Archive for December, 2008

The Greatest Present ever Unwrapped.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
 

 

Luke 2:8-20 The greatest present ever unwrapped

 

 

I have some ribbon here.  Who had a Christmas present wrapped in ribbon?  The ribbon wraps up and protects the surprise hidden within.  When we see a ribbon wrapping a box, we know that the box is something special.  Its actually more than a box, its a gift; something special that we are going to receive for free from someone who loves us.  The ribbon, all beautifully coloured, excites our imagination and heightens our sense of expectancy:  What is under the wrapping?  Will it be something I really want or need? Will this present change my life? 

 

Once the ribbon is undone, the present unwrapped, we begin to see and appreciate the gift.  Once the ribbon is removed, the gift can then be used.  Today is Christmas Day and today is the day many people all around the world unwrap the ribbons from around their presents to see and begin to use their new gifts. 

 

Today is the day we as Christians are reminded of God’s gift to us; a gift also wrapped in ribbon as the angels proclaimed ‘”Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.  God’s gift to us was wrapped in ribbon cloths and lying in a manger.

 

The ribbon cloths wrapped around the baby Jesus, in a hidden way, presented him to us as a present from God; a present to be unwrapped, a free gift of love from God to us.  The ribbon cloths, in God’s own special way, made Jesus more than just a baby, more than just a man.  They were a sign to us that this baby is Jesus the Christ; the chosen one from God, as the angel said ‘he is Christ the Lord and this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths’. 

 

Like all presents, in order to be seen and enjoyed, Jesus couldn’t stay wrapped in the safety of his cloths, he needed to be freed to grow, live and work in the world.  Jesus needed to reveal himself to us as God’s Son and to show us what it meant for him to be the Christ…the one who would save people from their sins.  And he did just that, as Luke reports ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.  From the moment the ribbons of cloth were removed, the gift of Jesus was unleashed onto the world and the world was never the same.

 

And it was during these years of Jesus ministry that he showed us just how much of a special gift he was to us.  During his time among the people of Israel, he demonstrated God’s love through his actions and words. 

 

Jesus was a present to the blind by giving them sight.  He was a present to the crippled by enabling them to walk.   He was a present to the lost and outcast by giving them hope.  He was a present to the grieving by weeping with them, a present to the joyful by bringing the dead to life.  And he was a present to those who were hated by saying ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.”

 

Yet this was not the ultimate purpose of Jesus ministry.  These gifts were only part of the bigger present of Jesus.  God sent his only Son to be a gift for all of humanity, for you and me as well, as the angel’s announced ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all people on whom his favour rests.’  In order to bring true peace to all people, the ribbon cloths wrapping Jesus as a baby needed to wrap his body one more time.  For God’s present to us to be total and complete, the ribbon cloths were used a second and final time. 

 

Just as Jesus’ tiny body as a baby was wrapped in ribbon cloths and placed in a manger, Luke records what happened to Jesus crucified body; bruised, beaten and bloodied for our salvation ‘They took Jesus body down [from the cross], wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock.  And there he lay.  God’s present to us, the gift of Jesus; still and lifeless, wrapped in ribbon cloth.  That is, until God himself unwraps Jesus, throws the ribbons of cloth away, and raises him to life.  Our best ever present has now been completely unwrapped and the Christmas angel’s announcement to us has now been fulfilled. 

 

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’  Through Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection, he has given to all who believe the gift of eternal life.  This is what makes Jesus is the best present ever, and this is what makes him our saviour, and this is why he IS Christ the Lord.

 

Amen   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things couldn’t get any worse!

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Advent Luke 1_26-38  Things couldn’t get any worse!

 

I think all of us can relate to Murphy’s Law.There isn’t a day that goes by that one or more of Murphy’s Laws have proved correct in our lives.  I have a list of the top 7 laws of Murphy.

MURPHY’S LAWS

1.     Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

2.     If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. Corollary: If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.

3.     If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.

4.     If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.

5.     Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.

6.     Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

7.     It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Because Murphy’s Law is law, it means it will happen, so all of us need to plan and prepare for everything we do.  Perhaps its preparing for something small, like booking in the car for a service before Christmas or perhaps our preparations are as big as planning for a wedding or a whole new outreach ministry or church program.  Often many hours of careful planning go into our special events and yes, just when we think nothing more could ever go wrong….it does.

 

Murphy’s Law teaches us that the world is not perfect and it never will be and it teaches us that our lives are not perfect and never will be.  As St Paul says ‘sin entered the world through one man.’ Because of sin, death and the devil, our world, our lives are never going to go smoothly. Yet we constantly strive to have the perfect life.  Our whole culture is based on the underlying premise that we can achieve the ‘perfect life’.  If we critically analyse TV programs, how many high rating shows are really only all about feeding our inner desire to find the perfect life?  Look how perfect the backyard or holiday or medical nip and tuck or home cooked meal goes to plan and looks just perfect when completed; not a problem in sight.

 

Or perhaps you have received a Christmas letter from a friend, where in it they proudly tell of their wonderful year, where all is perfect.  Kids are achieving, holidays have been splendid, there are job promotions, extensions to the house, and a new car.  This desire to achieve the perfect life even influences many Christians.  There are those who claim, that if we strive hard enough, pray fervently enough, plan our lives well enough, we can achieve the perfect life God wants us to have.  God will bless us when we achieve perfection.

 

Yet, when we try it, when we do everything in our power to achieve the perfect life…well, I think we get hit by nearly everyone of Murphy’s top ten laws, especially no. 3 ‘If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.’   How can we deal with this?

 

Well, when it comes to things going wrong and having a faith to see it through, there is a great deal we can learn from Mary’s problem; her predicament.  We can learn that one thing is for certain, when God is involved in our life, life never goes to plan…yet, as in Mary’s instance, when all seems to be going wrong, its actually going to plan…God’s plan! 

 

Luke records the moment when Mary’s best laid plans, all her dreams and wishes, all her ideals and preparations for the perfect life with Joseph are all changed for ever. The angel Gabrielle said “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”  You can just sense in Mary’s response she as was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be, that she realised all her careful plans were about to come crumbling down.  After all, its not every day an angel of the Lord comes to visit you, and her hunch was right.  The angel said ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.’ 

 

Which one of Murphy’s Laws where ringing true for her at this time, who knows, perhaps number 2 ‘If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.’  For Mary, there couldn’t be worse news.  There couldn’t be a worse time.  There couldn’t be greater damage to her life.  Not only was she not married, she was still a virgin.  Not only was her whole life changed by this news, she had yet to tell this news to Joseph!  And to boot, she would have known their great wedding plans would now pointless; who would believe her story, she will be known as a cheater and a loose woman.

 

Life, for Mary, was anything but perfect.  If we were there, and knew Mary, would we point at her and say ‘your life is ruined’

 

Perhaps we would have, but Mary’s response to the news teaches us about faith and trust in God.  Rather than focus on her bleak outlook, rather than focus on the impossibility of a virgin birth, rather than being concerned about how others would see her, she simply says ‘I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”  She trusts in the word of God above every thing else.  She had nothing going for her; no sinlessness, no high birth, no marriage bliss, nothing at all to make her worthy of accepting this message as she did.  Yet both grace and faith are great in her. Mary is in every way the same as us. 

 

What Mary’s response to this trouble does for us, and arouses in us, is the joyful confidence that grace and faith will no less be just as great in us, who also believe the word of God.  We too, in times of great distress, when our lives are not going perfect, can be certain that God will give us the grace and faith to believe that he has the true plan for our life.  The lesson we can learn is to believe as Mary did; to believe that the word and promises of God, despite all outward contradictions, are Spirit and life and do what they say. 

 

Luther and St Augustine would say that by believing the word of God, Mary was already the mother of Jesus long before she was physically pregnant.  Luther writes ‘Mary was more full of grace and blessed in receiving Christ in her heart through faith than in her body.  It was this miracle which first had to take place in her.  If she had not accepted the words spoken by the angel and had let them pass by unheard, none of the miracles would have occurred.  But as they entered her heart and remained there, these things soon followed.’     

 

The miracle for you and me is that the proclaimed word of God and his holy sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, bring to us what they say.   In the exact same way as with Mary, when by faith we believe the word of God, it is made our own; faith takes hold of God’s promises and makes it happen in our life.  Jesus said ‘”I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes…has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  When we believe this word of God like Mary, we actually receive Christ into our hearts, and we have salvation and life eternal.

 

 Long before our troubles are over, long before any Murphy’s Laws cease, long before we ever have a hint of perfection in our lives, because of Christ we are already perfect; salvation is already ours; Christ is ours!   Then, when our time comes, and we die, the rest will happen; we will cross from death to life eternal…just as he has promised.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

30th Anniversary: Pres Neville Otto

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

 

30th Anniversary

If a Christmas tree can sing, can these walls speak?  If they could talk what would they say as we celebrate and give thanks today for our pastor and for this building, this place of worship?  Well they’d have some stories to tell about you and the people who have gone before.  They’d tell about how the church was built and about the people who have worshipped here.  But they’d tell something more.  They’d have heard the story of Jesus and they’d have seen the Holy Spirit at work in people.

They’d talk about the Palm Sundays here and the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Perhaps they’d like to quote Luke 19 when we hear that the crowds of disciples raised their voices in praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Luke tells us that “some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus “Teacher rebuke your disciples!”  And Jesus replies “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  There you go, perhaps the bricks, the walls can talk.

As we celebrate the affirmation of Pastor Brenton’s Call, and thank God for him and his family among us; as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of this place of this building we know that we are living stones with good news to tell.  1 Peter 2:4-5: “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Today we celebrate and give thanks.  We thank God for Pastor Brenton and we thank God for this building, this place of worship.  For those who came from Gil and supported this new congregation; who have built it and for those who have used it for worship and teaching and service, for the growth of Gil through the planting of Dubbo.  But above all today we give thanks to God that he builds us as living stones through the gospel that you have called pastor B and other pastors to proclaim and enact.  We are living stones built up in Christ and we are living stones who are sent out to live and move and have our being in him.  To proclaim the good news to the poor.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

The people who originally heard the news proclaimed by Isaiah were a people in need of hope, in need of rescue, in need of God.  The people of Israel had lost their temple because they had turned from the living God to their own selves, to their own false gods.  The people of Israel had been exiled out of their land and their temple had been desecrated and destroyed.

But here Isaiah announces God’s new hope.  Good news is at hand..freedom is coming.  Theyear of the Lord’s favour is here.  And God rescued the people of Israel and brought them home and gave them a new church..a new temple.   By nature, that’s how we are too.  We are all sinners and deserve God’s punishment in time and in eternity.

But the wonderful thing is that God sent his own Son to do something abut this.  We look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth as God yet true human again this Christmas.  Why? Because he came for us.  Luther said “What good would it be if Jesus were born a thousand times if he is not born for me?  Jesus came for each one of us and for all people.  Will we receive him?  He came to die for us and to take God’s punishment for sin which you and I deserve.  Jesus took our punishment in our place and through him we are forgiven.  But more than this Jesus was raised by the Father to new life and by the gift of the Holy Spirit this new life is given to us at baptism and renewed in us through the Word, the absolution and given for us in the Supper!

Dear friends that the reason we celebrate and give thanks this day.  What would these walls say if they could speak?  They’d tell of our stories, good and bad, happy and sad.  But more they’d tell us of Jesus who comes to us in all our needs.

As we look at the font, how many stories can you tell of baptisms here?  As you look to the altar think of those who have shared the Lord’s Supper at this table and who now celebrate with you at the heavenly feast.  Think of the marriage vows shared and the blessings of God on couples who have come here.  The young ones who have stood here and confessed their faith in Jesus as they confirmed their faith.  Think of the pastors who have promised in their vows to proclaim Jesus to you.  As you look to the cross think of the stories of the funerals conducted here when the gospel was proclaimed and when even at death people rejoiced because of the life won by Christ?  Dear friends the anniversary of this building is to be celebrated.  We thank God for those who have gone before us and those still among us who made this church possible.  We have many stories to tell but above all the one reason we give thanks and we celebrate today is because of what God has done and what he does by his Spirit bringing us to Jesus.  He is the one who frees us from the power of sin, death, and the devil.  He is the one who not announces but ushers in the year of the Lord’s favour by his presence.

Luke records in chapter 4 the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when Jesus reads the words of the prophet Isaiah which we’ve heard today.  READ LUKE 4:14-21.

Today again in your hearing the Scripture is fulfilled as Jesus comes to us.  To meet us in our lives with their troubles and with their joys.  Jesus is here among us.  And we give thanks.  We thank God for 30 years and we know that each year when Jesus has proclaimed, where he is present it is the year of the Lord’s favour for us.

We are blessed this day by the presence of Jesus and we celebrate our pastor and the ministry he has.  We are blessed this by the presence of Jesus and we celebrate all that he does through the Word in this building.  For all these people and these things we thank God through Jesus.

And above all this day we prepare for the journey ahead together.  We go from the font and with the Word in our ears and in our hearts.  We go from the altar with bread of life in us.  We go as living stones with the gospel in our mouths and and lives to proclaim the Saviour, Jesus Christ who birth, suffering, death and resurrection brings life.  This is the year of the Lord’s favour.  Amen.