Have you ever heard of a 360-degree review? It’s when an employee agrees not only to be reviewed by their employer and line manager but also to ask friends and fellow employees to submit their appraisal of them as a person and employee.
We often see each other in two dimensions or three dimensions but fail to get “under the skin” and find out what really makes them tick. Sometimes we fail to see ourselves as others see us.
Picture the scene – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and “the baby Jesus” gathered together in a stable. It will be a scene you know off by heart but will nonetheless see time and time again over the next few weeks – on Christmas cards, posters; in plastic nativity sets and expensive wooden carved crib sets. But do we stop to think of them as people – people like us with fears and doubts? People who endure physical pain. So many people in our world can identify with the people of the Nativity story. Those who are poor and marginalised, those who live in countries which are oppressed and/or occupied by foreign forces, those who are refugees, those who have nowhere to sleep. Those who are uncertain about the future. And of course, there are those who God has chosen to bear the weight of responsibility be it in their secular work, in the church or caring for others and perhaps do not feel they have the strength to do so.
Look “under the skin” of those who feature in the story of the birth of Jesus and you may find someone who you identify with. Then consider the baby in a manger – born in weakness and vulnerability and born as one of us facing the same joys and sorrows that we face. Born to give us all of himself – even his own life so that we can be forgiven and have life in all its fullness. And, somewhere, perhaps, you may find the strength to trust in God who loved the world – who loves YOU – so much that he sent his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
May I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas.
(This message first appeared in Saints Alive the parish magazine of All Saints' Parish Church, Cheadle Hulme)