Last week I went to a young offenders' prison and spoke at three carol services. The one point when I could feel the atmosphere of the room shift was when I started talking about what it means that Jesus shows us God. In one of the services they actually all fell silent when this bit started. I thought I'd share that section of the talk with you:
“When Jesus was born, there were rumours his mum was a slapper who got knocked up by some random guy. He had to live all his life with people making comments about that.
"When he was very young the government where he lived decided to have all the kids murdered in his town. The king had some theory about a kid being born who would threaten his power, so he sent the army in to murder the babies. As mothers screamed all through town watching their children die, Jesus and his parents somehow escaped.
"He spent years living in a foreign country. He was the weird immigrant kid. Different skin, different language, different food. Everyone looked at him weird.
"When he eventually moved back to his own country, things are quiet for a while. Then when he was a teenager or maybe in his 20s his dad dies.
"He’s left to look after his mum. Be the man of the house. He didn’t ask for this.
"He gets older. Gets well known. Does some lovely stuff like healing sick people, telling corrupt powerful people where to get off, looking after poor people.
"But the corrupt powerful people don’t like this. They pay one of his best friends to rat him out. This friend gets him arrested. All his other friends scarper. They don’t want anything to do with him now. One of them used to say he would happily die with Jesus now he’s telling everyone he never even knew him. What kind of friends are these?
"He has a trial which is frankly a pack of lies. People make things up about him. He’s misrepresented. Where are his friends now?
"Then he’s murdered. Stripped naked, nailed to a piece of wood and hung out to die in public.
"No dad. No friends. No justice. Nothing. Not even his life.
"It is this person. Jesus. Who said that God is like him.
"And so when I read that, I think: ‘Yeah, if that’s God, maybe I do want to know him. Maybe I want to give it another shot to connect with him. Because maybe there is somebody out there who is not only bigger than me but is like Jesus. Who knows what it’s like to be in the kind of dark place I am in right now.’
"And that’s Christmas. At Christmas we sing and talk about baby Jesus because we think that he was God become a human being. And he shows us God: Not a God who is out there and can’t understand what it’s like to be you. But a God who gets it. Understands. And is worth your while taking seriously.”