In the film Titanic there are vivid recreations of the ship’s engine room. Far away from the decks and opulent dining rooms, hidden in the bowels of the liner, the engine room was a place of sweat, noise and heat. For the passengers, the engine room was not part of the cruise experience. It was to be avoided. The advice to steer clear of the engine room can also be true of many human institutions and organisations. Getting close to the centre of things (or what people imagine is the centre of things) can be alarming or disillusioning or a mixture of both. That’s why most people stay well away from “the engine room”.
You have not stayed away. You are here and you are being invited into the stable which means that you are being invited into the engine room. This is the centre of all things because here we see how God really works. The entire meaning and working of the universe – what someone once called “the fire in the equations” – is contained in that bundle of fragile, shivering flesh.
In the holy infant we see how God really is and understand that the universe lives by a love that refuses to bully, manipulate or force us. The love of the cradle and the cross is the roaring fire in the equations.
We have seen the engine room and this should worry us because we are so obsessed about being safe and successful that it becomes almost impossible for us to believe that power can show itself in any other way except by force and cunning. We believe that power lies in the glass skyscrapers of the Canary Wharf, Parliament buildings or the biggest houses but not in a stable.
But Christmas tells us otherwise. The stable is the centre of all power. It is here that the power of love resides. As Dante puts it, this is “l’amor che mouve il sole e le altre stelle” – “the love that moves the sun and the stars.”
God fulfils all that he wants to do by giving away all that he is in love. The whole universe exists because God has not held back his love but allowed it to flow out of his own perfection and this makes a world that is different from him but also one that is filled with his love through the gift of his everlasting Son, Jesus Christ.
Welcome to the engine room and the joy of our salvation, Jesus Christ.
A blessed and happy Christmas to you all.