24 December 2008
11.30 pm Communion, Woodchurch
Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, 5-12, John 1:1-14
NOTES (Sermon given without using notes)
- Merry Christmas! No need to look at your watch – it may not be midnight but it is Christmas!
- Two types of people in the world – those who read instructions properly and men. New home entertainment system for Christmas – TV, internet, hi fi, back massager. No need to use manual – I’m a Man! 2 hours later, cables everywhere, discs everywhere, cat cowering in the corner, children moaning to go onto Cbeebies, Wife wanting to get back onto ebay. Or is that just us? Knock at the door – unassuming man who offers to fix system in order to use it for its intended purpose – No charge, all part of the after care service. He fixes it and you offer him a cup of tea. He tells you that actually he invented this machine and he was the CEO of the company that sold it – but lots of people unhappy as they were not reading the manual and it was not giving them the enjoyment it should so he gave up all his executive pay and perks to go on the road showing people how to use their machines properly.
- Turn the telescope around slightly – Imagine you are a rich landowever who owns a mansion with hundreds if not thousands of rooms – the mansion is set in hundreds of acres of rolling countryside that would put Capability Brown to shame. You are immensely creative – you paint, you write poetry, you compose music – you are master of all you survey and the world is at your fingertips. In one of the rooms of your huge mansion you design and build the most amazing aquarium – filled with beautiful fish, sand, rocks, crystal clear water. The fish delight in each others company and even seem interested in you when you come into the room to watch them. And then, over time, it starts to go wrong – the fish start fighting each other, kicking up sand into the filters, algae starts growing everywhere, one group of fish start bullying and attacking the others and before you know it the original harmony and beauty of your creation has almost entirely disappeared. What do you do? Do you get rid of the fish and start again, do you get rid of the whole aquarium and write it off as a bad idea? What about if you had the power to somehow be born into the fish tank as a baby fish in order to grow up in the tank and to show the others how to live as you originally intended? And not even to be born amongst the powerful group of fish but, instead, to become small fry to the oppressed and frightened group? To give up life in your mansion in the middle of your rolling countryside in order to put your life in mortal peril within your own creation? Well that is what God did and it is that which we are celebrating at Christmas – God giving up his position of creator of the universe in order to become a helpless baby to bring us back to the people and the creation that he intended.
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
- It is easy to forget that the little baby Jesus that we celebrate in so many nativity plays, crib services and see on so many Christmas cards was not just a little baby who happened to grow up into a wise teacher who unfortunately happened to be crucified for upsetting the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Rather, this baby Jesus is actually the incarnation of the Word of God and that he not only existed from the beginning of time but that he was the active force that created the universe:
- All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.
- This same Word of God divested himself of everything in order to be born into poverty and danger – we should not forget that not long after the pretty nativity scene with which we are so familiar it was necessary for Joseph and Mary to flee from Herod who started a slaughter of the innocents in order to prevent a new King of the Jews from becoming a threat.
- The Word become flesh and lived among us.
- Or as some translations put it – the Word became flesh and ‘pitched his tent among us’ – I love that – God decided that he would pitch his tent amongst us in the form of the person Jesus – he was throwing in his lot with us.
- And why did he pitch his tent amongst us in the person of Jesus? So that: “…all who received him, who believed in his name he gave power to become children of God”.
- So the Son of God became a Son of Man so that the Children of Men could become Children of God. The Son of God became a Son of Man, so that the Children of Men could become Children of God.
- And that is the choice and the challenge that Jesus presented to the world then and continues to present to each of us now. Do we receive him and believe in his name and so become Children of God or do we remain in the darkness? Are we attracted to the light in the darkness or are we afraid to come into the light?
- This Christmas time I would invite everyone to see Jesus Christ not simply as a baby in a manger but to remember that he is truly Emmanual, God with us, and that the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ all took place for the specific purpose of lifting us out of darkness and making us into children of God. Therefore, as we remember his nativity, let us all receive Jesus Christ in our lives and believe in his name and thereby truly come to know the glory, the grace and the truth of a life lived in the light of God’s eternal love.