There is a special poignancy about the neonatal intensive care unit on Christmas day. Whilst billions around the world are celebrating the birth of one special baby, we are struggling to care for 20 or more desperately ill and fragile newborns, tiny human beings who cling to life with the help of advanced medical technology.
In the baby unit in central London where I spent most of my professional career, every Christmas the senior nurse, decorated the unit with Continue reading →
How does a single fertilised cell become an infant? What does that process say about us – and God? These were the questions that Professor Jeff Hardin asked in his lecture at the Faraday Institute last month. Jeff is a cell and developmental biologist who Continue reading →
How can we make sense of the event that so many people around the world are celebrating today? In today’s post, Revd Dr Rodney Holder explores the deep significance of Christ’s birth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 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 1:1-14]
I spent last weekend at Lee Abbey, Devon. The theme of the weekend was ‘Science & Faith in a Secular Age’, with the Exeter-based molecular biologist John Bryant as the main speaker (I managed to sneak in as a workshop leader). We spent most of Saturday morning thinking about how science has been misused to further a secularist agenda, and how much more awe inspiring the real picture is – using Job 38 and John 1 as a basis for that reflection.
What struck me in particular was the warden David Rowe’s talk on Sunday. He started from the same Bible passages and asked, ‘How does God manage to communicate with us without obliterating us?’. If God created on the scale of the universe, how could he possibly be in the room with us without turning us into dust and ashes?
David showed the picture Christ before the High Priest by Gerrit van Honthorst. It captures beautifully what it took for God to communicate with us. You can see the contrast between the assumed authority of the High Priest and Jesus’ real authority. We don’t use the word ‘meekness’ very often, but its original meaning was something like ‘strength, harnessed’. God’s power was all there, but he chose not to expose us to its full force. Jesus could have blasted the priest from here to kingdom come, but he didn’t even waste time arguing. He knew why he was there: to display his love for everyone, including the man confronting him.
I’ll never forget Dr Gordon Hugenberger talking about his meeting with one highly-educated intellectual who was discussing doing missions work for the church. The young professional suggested that his extensive education and (quite impressive) experience had made him over-qualified for simply serving others and spreading the news of Christianity. Dr Hugenberger thought for a moment and replied, ‘Over-qualified? Do you want to know who was really over-qualified for this work? Jesus was over-qualified.
To show how much of an understatement ‘over-qualified’ is you only have to look at John 1. Jesus created the universe, which he then visited in person.