surroundings: how, my thinking went, does this sort of luxury and expense in anyway reflect the baby born to working class parents in the Bethlehem manger or His ongoing priorities and mission in the world today? But here we are, and lovely it is. Until 5.35am this morning...
Because at 5.35am we learned an important lesson: that you can be staying in the nicest place ever, but that if the fire alarm goes off you will still all need to vacate the building into a cold, breezy, west-coast-of-Scotland pre-dawn chill!
And so off went the alarm, and down the corridor I went to help my parents-in-law down the stairs and outside until an hour or so later, the fire brigade having declared the place safe, we were back to bed.
I wasn't actually thinking of writing a blog this morning but as I lay in bed just now a thought came to me from our early morning exertion that made me reflect in a slightly new way on the Christmas story. Here it is:
As we made our way back up to the rooms my mother-in-law was thanking me for helping them out of their room and wrapping her in my coat and scarf - and I'm delighted that I was able to help. Because at that moment, as is her way, she needed some help: she was flustered, half-asleep, and generally (and understandably) in a bit of a panic. And it got me thinking that to be able to help another person, especially one you really love, in a moment of need for them - whatever that might be - is one of the greatest things that we can do for each other.
And it's exactly that of which I was reminded in relation to the Christmas story: because this baby, this child so weak and helpless, was not just any old kid-in-a-cot. This child was and is God Himself: and this birth was another step in God's rescue plan for humanity. One of my favourite verses in scripture is from Romans 5 and says this: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." At just the right time! This was no mistake or coincidence: we were not lucky that Jesus happened to be here when we needed Him - He was right on time; and He still is!
And so as we celebrate Christmas today, no doubt reminiscing on the adventure of the early hours, I'm also going to be reminded of God doing the same and more for us: of coming to meet our need just when we need/ed it; and rejoicing that by His Spirit the Bethlehem man-child still walks beside us, equipping, empowering, carrying our burdens, and making relationship with God possible for us.
If you stumble across this, may I wish you the best of Christmas days as we celebrate the coming of God as a man to help us who He loves so much.