I have just taken a funeral for a baby boy. What a tragedy, all the more poignant when Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of another baby boy. The two events are so hard to hold in the same hand.
But both events remind me of the fragility and improbability of human life. In a universe of 100 billion galaxies and 100 billion stars in each galaxy we still can't find any life beyond Earth. It just means that all the life we have here is incredibly special. It took nearly ten billion years to evolve a sustaining cosmos that supports life, and then another four billion to evolve humankind to give birth to these two baby boys. God is truly an architect with extraordinary patience!
The Christmas event, as recorded in John's gospel with amazing clarity, connects that immense cosmos creation to the most fragile life, born, out of wedlock, to a poor family camping among the animals, in an occupied country in the Middle East. “Through him (Jesus) all things were made,” says John, and, as if to emphasise his point, says “without him nothing was made that has been made.”
All this life, all of it, happens because of a God of love. Christina Rossetti wrote: Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine, Love was born at Christmas, star and angel gave the sign.
When a most-loved child dies, love does not simply fizzle out. Love determinedly goes on and on - as if that life goes on and on. And for billions of Christians across the world, death is simply not the end of either the Christmas story or of our story. Indeed, why should it be - given the investment of God in getting us up and running in the first place.
Life matters because it is so rare and so amazing. Life matters because it is a gift where love can happen. And in a world where life is cheap and national leaders make decisions that bring pain and grief rather than hope and joy, we need the love of that baby boy who came down at Christmas to live on and on and on.