A risky thought for clergy at Christmas

“God is a gambler.” My elderly father, now a very emeritus Canon of Sheffield, is staying with us for Christmas. And those were the words with which he opened his sermon at my own priesting many years ago. The point of course was that in allowing me to be ordained God and indeed the church were taking a very big risk indeed…

All these years later his words have set me thinking as well. Although the theology is tricky, God in calling creation into being must have been at least aware of the great cost that call implied – in terms of natural disaster and human sin and shortcomings alike. And have chosen it nevertheless, dare we say a little like we do when we choose to have children despite their uncertain future too – because they’re worth it. When I look down into the crib of our new grandson Joseph my heart leaps with love and delight: and if it can be like that for a grumpy old Grandad like me, think what it must be like for our Father in heaven.

If God foreknows the cost of creation, he also foreknows the cost of its redemption. On the Cross he plumbs the depths of our desolation with us, knowing forsakenness and separation. And shares in that moment our human uncertainty (I said the theology was tricky), having to trust we might say in himself, in the rightness and power of his own way of redemption, to trust that in the end “all manner of things shall be well”. Here is a self-giving at the very heart of reality that takes the risk of turning power and control inside-out, showing us how the power and self-ness that will otherwise always corrupt is to be redeemed.

A lot of trust is placed in us by God – and by the church and those to whom we minister as well. We must do the best we can, but to see Christ in the crib as on the cross is to be reminded that having done all that we can do, it is in him that we can take the risk of placing our trust.

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