Archive for January, 2014

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Sitting on the dock of the bay “Wasting Time”

Matthew 4:12-23

A few years back and being a collector of “things” I noticed that Elvis Presley’s personal bible was being sold and should I have been from another echelon of personal wealth,acquiring it would have certainly taken my fancy. That was never going to happen but just reading of it said something of the man himself where after having underlined a certain piece of scripture he had written on the side that “to be judged on a particular sin is like picking a single wave in the ocean”.

Elvis changed the world with his take on rock and roll, yet underneath it all his first and probably greatest musical love was Gospel songs and I still remember listening to one of those records in my grandma’s house when I was four or five years old. Later in life, I remember after his death his pastor saying that Elvis struggled his whole life wondering and asking God why He gave a man such as him the talent of such a voice.

Recently, without notice and put on the spot I was asked of what I had learnt in my first years in ministry and the first thing that came to mind was the reality of evangelising in our current times where the words from Luke 15:10 not only describe to me both reality of the roadblocks we face but also the gravity of what’s at stake as we are told “that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”.

The picture and reality of the heavens rejoicing in song for each person who turns to God leads one to ask like Elvis did of his golden voice, why me, why such as us have we been blessed with the glorious gift of faith. Said so well in song by Johnny Cash when he asks:

“Why me Lord, what have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known…Or the kindness you’ve shown…. Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way I can try to repay all I’ve taken from you. Maybe Lord, I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself on my way back to you”.

Lyrics of life that sit so well with the Johnny Cash story that I am certain have led many others to access Christ in their own lives and never underestimate His love so great. Yet ironically, while this song was written specifically of John’s life, it was not written by him but by Kris Kristopherson who at the time was yet still to be acknowledged for the fine song writer he was to become, and so in not being able to get an appointment with John to give him his song, and that legend has it that he hired a helicopter and arrived at John’s door with demo tape in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other somehow speaks to me about the magnitude of the Lord’s love for His people displayed in and with us when we least expect it or even understand it.

Elvis, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristopherson and the like, while not as obvious as a Billy Graham, a Wesley or a Luther, were even if they did not realise it themselves were in their own way fisher of people for the Lord as we see in them their awareness of, living in and clinging to the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Why me Lord? “Or “Why Lord?” is a question that is asked when the storms of life threaten to crush us, yet those same questions can be asked when we contemplate the miracle of faith given to us.

“Why me Lord?” I wonder if those fishermen in today’s Gospel asked that when asked to leave everything and follow Jesus. I wonder when suffering persecution those same men then asked the question again and after seeing the raised Son of God and knowing of their own shortfalls in abandoning Him prior, I’m sure that question would have been greater than ever if by then they had not come to know who Jesus was, what He stood for and the greatness of His unearthly and never ending love for all who walk this earth.

Like the apostles, the Christian Church is given the command to “Go therefore, and teach all nations (and all people) baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

When getting taught things in my previous employment I always liked the “KISS” method in keeping it simple and often after I few minutes I would stop my instructor and say please don’t assume I know anything about this, thus so treat me like a five year old (because it won’t insult me, but help me).

“Go and teach all people of Christ and baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” seems pretty straightforward, yet like you can “take a horse to water but not make him drink” I think we all can attest to the same in our efforts of evangelising and while that may lead us wonder why things are not seemingly happening, we have no need to wonder what’s going on, because we know, that as with us, the Holy Spirit does not tire in effort that the truth of the Lord be heard and felt by those in faith, hanging onto faith or yet to experience it.

Teach, preach and baptise is our call and yet the only control we have is to throw the truth of Christ, the seed of Christ to the world and trust not in ourselves but that those seeds will land in fertile ground. The fertile ground that though to us may seems harsh and barren, for all we know may have  been prepared long before we came along through people we may never know and through ways we could not even have contemplated.

God does indeed seem to work in mysterious ways and what a blessing when he does and the shouts of joy abound in heaven as another hears his call. Mysterious ways that are God’s and God’s alone as we as mere mortals are mostly only asked to keep it simple by hearing the Word, living the Word and sharing it and our lives with those he brings before us.

In my previous employment I was working in a large department of a large organisation that had placed upon it sometimes, often unreasonable expectations. These unrealistic key performance indicators always resulted in the latest hired gun with an ascent being moved on and leaving behind a workforce completing their duties in spite and fear rather than thanks and gratitude.

It was an at times torturous soul sapping workplace. Enter CEO number four thousand who upon arrival met with our section of the leadership team of about nine members and talked at length about his plans to bring respect, ownership and an enjoyable workplace to those on the “shop floor”. I thought finally and as luck would have it, after having talked with him publicly in the meeting, not more than thirty minutes later I came upon him in the office space and as our eyes caught contact and I started raising my hand to formally introduce myself, he looked the other way and kept walking as if I was invisible. Yer right.

Two years later enter CEO number four thousand and one. Same job, same unrealistic and unachievable goals and eventually same outcome as number four thousand and two was being “head hunted”.

Yet this man was different and in one of our leadership training courses after his demise and after re-hearing the same principles that we had heard from the past bevy of trainers I made an observation of our recent removed CEO where I said what was different on the floor was that while their sometimes realistic expectations were the same, not once did I hear them blame him and when he was eventually given notice, they actually felt empathy for a good bloke given a rotten job. Asked why this was so I said that as far as those on the floor, the only difference was that he always acknowledged them with a friendly hello or goodbye.

After the trainer had publicly ridiculed me in front of my colleagues I did agree that there is a lot more to leadership but I did remark that being friendly and accepting people how they are might be a reasonable place to start. Previously I felt like the invisible man and now I seemed to be speaking in some strange dialect.

That sometimes the simple and seemingly peripheral things of life are actually the point can be hard to comprehend and after finally agreeing to taking my son Josh fishing when he was very young, it didn’t take long till a repeated question was being asked “how long till we catch a fish”, which was probably fair enough because we could see them there swimming past our hook and occasionally nibbling on a floating cigarette butt. .

I few hours later and leaving fishless I mentioned that when fishing I always look at it as a time of rest and when with another, a great way to spend the day chatting and spending time with them and should a fish be caught, it’s like a bonus. As we left the wharf I saw a few nods of approval although when loading the car with our gear and hearing Josh state that he at least expected to “catch an old boot” left me wondering.

Like Jesus walked past four fishermen and asked them to follow him he asks the same of us. For most, not that we re-invent the wheel or spend our lives in a monastery, but that we keep it simple by trusting in the truth that we are saved in Christ alone and have eternal life and that in the truth of what he has done for us on the cross and in our lives, He too has done for others, wants to continue to do for others, and wants them to know it as they come to know Him.

We are to be fisher of people for our Lord and saviour and though we may not be seeing the results as the disciples in the book of acts, we trust that as He did to us, should we do likewise and share the gift of the Gospel in action and words to those regardless of status high or low, of nationality or any human division, that in accepting them, they may accept Him and should in of our actions the seed land on the ground prepared by Christ and through others and we see that the heavens are rejoicing yet again like at that hour when we first believed, we too rejoice knowing that though they may still suffer and celebrate in equal portion, we know that as Christ suffered and celebrated with them in the past when they knew His grace not, that Christ will certainly in need suffer and celebrate with them again to ensure that they follow that grace home, and that as we fish, still standing on the wharf as the fish seem to pass us by unnoticed we do not need to concern ourselves as our concern is not that we are on the wharf without result, but that we simply remain on that wharf recasting our line.  Amen.

Saints and sinners

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Our Testimony is Him

1st Corinthians 1:1-9

In our second reading today,  the apostle Paul addresses the members of the congregation in Corinth and what he says to them, also applies to us today as Christians sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saints in Christ, a title or position of the Corinthians in their day, and the title and position of us in our world that can be hard to comprehend when we look deep into ourselves and see what lurks within.

In Pauls letter to the Corinthians, we see these special people called saints don’t seem to different to anyone else as if the following chapter we hear that they were split up in factions setting themselves up to be better than the other. There was bickering and squabbling going on among them with their differences becoming so strong that they were ready to fight about them to the point of suing one another and taking their matters to court.

Lust and pride, envy and jealously reared their ugly heads in their midst and had led them off track to where Paul found it necessary to reprimand and correct them of their ways. Fast forward to the world of Christianity today we still see that just as then, we too of our time express and show the same side effects of sin in our lives.

And yet to us, like Paul to the Corinthians we are called to be saints. Sinners in ourselves yet saints in Christ.  Amazing yet true because of Christ sharing the glory of His holiness with us. Hard to comprehend yet not just wishful thinking as we come to hear and know that it is because who we are, sinners all, that the Father sent his only begotten Son into the world that he might take upon himself our very sinful nature and bear the burden and the penalty of our sin.

Our Saviour Jesus who lived a sinless life that no one could find fault in Him. Who in His suffering and death paid the penalty for sin that we ought to have paid so that we might be set free from the guilt of our sin and be counted worthy to stand in the presence of our holy and just Father in heaven.

Christ shares with us the glory of His righteousness that all who call on His name and accept Him in faith as their Saviour are called saints. Jesus Christ the Saviour who came upon this earth as God’s beloved Son shares His sonship with you by faith so that you too, are called the sons and daughters of God.

The beautiful truth of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour that we must hear again and again so that we not fall to doubt of where we stand before our Father in heaven as we travel this side of heaven knowing the “inconvenient truth” of our sins.

Sinners and saints. Sinners in ourselves and yet most assuredly saints and renewed in Jesus Christ our Saviour. A contrast as far apart as East to West, or north to South yet met in the middle at the axis point of our Jesus Christ who does not deny to us our sin, but overturns it to bring His freedom and forgiveness. His freedom and forgiveness that erases the heavenly consequences of our past failures and sins that their load of self-doubt and conscience is turned inside out as we see His hand at work  bringing us forgiveness and safety amongst the Kaos. His forgiveness and safety among the Kaos not that we deny those moments, but that we not deny Him. His forgiveness and safety among our worst of times and sins that change the past that the failures are not condemning, but turned over, that in them we take His Gospel to those still chained and heavy laden.

Last week unable to sleep with things on my mind I turned on the T.V. to watch evangelist Joyce Meyer preaching in a stadium before a huge throng of people. Ten thousand people in America hearing her preach to them and one at 5.00 am in Murray Bridge who needed to hear the truth of the sin they knew of themselves, and the truth of the forgiveness and new life they have in Christ.

Set free in Christ we see that though we have suffered in the past from our own and others doings, we see that He was there carrying and moulding us that we come to know His Gospel for ourselves then, or at some point in the future.

Moulding and carrying us through the darkness that should we fall again, we not doubt His presence or the grace He brings that again we see His light of a new life burn bright in our lives and rise again, knowing the words of Paul in today’s reading, that:

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you are blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Because) God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

For me, sometimes I don’t feel so strong and maybe you the same. But for me and for you I know our Lord and Saviour is, as too I know God the Father is faithful and that is our message to our Christian Brothers and sisters, to our friends, families, work colleagues and people we meet.

And just as importantly, maybe even more so some-times, that is the message to our selves.

Not a message of wishful thinking or denial of our actions past, but the message to you from Christ himself who through your failures and tribulations brought you His grace. The message to you from Christ himself, that having received His grace have been enriched in every way, that in all your speaking and in all your knowledge it can be a testimony of Christ the Saviour confirmed in you.

And though in our world others may doubt the truth of Christ, just as when we fall we may doubt our standing before God the Father, we testify to His truth that comes not from ourselves, but from Christ himself. That in trust in Him alone as your only Saviour and only hope, just as you are today, in Christ you stand before God the Father glowing spotless in the righteousness of Christ, saved and most assuredly given eternal life. And we thank God for every moment that has led us to know that truth, and thank God that we can most assuredly attest to both others and ourselves of His love, His life and His grace that is freely given to all in Christ.

“I will never forget you”

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

“I will never forget you”

The author Ron Lee Dunn tells the story of two altar boys.
One was born in 1892 in Eastern Europe. The other was born just three years later in a small town in the USA. Though they lived very separate lives in very different parts of the world, these two altar boys had almost identical experiences. Each boy was given the opportunity to assist his parish priest in the service of communion. Ironically, while handling the communion cup, they both accidentally spilled some of the wine on the carpet by the altar. There the similarity in their story ends.

The priest in the Eastern European church, seeing the wine stain, slapped the altar boy across the face and shouted, “Clumsy oaf! Leave the altar.” The little boy grew up to become an atheist. His name was Josip Tito – the communist dictator of Yugoslavia for 37 years.

The priest in the church in the USA upon seeing the stain near the altar, knelt down beside the boy and looked him tenderly in the eyes and said, “It’s alright son. You’ll do better next time. You’ll be a fine priest for God someday.” That little boy grew up to become the much loved Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

I don’t believe we can ever underestimate the power that affirmation and encouragement have in our lives. When we are feeling particularly disheartened and depressed about what is happening in our lives, positive and encouraging words begin to lift us out of the doldrums and lead us to see things a little differently. You may never know the impact of your words but do not underestimate them.

Someone once said,
Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
Criticize me, and I may not like you.
Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I will not forget you.
Christmas seems such a long time ago now but it was just 3 weeks ago that we celebrated the birth at Bethlehem; the beginning of the earthly life of our Saviour.
Today we celebrate another beginning in the life of Jesus – it is the beginning marked by baptism. Jesus now is a grown man and approaches the banks of the River Jordan one hot and dusty day. There he comes face to face with John the Baptist and even though John tries to deter Jesus; Jesus is baptised. Here at the Jordan, Jesus enacts God’s saving deeds for human kind by [literally] standing with sinners. In his baptism he becomes one of us. He takes on himself our sin; and then heads forward to Jerusalem and the cross. There He as the sinless one offers up his own life as the ransom payment in the place of many; in the place of you and me.
As Jesus left the Jordan River we are told ‘heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased.” The other gospel writers record this same event but the words Jesus hears is even more personal. The voice from heaven speaks directly to Jesus, saying, You are my own dear son. I am pleased with you“.

What a way to begin a new stage of one’s life!
What a way to feel before setting out on a new course!
What a thing to hear and reflect on later when the challenges that life would throw at him would be almost too much to bear.

We all long to hear the words, “Well done!” It’s easy to be critical and negative. All of us have felt at some time the pain of a negative and critical comment. Praise the Lord that we have a God who is an affirming God, an encouraging God. Usually we express our appreciation after a person has done something that pleases us but with God, it’s different.Before Jesus had told a single story or had healed a single person, before Jesus remains faithful to his task as Saviour, before he speaks about God’s love and forgiveness, in fact, before he does anything there is affirmation. God speaks those longed for words, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you”.
God affirmed Jesus at the beginning of his ministry and he affirms his relationship with us even before we are able to do anything that we might think would earn God’s favour. In grace he says to us, “You are my dear child and that pleases me”.
Baptism is an act of God which celebrates how special and precious we are in God’s eyes. In our baptism, as in the baptism of Jesus, we celebrate God’s welcoming love, a love that comes prior to anything we may have done and prior to anything we may yet do. When the water of baptism was poured over us, however long ago that might have been, he made a personal promise;
“I promise that I will be with you always.
It doesn’t matter where life’s journey will take you, I will walk beside you.
Even if you aren’t always loyal to me, I will always be loyal to you.
When life takes a turn for the worse, I will be there to comfort and help you.
When you need superhuman strength to overcome trouble,  I will be there to give you the strength you need.
When you call to me in prayer, I will always be listening and will use my power to answer your prayer.
When it comes to your dying moment, I will take you to the place I have prepared for you in heaven”.
God has made a promise like this to all those he calls his dear children. In the Old Testament he promised the people who were experiencing very troublesome times, “Even though it is possible for a mother or father to forget their child, I will never forget you. … I have written your name on the palms of my hands”.

“You are my own dear child and my love for you will never stop. Be certain you are loved right here and now. Your name is written on the palm of my hand.”

How’s that for affirmation and encouragement. The almighty and all-powerful God of the universe makes a commitment to one of his creation to affirm us as his dearly loved children even when we don’t feel as though we deserve that kind of favour. He tells us he will hold our hand to comfort and encourage us even when the situation appears to be hopeless.
Today, the day we recall the way Jesus was affirmed and encouraged by the voice from the heavens and the descending dove, is a great day to remember with thanks the way God has assured us that we are his “dearly loved children” and affirms that regardless of what may happen he will not forget us and hold our hand, even carry us if necessary, through dark valleys and troublesome times.

This promise is certain.  He says this to each of us, “You are my own dear child”.I will never forget you. … I have written your name on the palms of my hands”.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

 

Fair exchange?

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Second Sunday after Christmas

Ephesians 1:3-14

(this sermon uses the illustration of a filthy rag.)

I have here a filthy rag.

You can see it’s filthy, and it’s a rag. In fact, there is nothing appealing about this rag at all.

But would anyone like this rag?

Would anyone like to take it home? Would anyone like to care for it and love it? Would anyone like to clean it up, patch it up, and give it a special home?

Anyone?

Now before anyone promises to take it home, I should tell you I’m not willing to give this away for free. It will cost you.

So how much should you have to pay for this dirty rag?

$1?

$100?

$1,000?

No, that price is too small for this rag.

How about you swap one of your children for this rag?

Now I know some parents might be very tempted to swap their children at times, but what if I tell you that you would need to be willing to give up your child’s life.

Anyone still want this rag?

I don’t think anyone in their right mind would like to exchange their child for this dirty rag!

Yet God our Father, before we even knew him or even wanted to know him, decided to swap his Son for us – we filthy rags!

Now before anyone objects to being called a filthy rag, especially as you are all dressed so well, I am trying to illustrate how dirty and unclean we are in God’s sight. From our own perspective, we are intelligent, hard working and valuable people and are nothing like a filthy rag. We see good people in the mirror, but God sees everything we try to hide. God sees the grime of our selfishness, greed, jealousy, hatred, apostasy, and sinfulness oozing out all over us.

Just like this filthy rag, we cannot save ourselves. We can’t clean up our own act. We have nothing to offer as payment; in fact even our potential use is unappealing.

Just like this rag, and despite what we think of ourselves, there is nothing appealing about us at all. We continually rebel against God and hurt him. Our only hope as filthy rags is that God made us in his image, God chose us to be his own, God paid our ransom price with the blood of his own Son, God adopted us as his own children, and God cleaned us up through his forgiveness. All actions are God’s and are not based on our own worth, or even our potential worth in any way. After all, do you really think you’re worth more than God’s own Son that he would give him up as a swap for you?

Yet despite the fact we are worth no more than a filthy rag, he did all this for us!

Such amazing love!

We struggle to fathom such love because we normally only love people who are worthy of our love. We love only as a response to something good they have done for us. On the other hand, if someone hurts us, they’re off our ‘love list’. But God does the opposite. God loves you despite the fact you are not worthy of his love! God decided to love you even before you had a chance to do anything for him! In fact God loves you even though you continue to hurt him.

We struggle to understand God’s love, especially once we realize how unworthy and unlovable we really are. In fact, if you think about it, if you think God loves you for who you are or who you could be, you’ve just limited God’s love. God’s love, God’s amazing grace which saved wretches like you and me, is beyond our comprehension, yet this is what Paul is trying to communicate to us today.

He tells us of the Father’s decision to adopt us as his children. He tells us how he did this through the blood of his only beloved Son. He tells us of the Holy Spirit whom God gave to us as a down payment, as a guarantee of our inheritance as God’s adopted people.

Now why would he do such a thing?

What’s the purpose of his gracious and loving action to adopt us?

Well, his purpose of adoption, his purpose of swapping us for the life of his beloved Son, is so that we can come before him as clean and blameless people. Now he can’t have filthy rags in his presence, so he needed to clean us up by using his own Son’s blood. He did this so that we filthy people would become holy people without blemish or stain. He did this so that we might be like his Son.

Now of course we can’t be like his Son, but again this shows God’s extraordinary grace.

The only way we can come into his presence as holy people is through the blood of his only beloved Son Jesus Christ. That’s the ransom price for us filthy rags. God willingly swapped his own Son for us filthy rags We can’t measure that love. We can’t fathom the grace. We can’t understand the undeserving favour of God.

Despite the fact that all people are like filthy rags in his sight, he willingly paid this price for all people, no matter how good or how bad they are. This is the message of the gospel, but unfortunately, only some believe it. Those who believe this message of grace are those God has chosen.

Now this may raise a question in your minds. What if someone doesn’t believe, does that mean God hasn’t chosen them, that he hasn’t predestined them to receive his grace and love?

No, it doesn’t mean God has not chosen them for salvation. God loves and wants to save every ‘filthy rag’ in the world, but strangely some of them reject his grace and love. It’s like the rags didn’t want to be swapped or cleaned up. It’s like they want to stay just like they are, as if there is nothing wrong with them. God’s grace is still there. God has chosen them, but they choose to reject his grace and love.

But since we believe, we are assured God has indeed chosen us for his very own!

Therefore this is the mystery we celebrate.

We celebrate the love of God shown through Christ Jesus and guaranteed to us through the deposit of his Holy Spirit on us. We celebrate the fact God chose us for his very own, even though we don’t deserve it. We celebrate that God chose us filthy rags, that he paid our ransom price through his Son’s cruel death, and that he has made us clean and holy through the blood of his own Son. We celebrate he has sent us the Holy Spirit as a pledge to guarantee this is all true, even though we are yet to see this wonderful message’s fulfilment with our own eyes.

This is the glory of God shown to us, we filthy rags.

Praise God that, even though we have nothing to offer him, he chose us and wants us to come before him as clean and holy people through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

No room in the Inn

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Sermon for Second Sunday after Christmas.

       John 1:1-18

 

We spent a lot of time getting our homes in order in the lead up to Christmas, didn’t we? Especially if we were having guests or family over for Christmas, we may have spent hours cleaning, decorating, cooking, and reorganizing. We want our homes to be welcoming places for those who visit us.

What kind of home welcomed the Son of God? What kind of dwelling place did he find? Well, you know the story well. There was no room for him at the inn, so his first home was in a stable. Not long after that Herod want to annihilate him, so he and his parents made Egypt their home. Upon return, his home became Nazareth, and there he lived for the next thirty years. Then, when his public ministry began, he was a guest in all kinds of homes. He dined with religious elite and with the prominent Pharisees of the day. But he also entered the homes of sinners and outcasts, like Zacchaeus. He visited the homes of those who were sick and those who had already died, like Jairus’ daughter whom he raised to life. In the many homes where he was a guest, there were those who loved him dearly and welcomed him. But there were also those who plotted his death – indeed, he would soon make his home in the grave; he would become a guest in the tomb.

But the gospel for today speaks of another home that Christ entered. In 1:14 the evangelist John tells us: ‘The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us’. ‘The Word’ here refers to Christ, God’s Son. And what is meant by ‘flesh’? Flesh stands for everything we are: our bodies, our souls, and our minds; but also our weakness, our mortality and our sin. And that’s where Christ has made his home. He has made his home in our flesh. The Son of God has become a resident in all that we humans are.

What kind of welcome did he receive to this home? Not a warm one, John tells us: ‘though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him’. He stands at the front door of his own home, his own children answer the door, and yet they tell him: We don’t know who you are – good bye’.

What kind of welcome does he receive in your home? Do you always feel at ease with Jesus at your kitchen table, or in the back seat of your car? Is he welcome in the conversations you share and the thoughts you think? Do you invite him to join in the gossip? Is your home, is your flesh, a fitting place for Christ?

Well let’s face it, often it isn’t. But that’s just the point! Christ was born in Bethlehem for no other reason that he could live in your life. The Word became flesh so that you can welcome him every day. Christ is always a guest in the home of sinners. He won’t politely ask to leave when we become embarrassingly entangled in sin. He doesn’t mutter excuses about needing to be elsewhere when our good Christian front falls to pieces. As long as you’re willing, he’ll stay. For the Word became flesh – and he still is.

But as long as he stays, your home will also change. And that’s because as well as entering your home, he also brings gifts. Not a box of toys or bowl of tossed salad, but something much better. Listen again to our verse: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’. He comes with Christmas hampers full of grace and full of truth.

By his grace he accepts the state of our home – but with his truth he repairs and restores it. By grace he redeems us from the sins of our flesh – with his truth he renews us to serve him. His grace puts up with our ignorance and silliness – his truth enlightens our minds with the knowledge of God. By grace he dwells with sinners, and by his truth he sets us free from sin. This is the guest who enters our homes: the One who became flesh and dwelt among us.

And this is also what Christmas is all about. For these days will soon pass through Epiphany and then on to Lent and Easter and Pentecost. The baby in the manger will grow, he will suffer, he will die, he will rise and take his place in his eternal home, at the Father’s right hand. And there, brothers and sisters in Christ, he prepares a home for us. Not in fallen flesh, but in the new creation. For the one who wrote: ‘the Word became flesh’ also recorded Jesus’ promise: ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms…and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’.

May the Son of God, who prepares a home for us, dwell in our homes today and always. Amen.