Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beautiful Lies

This week I heard a beautiful lie – Russell Norman, co-leader of the Green Party made one of the more exceptional speeches in Parliament that you’ll ever hear.

He painted an amazing portrait of what Christmas (he starts to get the speed wobbles post the Incarnation) really is.  No sly digs, no stereotypes, he painted it as it is and then called us to live as a more Christian society in accord with the values reflected in the life of Jesus.  Let me quote some of this beautiful lie:

The story of the incarnation of God in a baby born in a stable is remarkable even to me, an atheist, because it's a story about the distant God of the heavens coming down to live amongst us on earth.

It's a story about that god decreeing that tyranny on earth and utopia in the afterlife is not acceptable and that freedom and equality must characterise life here on earth as well as the afterlife in heaven. It's a story of the birth of new hope. The Christmas story tells us that a saviour of humanity came not as some great warrior or prince but wrapped instead in swaddling cloth — a baby born amongst farm animals, and in absolute poverty.

It’s great stuff and I don’t want you to hear any criticism of Russell Norman when I say its beautiful, but it’s a lie:

The hopes and values Jesus Christ articulated during the course of his short life are too important to belong only to Christians. They belong to us all: believers and non-believers alike. They live within us. They are embedded in our culture. They are reflected in most of the world's major religions.

These are the values that help to lay down the essential nature of what it means to be human and guide us to live a 'good' life — good to ourselves, good to one another, and good to the world in which we make our livelihoods.

A beautiful lie – that values are enough.  That ideas are enough.  That ideology is enough.  That good intentions are enough.  There is beauty in all these things but they are not full enough of truth to stand on their own.

Christmas is a time where God told the truth.  Completely.  Fully.  For all time.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus is not a values set.  He is God.  Christmas didn’t just give us a guru to follow, or a teacher to learn from, or an example to emulate – as beautiful as things are.  God gave himself.  The life of Jesus is God telling the full truth about himself.

This is the truth of Christmas.  And it’s a beautiful truth that will require us to let go of some beautiful lies.

(edited from Christmas Eve message)