It is as the Lord promised Abraham: “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you .... so that you will be a blessing ... and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Gen 12.2-3). It is as old Simeon said when he took the child Jesus in his arms: “Master, now I can die in peace, ... for my eyes have seen your salvation ... a light for revelation to Gentiles ... (Lk 2.29). These words announce the Gospel – God’s Good News that he is in the business of BLESSING the world – all nations, all peoples, no exceptions.
So on this Epiphany Sunday, we espy camels coming from the east, transporting representatives of the royal court – a Gentile Court – foreigners, non-Jews. Looking for, and eventually finding, God’s blessing wrapped up in swaddling clothes, and held in a teenage mother’s arms. They kneel. They offer gifts. They worship. There must be a thousand questions in their minds, for what they don’t know is a huge as a mountain. But they know the only response to this Christ is humility and worship.
It is happening, you see! What God promised is coming to pass. His blessing is here. Here for worshiping shepherds. Here for royal representatives. Here for impoverished parents. Here for all nations, all beliefs, all people regardless of gender, economic security or social standing, all levels of intellectual knowledge or none. In this babe of Bethlehem, God strides across creation, and knows no boundaries. Reaching out in blessing upon the world – His world, which he loved into being and loves still, and is committed to loving for evermore.
Boundaries take many forms. Between young and older; British and foreigner; Catholic and Evangelical. Between Christian and those of other faith, or none. Between wise men and women, and those who struggle with learning difficulties. To all these and all others, God reaches out to bless – and that blessing, my friends, is to be carried by all who follow in Abraham’s footsteps, you and me included.
Can we learn from the Coronavirus? It teaches us to become blind to boundaries and cross them with confidence. And it teaches us to be ourselves! Viruses do not go to university to learn how to spread. They do it by being themselves. It’s in the DNA. In the same way, You and I can spread blessing ... but we need to have our DNA infected by the Lord our God. No social distancing from the Lord! Stay close to him. For this we must come in humility – humble enough to worship; to receive Him in the Eucharist; to spend time with Him in prayer. And simply to WANT to be close to Him – close enough to let him delight in you, and for you to know yourself loved. So be yourself. Cross boundaries. Live in gratitude and generosity as bringers of blessing. And ask Him to do the rest.
Just before Christmas I watched a Christingle service on line. As their lovely vicar explained the red ribbon that goes around the orange, she said it is like God’s loving arms stretching right round the world – or right round you, holding you in a hug of love. If, as you enter this new year, you carry fear, pain or sorrow in your heart, why not take that simple yet profound picture with you.
May you be held in the arms of divine love. And may God bless you, that you may bless the world, in His name. Amen.
The Revd Malcolm Nicholas