Christmas: God’s missional moment

A reflection from GEMN executive director Titus Presler

Dear Friends,

Difference.  The Christmas event is drenched with difference.  The difference between the grandeur of God and the animal smells of a stable.  The difference between the plenitude of God and the poverty of Mary and Joseph.  The difference between the celestial realm and an audience of shepherds.

Nativity with Women Attending by Frank Wesley of India (1923-2002)

The difference underlying all this is an existential difference: the journey into difference undertaken by God, who is spirit, to become a creature of the cosmos – a touchable, seeable, hearable, smellable human being.

                                Birth of Jesus, with Shepherd by the Mafa people of Cameroon

God sent God’s self into difference.  God was on mission.  The Incarnation was God’s missional moment – not God’s only missional moment, but the culmination of all God’s other missional moments, before and since.

God is still on mission.  And invites us to share in that loving enterprise.

Sending into difference – that is the essential nature of mission.  When we as Christians reach out to encounter and form community with people who are different from ourselves – that is when we are distinctively on mission with God.  Mission is ministry in the dimension of difference. 

Andean Nativity from Argentina (2003)

Being sent into difference and going out into difference is what brought the Christian movement into being.  That’s still what keeps it vital, healthy and growing.  The gospel is shared in myriad ways.  And the encounter with difference changes and transforms those who go out.  We return with new insight into who Jesus really is, new insight into what God is up to in the world.

Episcopalians, Anglicans and people of every other Christian grouping around the world are part of this outbursting movement over two millennia.

The images amid this message hint at the rich differences in how the Incarnation has been viewed by artists in the diversity of cultures.  Underlying all the images is a shared perception – in Christ Jesus, God is with us – whoever we are and wherever we are – Immanuel.

May God bless you and yours in these seasons of the Incarnation as you continue with God in mission.

In the missional Christ,

Transition to Bethlehem by Fritz von Uhde of Germany (1890)

Theme image: Holy Family by Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown of Vermont (2023)

Images within text are courtesy of the Vanderbilt Divinity School Library

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