The gift of Christmas presents

“The gift of Christmas presence”

Luke 1:26-28

When I was young, on Christmas Eve we would open our presents from Father Christmas and on Christmas day all our families would gather together at a home of one of our relatives in the most central location. It was great fun playing back yard cricket against our cousins and their mum’s and dad’s. I enjoyed all of the day except when it was time for the communal opening of our presents from our mum’s and dad’s. I always wished we could have stopped at just getting the big fella’s presents the night before, not because I wouldn’t have minded a few more, but because in the communal session, I could always see how my mum and dad seemed not embarrassed, but more sought of as second class parents because of the inferior type of present that they could provide compared to the other’s given. I didn’t care, but they seemed to and I always felt sad for them and just wished we didn’t have that part of the day.

Those times in our early days often follow us around later in our lives where we try and compensate in the other way and if we look at it from the two ends of the scale: The children of a poor family who may grow up and try to shower their own kid’s with presents, and the children of a rich family who may grow up with the in-built longing to not so much shower their children with presents but to be present in their lives.  Or, we just mutate to another form of the same which I only know too well where instead of feeling sorry for my mum and dad in their thoughts of not having the ability to furnish me with great gifts like the others around them, to know feeling like them on a daily basis when I line up my pathetic and spiritually poor bank account of self and service towards our Lord and Saviour. Guilt and wallowing in self-regarding shame or guilt and wallowing in self-hiding pride.  Shame diffused through the bottom of a glass or shame diffused and hidden through the striving for wealth, respect and position.

 I’ve had a crack at most of them but each of us have our default position when the dark clouds of self-worth hit amongst the certainty of our desire to run from it in the way that is only known to each of us, only to find that when we get there-that there it still awaits bigger and stronger, asking for not less but for more of the same as we increase the self-medication of moving closer to the park bench and empty bottles or closer to the leather padded Lear jet seat traversing the world in might and prestige.

Ironically, neither of these book ends of society are either wrong or necessarily better or worse than the others. I’ve met CEO’s who truly understand that the position they hold is of great importance not to themselves, but to the thousands of families that rely on them doing their job well so that the company remains strong and that their employees remain secure. Just as I’ve met a man who didn’t drink, seemed clean and well-spoken and who chose the freedom of sleeping on a bus stop bench happy with either the balmy nights and storm clouds or the clear nights and sparkling stars as his blanket. Both were great people and because they “got what is was all about” neither ridiculed or judged other peoples place in the world.

Our upbringing and our experiences can shape our sense of who we are and how we see things and it is often enlightening to see that come out in the answers people give in one of my favourite shows “Family Feud” and this week, one contestant when asked what is made of straw and in replying “a bed” was rewarded with four points and laughter from the audience, at which hearing, the smiling compare of the show Grant replied “come on Australia, it’s one of the best stories ever told.”

Maybe it was a throw-away line or his statement of faith, but either way it struck me that on a show where to win you need high point scoring answers, we were given an answer of little point value and use towards the prize on offer.

Similar on New Year’s Eve 2000 in the back ground on the T.V. was the countdown to voting on the greatest Australian song in history and upon reaching number one, a well-known Aussie Band said “oh that’s easy because it doesn’t matter where we play in the world there will always some drunk Australian ask that we play Cold Chisel’s Khe Sahn.

I agree and it has great heartfelt and real lyrics about a soldier returning from Vietnam and his struggles to fit back into society and one verse summarises it well by saying:

“And I’ve travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m drifting north, to check things out again.”

In writing this, I just noticed the word count and realized how long winded my introduction has been without any “God talk”. I’m sorry for that but so can be our searching for answers and contentment on this earth.

It is such a wonderful thing to see Jordana being baptised today into the arms of Jesus at the age of six weeks old and hearing His promise now imbedded into her very self that “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved.” What a great promise to receive and though Jordana does not understand it now, just as I did not fully understand when I was baptised as a twenty nine year old, she to like myself will see that the Lord does not make that statement lightly and in fact is prepared to go into the lowest pit or above the highest mountain to show himself that we may come to believe in Him.

The same Saviour sent to earth to be born to a humble girl called Mary who through becoming pregnant out of wedlock would have been the target of ridicule, rumour and out right disgust, trusted the message from the angel Gabriel that she was chosen to be not the mother of grace, but the daughter of the grace given to her and the world through the long promised Messiah and Saviour that she carried in her womb.

The same Mary who over the next 30 years would see here baby boy grow into a man and then be brutally tortured before being hung from a cross amongst criminals. A moment where the Blessed Mary may not have felt so blessed.

A long time Pastor once asked me what it is like in the real world when the troubles come. The death of those close, the stuffing up and being stuffed up and at times feeling alone and helpless. My answer was the same as then as it is now-not a lot: because in my chasing and searching both outside of Christ and with Christ I’ve felt the wraths and the joys of what life in both worlds can bring. Times of being blessed by the unlikeliest of people and situation in the front bar of a hotel and times like that of the blessed Mary where we stand confused at the foot of suffering.

I bought a new CD this week where a song’s chorus goes “I don’t know where I’m running but I know how to run, cos running’s the thing I’ve always done” which reminded me of a little boy I knew used to know who would be woken in the middle of the night and told to run to safety through the paddocks to the neighbor’s house and today if you meet this man and look closely you will sometimes still see that little boy still trying to run from himself and though each step seems aimless and another the worse for wear, Jesus Christ run’s with him. Not to ridicule, lector or place demands. But to guide, lift up and ask that he know the truth that is Jesus Christ himself who has been with him the whole way asking and pleading over and over again that we head to His cry in Matthew chapter 11, verse 28 to “come unto me, all who that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

When my son was three years I went to him under the cloud of anguish and “asked that he forgive me for not being the Father I wished I could be”. To which he replied “what do you mean dad, you’re a great dad” and today just as we see a little child called Jordana before us, so do the three to be admired most, The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost see today your inner self and though to others and indeed to yourself you have hidden it away’, to them you need not because as you come before God the Father with Jesus Christ His Son and your Saviour by your side He sees not crimes of an enemy to be punished, but the anguish of a child needing to be covered cover with His love. His love that knows your journey. His love that has wept with you in the times of distress and cherished the moments with you when freed from them.

This Christmas we may or may not get the presents we would like but we can be assured that the greatest story ever told is not a fable or about some fictional scenario designed for bring out a false sought of hope in this world, but the story of truth arriving on this earth some 2,000 years ago given to little Jordana today and for her years ahead. A promise not from our actions but from His given to us on a cross in Israel 2,000 years ago where He gave up His earthly life that in ours we need not search or run no longer, but be still and rejoice that though the road may have been long and arduous, it has and will lead you home. Praise be to God. Amen.

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