St Stephen Lewisham
Christmas Day 2012
God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself 
So wrote St Paul, in what some consider the most important verse in the Bible.
In your Mass sheets you should have found a short hymn called The Bridge, which is about Reconciliation. Hymns are a good way of learning. They are short, easily remembered and can say in a few lines what might take many pages of text to explain. So let us look briefly at each verse in turn.
The Word of God, the Child of Man
Begotten ’ere the world began:
In Him our Bridge to God we find –
The Reconciler of Mankind
When God creation first assayed,
All things were good which He had made;
But Adam’s sin the Bridge deranged,
And Man from God thenceforth estranged.
The world in sullen darkness lay
Till, in God’s time, in God’s own Way,
He came to those He called His own
To be their Key- , their Corner-stone.
The Stone replaced, the Arch complete
Enables all with willing feet
To cross that Bridge, by Man defiled
And with our God be reconciled.
Verse One: Most people imagine that God the Son only came into existence when He was born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem. We Christians on the contrary, in our Creed, insist that God the Son was ‘born of the Father before all worlds’. He is, and was, always will be ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation’2 the visible, physical, touchable image of His Father. There is every reason to believe that in the Creator’s mind from the very beginning, there was always the idea that he would one day come to earth and exist alongside Mankind whom He had made, and, by so doing, bridge the inconceivable gap between Creator and Created. A bridge is the means by which two countries separated by a valley can be made one. That’s one use of the word ‘Reconciliation’.
Verse Two: In creation God saw that ‘all was very good’3. But Man’s disobedience fractured the link between God and us. We became estranged as if the keystone at the top of the arch of the bridge had been torn out, and God’s Bridge thus changed into two separate blocks of masonry with an un-crossable gap opened up between them. There are plenty of examples of such estrangement in the world today to serve as a comparison. Broken marriages, Broken families, Broken promises, Broken treaties, and death itself being the final rupture between every man and his fellow-men.
Verse Three: ‘But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, to enable us to receive the adoption of Sons’4 and be reconciled with our Creator. He became, in other words, the ‘replacement’ keystone which His Father had always intended Him to be. He came to the Nation which God had prepared over the centuries for Him to be born into; but because a keystone, by its very nature, is a different shape from all the other stones in a bridge, the people amongst whom He was born did not recognize Him for Who He is. His own people didn’t receive Him. In their minds He was just a ‘mis-fit’!
Verse Four: ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the Sons of God’5, says St John in this morning’s Gospel reading. Any reconciliation, human or divine, is a two-way process requiring both parties to be willing to accept it for themselves with all the change that such acceptance entails. We must cross the Bridge of Salvation willingly, or not cross it at all.
God was indeed in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; but unless that Keystone is firmly in position, our reconciliation will always remain more apparent than real.
hymn was suggested by a visit to the 15th Century Pleshey Castle in
Though the Castle is a total ruin, the Bridge itself remains largely intact [see picture below]
1 2 Corinthians 6:19
2 Colossians 1:15
3 Genesis 1:31
4 Galatians 4:4
5 John 1:12
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