“Back to front land”
I remember once sitting in Church on Christmas Eve hearing the Gospel read and thinking I’ve heard this every year and I know what happens-there’s no new surprises coming. Then I finally “woke up” and realised that if I hear this same story every year to my death, I may still only hear it 60, 70 or maybe 80 times.
Tonight we’ve heard part of it again, and again yes we know where it all heads and thank God for that. It truly is an amazing story and we should hear it probably every day of our life because although we know it so well, the how and why’s are so back to front to how we would have wrote the coming of the greatest person and event in history, it should still jolt us and our lives to the very core of our existence.
The saying that fact is stranger than fiction is right on the money should we have been there to see and hear of the events that Holy night.
If you were the Pagan emperor or King you were born to a life of privilege. Maybe a spoilt brat from start to finish and never really knowing or caring of how the other half live from your golden crèche to your castle of splendour where you were feted with great public celebrations for brushing your teeth never mind being the supposed “Saviour and Lord” and never did the ancient tabloid reporters of the day use the word humble toward their emperor and “king” as in the day that would have been anything but a compliment. So much for those guys who had their “Saviour.”
The Jewish were still waiting for their long promised saviour and messiah to arrive so that they would be rid of these Roman tyrants and their big brother tactics of strong arm force and coercion. The Saviour who would arrive and banish their detractors and put them back where they should be as the top dog’s, not just in God’s eyes but in the world’s realities and quite frankly if I was there so would have I considering how my God of unending power had created so precisely from minutest of things to the most amazing all of the earth and its inhabitants. How my God had shown His hand in Egypt and swept us to freedom from our captives with great miracles, provided us with trail blazing leaders to bring us home against the enormous odds of our enemies and indeed the enemies within ourselves, and so I wait-and still I wait to this day along-side a wall, walling and dreaming of the day when again we will have access to that piece of real estate and see the foundation of all what we are and re-build the Holy Temple that then, maybe then alongside God the Father will the great and powerful Messiah be with us.
Tonight I am in no way denigrating atheist, pagan nor any other faith including those of the Jewish because, we like them while having the free will to deny faith in Christ, have no power or desire to come to belief other than in having received that gift from outside of ourselves through the Holy Spirit
To believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, who has brought you forgiveness and eternal life is a greater miracle and treasure than we could ever imagine or hope for and that is why though it be not natural for us, we pray for our enemies and those not yet in Christ that they too will be lifted up and given His peace.
His peace and Glory not brought about in the splendour of castles, the finest robes or even amongst the religious elite in the temple, but given to us as a baby born of a humble virgin in a stable in the less than fashionable town of Bethlehem.
There were no halos, no seen angels hovering over the stable, no choirs singing in the background and not even as was the common practice upon the birth of a baby boy where local musicians would congregate and greet him with simple music, and had we been passing by we may have even
commented to another something about how terrible it was that this couple had brought a baby into the world and they only place they could lay the child was in an animal feed trough.
And yet, the shepherds already reeling that they, the one’s despised by many of the religious elite because of their work keeping them from participating in the religious activities of their communities, that they are the ones to be visited by a great company of angels from heaven singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all on whom his favour rests” and heralding the arrival of the Good News of great joy that will be for all people. That “today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you,” (and) “He is Christ the Lord.”
To those of the time, and indeed those of our time it is all “back to front ” and no more perplexing than it is of God Himself. God’s only Son, that is that little boy in the stable. Perplexing because religion is generally about getting our act together to be able to go up, not as with Christianity where the God, Our God The Father does the unthinkable and comes down among the mess.
The is a story about a European monarch who worried other officials by disappearing and walking incognito among his people and when he was asked not to for securities sake he would answer that “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.”
Talk about upping the ante, because although he was fully and truly God from all eternity, the Son of God took on true humanity when he was conceived in Mary’s womb and born in Bethlehem. He was not half-God and half-man, but fully God and fully man. He did not cease to be God, but was at the same time fully human with the same emotions,
same physical needs,
same pain that we all experience.
We talk about the grace of God and here we see it up close and personal, our God who could have done anything he pleased limit’s himself to become one of us. Grace up close and personal in the coming Jesus who knows the life we lived, because He lived it too.
The island of Molokai is a part of Hawaii and it has an interesting history. Back in the late 1800’s there was no cure for the horrible disfiguring disease, leprosy. In order to keep it from spreading and creating an epidemic, lepers were sent to a colony on the island of Molokai.
In 1873, there was a young Belgian priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the people secluded on the island of Molokai. When he arrived, he was shocked to see the condition of the people. Not only were they physically sick but they were also disheartened. There was drunkenness, crime and an overall sense of hopelessness. They needed God’s presence in their lives. And so, in 1873, Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers, knowing the dangers, realizing the inevitable results of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. In fact, in 1885 at the age of 45 he himself contracted leprosy.
A story as uplifting as is the faith and trust of Abraham daunting to us when we consider his preparedness to take up his Son Isaac to the top of a mountain as a sacrifice to God.
We know God stopped him at the last minute and while I am not sure how Father Damian went with his leprosy, can we ever comprehend the love God the Father, immense in power yet so great in love that he gives His Son not just to this world to save it, but ultimately for this world to devour Him.
On Wednesday morning I awoke from a terrible dream and it took me a couple minutes to realise it was only a dream and then a couple more before forgetting what it was about.
If humans had written a plan to save ourselves we would be still living a nightmare.
Thankfully the creator and orator of our lives wakes us from that nightmare by coming to earth to bring about change in our lives –
to give us peace and hope in the face of difficulty,
to clear away guilt for our sinful actions,
to tear down old barriers and restore love and forgiveness between people and to say to you tonight that in Jesus Christ my Son, we too like the apostle Paul that having been dragged to faith, we too can say with absolute certainty and live with complete confidence: “that we are convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.