One of the most misleading sayings in some Christian quarters is that Jesus was born to die. Indeed, so concerned are some to talk about Jesus’ death that they would really like us to put a cross in the nativity scene! Now, of course, the meaning Christians find in the death of Jesus is certainly very important. That is part of why the Easter story is central to Christian Faith. Yet even Good Friday is not ultimately about death. For, as the Bible Society’s lively 2009 campaign expressed it, Jesus. All About Life is the true reality. As Jesus says in John’s Gospel (10.10): ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’. Death is a part of life and life involves a series of little deaths (losses and griefs) as well as physical death. So Jesus showed us how dying well can be done. Yet this was in service of life, which is the real purpose and invitation of God’s creation of us. For God wants us to live! Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus, is therefore not merely a beginning and prelude to Easter. It also witnesses powerfully, in its own right, to the heart of the Christian message. In God in Jesus Christ, we find our fullest life, which is eternal love, right here, right now, and for evermore...
As the title of the recent concert of The Glennie School put it, Jesus was therefore above all ‘Born to Love’, rather than born to die. As indeed are all of us. If we love, as Jesus taught and showed us, we will need to embrace dying as he did: dying to our ordinary selves in order to share God’s love as it is born in us and calls us forth. This kind of dying and transformation into Christ is at the heart of the Christian mystery of God’s love. It runs through the Christmas story as well as through Easter. Mary and Joseph, for instance, both gave of themselves, dying to reputation and their old selves, risking life and health for the sake of sharing God’s love, the new creation for all. They grasped God’s call to live fully, to be born and give birth to love, to be all that they might be. Can we? This is part of the Christmas invitation to us all.
There is another aspect to this however. For we are born to love because we are born for Love. If Christian Faith was only about we human beings seeking to love, and even responding to Jesus’ example of love, then it would become a burden. Fortunately the amazing grace of the Christian Faith is that we do so in God’s love which is constantly available to us, for God is with us (Immanuel). We may not be up to it, but God is down to it. This is at the heart of the Christmas message. We were created for Love, by Love, the Love which is constantly seeking to be born again in us. As the first letter of John, chapter 4, puts it:
let us love one another, because love is from God…
God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him…
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
Or, in the words of one well-known Christmas carol:
Hail, the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that we no more need die,
Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth.
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.