I have never had to try and breathe life into another human being. A person does not get to choose if that time comes or it doesn't. There is a story of Horace who was lying without life and people were trying to give life back to him. They were doing all the right CPR things, pushing on his chest and forcing air into his lungs just like we are taught in first aid and practice in St John Ambulance for when someone collapses. They were doing all that they could as they waited for the ambulance to come.
Horace had given his last breath. He had watched the children sing and had been in the place he loved the best. Horace had been in church. Horace had then got up, walked out of church to his care, closed his eyes and collapsed. All the efforts of the people and the quick attention of skilled people could not open his eyes again. His last vison was of smiling friends and singing children.
The priest left the hospital breathing in the cold night air; the same air that they had tried to breathe into Horace to give him life. Life is so fragile. Each of us is only one or two breathes away from a life beyond any of our efforts. To the life after death.
As the priest returned to the church, the light shining on the manger seemed to dance in the gently falling rain. Mary and Joseph smiled, though the air was heavy because of the loss of Horace that night. They knew.........they knew. Christmas means a child has come who can do what those people that night could not do. This child who was born on a still clear night of long ago breathes life into those who receive. This child is our joyous assurance of that new life. It is one of the gifts of Christmas: the promise of new life given in the middle of efforts that seem
to fail. It is the season of hope given to us by the child of Bethlehem - Jesus.
How can we celebrate God with us as a human being? God with us bringing new life. Well there is an answer in the message that God gave the shepherds that first Christmas night. Christmas is not our reaching out or up to God. Christmas is God's hand stretching out to us offering us new life and joy. God makes the first move and calls on us to respond. How we respond to God's precious gift of new life is found in our faith. A faith which does believe that God loves us and the power of that love can conquer all.
But most important this gift of new life is something we need to accept. The greatest gift of love ever given. God with us is made real again and again as we Christians share that gospel of love - that new life we have received with others. Love is the great power that symbolises Christmas. A love that is shown when God
came to be with us in the form of Jesus Christ.
In our search for this new life that God offers to us, we are sometimes drawn to the past, looking for what might have been. Sometimes our search can lead us to be distracted by the future. But we do not find God in our desire for the past or in the anxiety of the future. We find God as did the wise men - in the eternal now - in the present, right here. Christmas is about a God who is right with us now, today and every day offering us that new life. Let us continue to give thanks for that gift, that gift for all time - new life. A gift that God freely offered for all humankind.
We thank our creator God, for the loveliness of the Christmas story: the child of the manger, the song of the angels, the homage of the shepherds, the tender love of Mary. But most of all we thank our God for the meaning of the Christmas story: that God loved the world so much that God gave his only Son that all might have new life and live through him. So at this time of year we Christians and others join with us in giving all praise and thanks to our God, for so great a love, so great a gift, so great a saviour in the person of Jesus Christ.