Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

The Light Has Come

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

The Light Has Come

John 3:19-21 (256)                                                                                                  24 December 2016

012This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

Even in the middle of the day, when the suns at its brightest, you can find lights on in just about every building you go into.  It seems as if we put them on, and sometimes leave them on, whether we need them or not.

Of course, lights are very valuable, even during the day, especially when we’re doing work which requires us to be able to see exactly what we’re doing without having to strain our eyes.

If we drop our keys in the dark, we can search for them for a long time if we haven’t got a light that’s handy.  It’s so much easier when we’re reading if we have a good strong light behind us.  Good light can help us avoid tripping over things.

And when we’re cleaning something or repairing a tiny piece of equipment – we appreciate good lighting.  We could get very frustrated without it.

 

But we don’t always appreciate the light.  There are times when we’d rather have darkness.  On some occasions, we can be doing things that we’d rather not be seen doing.  And so we can cringe at the light.

A really strong spotlight, for example, which might be very valuable for us at one particular time, would be the last thing that we’d want shining on us if we were involved in some kind of embarrassing activity.  It exposes us.

And when there are bright lights around, showing up marks or stains on table-cloths and clothes, and dirt and smudges on walls and carpets, we can feel a little uncomfortable, too, especially if other people notice them.

Light certainly does make things very plain.  It enables us to see clearly what’s going on about us, and helps us to avoid danger.  It also exposes us, our actions and intentions; it brings out into the open that which we may be ashamed of and want to hide.

 

And Jesus, the Light of the World does both of these things too.  He exposes us for what we really are.  He makes us face up to and admit all our weaknesses, blunders, and selfish thoughts and actions.  He sees right through us.

There’s no way we can hide from the Light of the World, and there’s nothing that we can keep from him.  Everything we do and say that’s not perfect is uncovered and made visible by him.

Jesus wants us to front up, accept the fact that we don’t live up to his expectations, and acknowledge that we’re not the innocent models of virtue that we make ourselves out to be at times.  He comes to expose us so that we stop kidding ourselves into believing that all we need to do is try a little harder and everything will be OK.

And Jesus comes to convince us that by ourselves, by our own strength and initiative we’ve got nothing that we can do to make ourselves acceptable before God.  No efforts, no great acts of heroism, not even generous contributions of time, effort or money to the church, will make any difference.

Our efforts are all tainted by sin, and so of no use at all in our attempt to win God’s favour.  Jesus exposes us as we really are and shows us that we have no way of changing, improving ourselves or influencing God to change his mind about us.

 

But Jesus, the Light of the World, doesn’t come to just to expose our sin, nor to take great delight in us having to suffer because of our sin.  Jesus Christ came to help us acknowledge our sin – yes, but only so that we can see our great need and welcome him into our lives so that he can do something about our predicament.

God sent his Son into the world, not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

He came into the world to do what no-one else could do.  He came to free us from all stain of sin, so that we can stand confidently before God, and not have to squirm in our boots.

The punishment we deserve because of our sin has been wiped out by Jesus.  The Light of the Word has overcome all that we have deserved, and has given his light to replace the darkness in our lives.  So, no longer do we have to wonder whether or not we’re acceptable to God.  We’ve been made acceptable.  God no longer holds our sin against us, because Christ has wiped it out.

 

Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  Believing means holding to be true everything that Jesus has said about God, and about the way to God.  It means trusting that God does love us and does care for us – that he does forgive and bless us, that he is our Father, who wants only to have friendship and fellowship with us.

Whoever believes in him shall, not could, not might, but shall have eternal life.  That’s what God wants, and that’s what he’s made possible for all of us.

 

That’s why we need to hear the Christmas message over and over again – even though we may know it off by heart.  The Light has come, and it’s come for us and for our good.  We gain by Jesus’ presence – maybe not physically or materially, but certainly emotionally and spiritually.  Jesus coming to us means that we have his promise of eternal life.

That eternal life has already begun for us.  And because of it we can make changes in our lives, and live a life of service for others.

Jesus has come to us.  He’s offered us God’s friendship and love.  He’s offered us God’s grace and mercy.  He was born so that he could be lifted up on the cross for us so that we could have life with him, now and forever.

 

The Light of the World has come.  He’s exposed our sin, and he’s covered it over with his brilliant perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection.  We need that Light, even though it shows us as we really are.  We need that Light, because without it we remain in the darkness, bring judgement on ourselves and suffer the consequences of a life without God.

But Jesus has come.  He was born in Bethlehem so that he could be lifted up on the cross for us to turn to, believe what he offers us, and live confidently and joyfully as his people.  Amen.

Bishop Mark.

Born in a stable, oh dear.

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Luke 2:22-40

giftsAs was the custom of the day, 40 days after His birth Jesus like other babies was brought into the temple to be presented before the Lord. A big moment in any family’s life and to the untrained eye, not unlike any others before them. Yet a moment in time that a man named Simeon and an elderly women named Anna that through the gift of the Holy Spirit had been waiting for. The moment they would see the promised Messiah of the World. The Saviour who they now knew as this little baby named Jesus.

I imagine that when they went back to their normal lives they would not be able to contain themselves shouting this good news from the mountain tops.

If then was as now, which I suggest is more than likely, after Simeon and Anna left having such public conversation’s, a fly on the wall may have heard:

-You know the mother was pregnant before they married

-Very lowly people and from of all places Nazareth, ( A statement understood of the time as we hear later in the Book of John those saying not only “Can the Messiah come out of Nazareth,” but “Can there any good thing come?”)

-Born in a stable, oh dear. And you know who were there don’t you. Thieving low class shepherds.

-Messiah, yer right. You wouldn’t believe what they offered at the temple. A pair of doves-peasants. (Doves being the most modest of the different sacrifices that could be offered).

And no doubt upon Simeon or Anna suffering any unfortunate situation, I’m sure some would be going along the old almost gloating “where is your Messiah God now” line.

A line probably heard by all the apostles. Eleven killed for following Christ with only John dyeing a natural death though still living under exile on the island of Patmos because of his proclamation of the risen Christ.

And the 48 year old Mary, revered throughout time but then seen standing at the cross of her beloved 33 year old son seeing His pain and death while those around hurled ridicule and abuse.

A situation that no doubt, whether to you, or to another person you would heard the same unknowing words said in the tone of a viper. Words to hurt and ridicule but words that see us like little Jobs holding to the truth in faith as things happen in, to and around us that we would prefer not.

The myth of being a Christian: never have any more worries, life will be good, and if it’s not, it means your faith is not strong enough. A myth that even according to the odd late night evangelist is perpetuated with statements such as send in money and you will be materially rewarded tenfold.

Misguided, unrealistic and even sinister crap.

Becoming a Christian is like becoming a husband or wife and then a mother or father. Absolutely the joy increases, but so does the hurt-because their hurts and sadness’s become yours.

Having faith in Christ-in being a Christian we share with Christ, the injustices and hurts of this world and its people. We may get sick or we may not, we may struggle financially or we may not-so be it, that’s life. Jesus never promised either way, he promised that he would be with us through it all, to serve us and get us over the line.

We know that later as a man, Jesus enters Jerusalem and is welcomed as the great king. “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. The King of Israel”.

Absolutely true. Albeit misguided because those welcoming Jesus expected a warrior type of king to release them from the bondage of the Romans. To drive them out of town and when this doesn’t eventuate-we know the story.

Jesus had a bigger fish to fry. Yes Jesus would release them, release from the bondage of sin. To bring true freedom, not as the warrior king, but as the servant king.

Jesus didn’t come to run the bad guys out of town, but to bring the bad guys, the Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans and Australians-you and me into town-into his kingdom.

Yet this side of heaven, living in God’s kingdom can sometimes feel a bit like starting pre-season training or renovating a house as when you look back you think if only I knew that was going to happen, I doubt I’d have made it to the end. Yet somehow we are all here today scars and all. Scars that God did not bring on us. But scars that somehow he used to bring us to hear of Christ, to somehow bring us to turn towards God in repentance and be free.

“Born down in a dead man’s town the first kick I took was when I hit the ground, (and) you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much till you spend half your life just covering up”. The opening lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA”. A protest song about his country that he doesn’t much sing anymore since the tragedy of September 11 and instead wrote a song called the rising.

A song with biblical overturns directed towards his country, a song of rebuilding and a song of hope

“I make my way through this darkness

I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me….

There’s holy pictures of our children

dancing in a sky filled with light.

May I feel your arms around me

May I feel your blood mix with mine

A dream of life comes to me.

Come on up, lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising

Come on up for the rising tonight.”

Every person who walks this earth will at some time and at some level face persecution. And all will face death. That’s just how it is.

But in it all we know that:

Our pain upon Christ’s pain, is that, that has brought hope.

(and) Our rising upon Christ’s rising, is that, that has brought life.

In Christ what may happen is not what we dwell on; we dwell on what he has done. That he has brought us forgiveness, has brought us eternal life, has brought us freedom and has brought us life here today.

His love for us and joy of life he has given that cannot be taken from us by neither those who ridicule us, nor those who turn from us and treat us unfairly, nor the knowledge of our own sin, nor our own self- loathing.

For we are now free.

Free to cry and free to mourn, and free to live. Free to build up those who look to bring us down and free to love those who love us not. Free to climb the highest mountains or free to rest at the bottom.

Our lives of freedom from a man named Jesus. Jesus the human Son of Mary and the Holy and eternal heavenly Son of God who when entering Jerusalem as a fragile baby was worshipped by Simeon and Anna because they knew the truth.

Jesus who thirty three years later as a strapping young man and entering Jerusalem for one last time was greeted by the crowds who now saw him as the coming king by cheering and honoring him-yet only to fall away in his hour of need when he was beaten, bruised, ridiculed and slain.

When Jesus as a baby entered the temple Simeon and Anna saw the loved child of God who would change the world. .

When our neighbor enters our life in their hour of need, lowly, beaten, bruised, ridiculed and lost: in that person we may too may see them as the world does, but we too also see them as a loved child of God

The honor to see a loved child of come into our lives in whatever disguise: rich or poor: who is in need in this world-hungry, starving, wandering, looking for “something”, alone, angry, all self-centered, living a misguided high life or fragile and scared.

The honor to serve them that their earthly life may have meaning, and the honor to serve God that they know his meaning.

Like Simeon and Anna we have seen the Messiah our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ come into our lives.

Like Mary at the cross we have seen our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ unfairly beaten and killed.

And like Mary Magdalene standing by an empty tomb, the resurrected Jesus has met us in flesh and blood confirming every word of the Good news he had promised.

Martin Luther, called John 3:16 “the Gospel in miniature and the heart of the Bible,”

The Good news summarised From John 3:16 in just 26 words “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

26 words given to you feeling broken and suffering through the actions or self and others that allow you to if nothing else, rise up for another day appointed to you by God the Father.

26 words given to those of you with the means to be humbled that you serve and be served by both the obnoxious and the pleasant be it in either times of chaos and darkness, or peace and sunshine.

The Words of God that saw a little fragile baby born for our sake. The Words of God that saw that baby grow and be killed for our sake.

The Words of the bible that no matter what may seem, that you here-knowing the Lord and the Lord knowing you: can leave here today come what may-staking your life upon in both this earthly life and the heavenly life to follow.

Praise be to the: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit: for we know that as Jesus was born for us in this world, in Baptism we have been born again into His world.

Just as we know that as He was raised again from death to life on this earth, so too will we be raised to life to forever live in His heavenly presence. Amen.

Amen.

How’s your Christmas?

Friday, December 25th, 2015

Christmas Day

Luke 2:8-20

 

giftsDear heavenly Father, even if our Christmas isn’t the way we would like it to be, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we may rejoice in the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

How’s your Christmas going so far?

Is everything the way you planned it, or have some things already ‘gone wrong’?

Just think back through all your preparations for today. You may have gone to some effort to buy presents for a number of people, which was hard enough in itself because you may have wanted to find just the right thing for someone who doesn’t really need anything anyway. Then you had to wrap everything up in pretty paper and you might have put on some ribbons and other fancy decorations.

You put up the Christmas tree with lots of blinking lights and shiny decorations, which takes a long time because you want it to look ‘just right’.

You’ve thought through the food for today: what you’re going to eat and how much to cook – probably more than enough! You might use a special tablecloth, bring out the finest dishes and cutlery, select some nice drinks, and decorate the table with bon-bons, party poppers, tinsel, and candles. Even now you might be thinking about what you need to do to make today special and ‘just right’.

You might have a list of people you want to contact today, maybe you have a strict schedule so that you can see as many people as possible, and you might have put on your best clothes, best shoes, and your best behaviour.

You’ve planned long and hard so that today will be ‘just right’, after all Christmas is such a special time of year.

But how do you feel if or when things go wrong today?

What if they don’t appreciate that present you took so much effort to get?

What if a cat or a child climbs the pretty Christmas tree and it falls down?

What if you burn the food or don’t get it all served up at the right temperature?

What if you’re involved in an argument with a member of your family or one of your guests?

What if you’re alone this Christmas?

What if one of your loved ones has died and you miss them?

What if your family is divided by conflict or misplaced love?

What if your Christmas involves a bedside vigil with a sick person?

What if you receive news of tragedy today?

Despite all your best laid plans for Christmas to be ‘just right’, sometimes you can be very disappointed.

Because of the pressures and expectations of having a Christmas filled with peace and joy and family and love and forgiveness and good food and generosity, and having everything ‘just right’, many people really struggle when things don’t go the way they planned. Unfortunately for many people, today can be one of the most disappointing or saddest days of the year because it won’t be ‘just right’.

For too many, things are far from being anywhere near ‘right’. This could be because they have unrealistic expectations of themselves or other people, or it could be because sometimes bad things happen that they hadn’t prepared for.

If you had planned Jesus’ birth, would things would have turned out the way they did?

So that Christmas was ‘just right’, you might have chosen good looking and famous people to be the parents of Jesus, maybe someone like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

You might have announced the impending birth in the papers and arranged lucrative media deals to televise the birth in a famous and well-equipped hospital. Jesus would have been surrounded with every luxury, including the softest cloth to wrap him in, a comfortable bed, peaceful music to soothe his cries, and surrounded him with sweet smells. You may have invited important and influential people to witness the birth, and arranged a special list of gifts which they could search the world for to give the Son of God: after all, everything has to be ‘just right’.

But would you have chosen poor people from a village, that no-one would think anything good could come out of, to be the parents of the Creator of the universe?

Would you have arranged for them to travel by foot to another town just before the child was to arrive?

Would you have booked out every hotel and home in the village so the only place they could give birth is in a place where animals lived? For those of you with animals, would you even consider letting anyone stay overnight in your dog kennel or chook house, let alone allow them to give birth in there?

Would you have ensured the only midwife available was the husband who couldn’t even call 000 for advice? The only music and smells would have come from the animals, the cloth might have been rough, and the first bed was a feeding trough!

Would you have announced the birth to some of the most disregarded and criticised people who live outdoors to look after sheep? Even if you did, would you have invited them to witness this historic occasion instead of inviting powerful and worthy dignitaries?

This doesn’t sound like a Christmas that’s gone to plan, yet according to God’s plan, everything’s just right!

Jesus came into our world where everything is far from OK. He came to save people who aren’t OK. In fact it’s because everything’s not OK that he came to save us.

Without Jesus things aren’t OK between us and God, just as things often aren’t OK with the world, our families, or our friends. Relationships break down, people have accidents, get sick, or die, and tragedy, human selfishness and greed often fills media reports.

Yet the sign given to the shepherds that their Lord and Saviour has come who’ll set everything right, is a baby wrapped up in poor clothing and lying in a feed trough.

This might challenge our Christmas where we might expect everything to be ‘just right’.

If we brought the Christmas story into our own time, imagine God not choosing to be born in powerful and busy cities like London, New York, or Sydney. Imagine him ignoring all these places and being born in an Aboriginal camp out in central Australia with flies and dust sticking to his face. Imagine him born among the warring and starving tribes of Africa, or among the broken homes and terrors of Afghanistan or Iraq.

God doesn’t always meet our expectations or logic. His justice is to show mercy and grant forgiveness. His salvation and eternal life comes through a cruel death on a cross. His adoption of us human beings as his children so that we might be his heirs comes through a splash of water combined with the power of speaking his name. He gives you his Son’s body and blood with all their benefits through his word, through faithfully accepting his promise and by eating a wafer of bread and drinking a sip of wine.

God seems to do things in an upside down way that constantly challenges our expectations. The Messiah wasn’t some privileged man born to wealthy or influential people, but God himself came into our world wrapped up in frail human skin and he relied on his parents for support and nourishment.

The greatest victory he won for us wasn’t in the healing miracles, the raising of people from the dead, or even feeding 5,000 hungry people with a few small fish and loaves of bread. His greatest victory was in his sacrificial death for sinful, unworthy, and all too often ungrateful human beings.

God’s plan of salvation might seem at odds with our own plans for a perfect Christmas, or for a life that is ‘just right’ where everything goes our way. We might measure success by happiness, prosperity, health, profits, peace and everything being ‘just right’, but God measures his success by lowliness, humbleness, brokenness, and death.

In the middle of our dark nights and days where we might struggle with the realities of chaos, tragedy, pain and suffering, God’s message of ‘Don’t be afraid’ breaks in to turn our world upside down. He wants us to see our lives as he sees them, where things are reversed. God takes on our lowliness, so that through faith we might become a child who belongs in heaven. He wants us to see the hope and salvation he gives us through his Son Jesus Christ, even though he might not be whom we expect, or even come to us in ways we didn’t anticipate.

This doesn’t mean that we need to go home and change all our plans for Christmas! We don’t need to deliberately upset everything so that we experience a ‘real’ Christmas where everything’s not ‘just right’.

May we all enjoy peace and happiness and good food and good company, and everything else we wish for, but if that doesn’t happen- don’t be afraid. Christmas is still Christmas even if everything seems to go wrong. If nothing else, it serves as a good reminder of God’s plan of salvation for a crazy, mixed up, muddled up world where we are the ones who have everything topsy-turvy.

Whether your Christmas is ‘just right’ or not, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come into the world as a human child to make all things new and right through his death and resurrection.

For this reason we sing with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

“Back to front land”

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

“Back to front land”

Luke 2:8-15

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 temptations,
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.

The Shepherds

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Luke 2:1-20

Last night on Christmas Eve, we spoke of God reaching the unreachable through His Son Jesus.

Jesus the much awaited Messiah and Saviour whose birth was not broadcast to the religious elite, but to shepherds who were not welcome in the synagogue because of their inability to keep the meticulous ceremonial rules and regulations. Shepherds seen as way down the pecking order of society and of questionable character:  and they are the ones called to a stable where the future of the world lays.

And their response?  Luke 2, verse 20: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard”.

Such a great picture of God the Father, giving himself to Save the World and giving His only Son to such a humble earthly beginning to walk this earth among sinners and The Holy Spirit who comes to these Shepherds and they believe, and then testify to those they meet of what has happened.

It’s a great picture because it shows what God has done and what can happen when Jesus comes into the lives of those such as these shepherds wandering in the wilderness.

And a great picture of their response. The same response we hear each week in the preface each week before Holy Communion where we state similiar:

That “It is indeed right and good, Lord God, holy Father, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. You have revealed your glorious presence to us in a new way through the mystery of the Word made flesh,
so that as we see you in your Son, we are drawn to love you whom we cannot see. And so, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,

We say these words together in worship each Sunday. Words of praise said by a group of people some 2,000 years ago, that though society had not changed its view about them, they had: and took a leap of faith as they gave witness to what had happened in that stable to people they met, as they continued in their employment as shepherds.

A great picture that we take with us as we enter this New Year as we too like a group of shepherds have seen and heard the truth of Christ. Not a picture of lecturing to do this and that, but the picture of change coming simply from His coming to us, like he did as a little baby to that group of men.

A group of men while wandering the country side in their occupation came to see and know the truth. And though after, they still wandered the country side as fitting the role of a shepherd, they now did not need to wonder.

Though these people still had the same job, probably still looked down upon by society and not welcomed by the religious elite, they were now free to be so in the freeing truth of Jesus Christ their saviour.

Jesus Christ our Saviour who has freed us with the truth. The truth that we need not be something we’re not. The truth that in ourselves that we are no better a person than when we met Him. But the truth that in Him has come forgiveness, redemption, life and freedom.

At the end of the American civil war, after being given their freedom, many of the slaves response to their once were slave masters was that “now I’m free, I’ll work even harder, but now as a free person”.

That is the freedom that Christ brought to this world. The freedom from having to, to the freedom of wanting too.

The freedom from the rules and regulations that if not adhered to kept people from the temple, to the freedom that in knowing that in Him alone is forgiveness and salvation comes the freedom to worship Him at Church, at home, at work without need for false fronts or bravado.

A pastor being questioned upon considering leaving the ministry replied, “I don’t need to be a pastor to serve God. I can serve him back home on the farm, in the shops and among the community”.

That is the freedom Christ has brought us that we take with us into this New Year.

The freedom that with our eyes set on Christ allows us to dream and achieve, or dream and fail.

To work and be rewarded or work only to be scorned. To befriend our neighbour though it may not be reciprocal. To forgive others without return and to help the helpless.

With your eyes on Christ and living in His grace your world is different and in Him so are you, because you know the truth: that in Christ and in trusting in His forgiveness you are saved and given eternal life, as you are.

And though you may still wander, you need not wonder because as He has gone before us and awaits to greet us in our heavenly homes, he goes with you now by your side, hurting when you’re hurt and Joyful when you’re in joy.

So again, I pray you have a blessed Christmas and New Year and achieve all that you set out for, and achieve all that He sets before you.  Amen.

“Jesus” or jesus

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Luke 2:1-20

In the Gospel of Luke we are told that: “Shepherds were out in the field, keeping what over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’”.

Jesus Christ said “I am the good shepherd” and He said it for a reason because like in His day there were others called Jesus, He differentiated himself with the truth that He was Jesus Christ. The Christ and the messiah. The same, there were others known as shepherds and so Jesus told us that He is the Good Shepherd.

In our day we don’t hear of a lot of people given the name Jesus as we don’t hear of those with livestock being titled as shepherds and maybe the closet we get is to that of those going “droving”.

In biblical times shepherds were well known, but not much admired. In Genesis 46:34 they are called loathsome and in Numbers 14:33 we hear of being a shepherd was to be considered suffering in punishment as we are told: “And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.”

The shepherds of those times were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. Shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law as with the constant demands placed on them by their flocks they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations and were looked down as very common people.”

Yet God specialises in reaching those considered unreachable. People like the shepherds in the first century and people like a man named Michael Braithwaite in America. A man that after coming to know Christ burnt his stock of adult sex toys worth thousands of dollars to transform his store into a Christian book shop.

An adult shop proprietor of ill repute, con men and tricksters and those of questionable character. It was to such that the angels sang of the good news of the Christ child. To the shepherds, the guys who ran the local black markets, the guys not welcome in the synagogue and the guys that could not even testify in the courts of law of the time. Yet the guys chosen to testify concerning the birth of the much awaited Messiah who we are told in Luke 2, verse 20: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”.

Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd and by association to Him, ministers of religion are called shepherds. Yet a description that is a paradox for many, and certainly me as a sinner in myself and that of a rogue shepherd of the first century. Yet in Christ and washed clean in His blood, allowed to walk in His presence trusting that in knowing His grace upon this sinner, that others may hear of, and know of that grace for themselves.

God sent His Son Jesus, Jesus Christ the Messiah and saviour to reach the unreachable and that He found me, and found you and showed His love and the Love of God the Father by being raised on a cross, to die a torturous death and be raised three days later so that we too will raised on our last day brings tears to our eyes and joy in our hearts.

Tears because we see that after such a great sacrifice, we still fail. Yet the joy of His Gospel, that in Him, though the failures out way the successes, though the sins are prevalent and the good works rare, that by trusting in our Lord and the forgiveness that he has brought, that we stand before the Father spotless and glowing in His righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

This Christmas we remember a little baby that should have been clothed in robes of royal purple, yet was wrapped in simple cloth and lies on the floor of a stable if an animal’s feeding trough. Jesus who would grow from infancy to manhood, and from manhood to Saviourhood. From cradle to cross, from Bethlehem’s cave to Calvary’s crucifixion, Jesus showed us the immense love of God for His people. For us.

His love so great that He only asks we accept His Son as our Saviour, and trust in the forgiveness He brings.

And though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil because He is by our side. And though we may walk unsteady and heavy laden, He takes our weight on himself that we can find the peace that He so wants to give.

The peace He asks we accept this Christmas and in the year to come of not looking back on our sins and failures of past, but looking back to see Him, the Good Shepherd reaching the unreachable.

The peace He asks this Christmas and in the year to come that we take with us, and offer to others.

To us was born a Saviour, and though we may sin and fail, we get up, because in Him, and in Him alone we are saved, and that is peace enough.

I pray you have a blessed Christmas and New Year and achieve all that you set out for, and for that, that He sets for us. Amen.

Christmas message

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Christmas Message

A work colleague and friend of mine, when if on his way to or from work happened to notice a bird doing what birds do, simply a bit of flying or worm hunting, would shout out the window to “go and get a job”.

He was a very smart and upwardly mobile young man but his jestful harsh words towards our feathered friends showed clearly that although he was “in the system” he could clearly see the clay from the other substance in our world, and if you’ve ever worked for a multi-national company you’ll know there are plenty of both substances.

In one such company an essential part of our day to day operations was the use of a printer and as it would be, ours broke down. So as per instruction I rang the overseas third party that handled such technology who advised me to fill in the appropriate form in triplicate, send one copy to them, one copy to the Australian head office and the third to the American Head office. After explaining the severity of the situation and that I as can actually see an unused printer no further than twenty metres away and my desire to acquire said printer, I was advised that no such unauthorised activity was possible.

So after I moved the printer and restored operations I pondered over my friend’s advices towards those birds hunting for worms whose indifference towards authority and refusal to submit the required forms before acquiring the new found worm made them virtually unemployable.

When I was fourteen my school mate suggested to me that religion was an organisation that hunted on the vulnerable and those with limited mental faculties in order to swindle them of life and possessions. That was a long time ago but if you read the current newspapers you will see that he is clearly not alone in his thinking. And a Pastor once said that as is the way in life, that after shopping at the same butcher, going to the same post office or sitting at the same seats at the football each week, eventually conversations would start, then introductions and after some weeks or months talk of families and then after replying to the question of “what do you do for a living” he remarked that he could nearly always sees the cogs turning and the thoughts of “but you seemed quite normal”.

As a Christian all this talk of religion, intelligence, being normal and unemployed magpies is a little confusing. Firstly I’m not sure what religion is, I’ve never professed to have anything other than the barest amount of useable brain matter. As for being normal, whatever that is, according to one of the lecturers at the seminary whose task it was to see how we tick, apparently I’m not. And as for the magpies eating worms-I thought that was their job.

You can see why I’m so confused and that our world technology’s change so quickly does not help the situation as I’m still dumfounded by how fax machines work.  That I can fax someone over there the same thing as I have here is so mystifying that if it was done back in the dark ages I would have been burnt at the stake for being a witch.

A legendary football coach once said to another aspiring coach that “when you talk to your player’s, keep it simple and look at them like bricks with ears”. In regards to my Christian belief, maybe my friend was right. At times, I certainly feel like one of those bricks and when looking in the mirror I do see I have quite a good set of ears.

So that explains how I got here. But what about these guys:

Albert Einstein who seemed a pretty smart fellow said:

“No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates.”

The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson:

“When Christ came into my life, I came about like a well-handled ship”.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, not that a vulnerable man I would suggest mentioned that in his opinion, that he “always considered Christ to be one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of humanity”.

I could go on and on but two of my favourites are from United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and Thomas Jefferson:

“We should live our lives as though Christ was coming this afternoon”.

and

“All the world would be Christian if they were taught the pure Gospel of Christ”

The pure Gospel of Christ can become confusing in a confused world where all things must be done in triplicate, faxed to third parties and authorised by some remote person on the other side of the world.

God did not look upon us as bricks with ears, he looked upon us as his wonderful creation, as his loved children and so he decided to keep it simple for us, that in faith and trust alone, to know that Jesus died for our sins-we are forgiven and given life.

God did not look upon us, send a third party and stay remote, he sent himself in His Son-to become flesh and blood and come amongst us.

And when we go outside His authority and break the rules, he doesn’t discard us to an unemployment queue, but employs all avenues available to bring us back to himself.

The world and we ourselves will continue to change. Today we are told certain foods are good for us, and no doubt soon enough we’ll be told the opposite. Once if your mobile phone was big you were out dated, but now they have grown in size again and one day fax machines will only be found in museums.

Things, and we change and I’ll still be confused but that’s O.K. because there is only one thing that is a constant, that the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are the same today as they were 2,000 years ago on that First Christmas.

God did the unfathomable, by doing it himself and bringing to us the pure Gospel in Jesus Christ his son, His Son the truth-the same truth given to us today as on that First Christmas.

His Son our Saviour who has promised us that:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.

“This is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believe in Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise them up at the last day”

“Because I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”

“And I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also”.

I wish you a safe, joyful and peaceful Christmas and pray that every day that each of us see that small child in the manger, every day we see his healing in our lives, every day we stand at the foot of the cross and see what he has done for us, and every day go forward living our lives in hope and jubilation seeing our resurrected Christ saying to his Father, they are my children, I know each personally and by name, and they are mine. Amen.

Don’t be afraid.

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

 

The Gift


Text: Luke 2:10-11
The angel said to them (the shepherds), ‘Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord’

Christmas is a very exciting time, for adults and children alike. It’s a highlight of the year and part of the excitement is the giving and receiving of gifts and, of course, before you can give you need to give thought into what you will give.

The kind of gifts given at Christmas has changed a great deal over the years. My dad, who grew up in the years between the two World Wars, tells of the simple homemade gifts he received at Christmas. Somehow mysteriously gifts appeared under the Christmas tree during the Christmas Eve service – a pair of socks knitted by his Granny and a pair of shorts made by his mum and one year the boys did get something bought from the shops – a small bag of marbles each. With eight kids that was no small task for Granny to knit eight pairs of socks. Those were hard times but from what I gather the Christmases celebrated then were no less joyous and no less exciting and no less full of anticipation than they are today.

And when our own children woke up on Christmas morning they were excited just as I was when I was a kid and just as excited as their own children are this morning. Gift giving, and sharing in the delight that the gift gives, is a highlight of the Christmas celebrations.

We know that the first visitors who came to visit the Christ-child brought gifts. The shepherds who were watching over their flocks near Bethlehem were poor but they brought the baby in the manger their love and adoration. The wisemen from the east brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but more importantly they knelt before the little child and gave him honour and worship.

In a very moving moment in the movie The Nativity Story, a rough looking group of shepherds, some carrying lambs, gather around a rather perplexed Mary and Joseph. They kneel and one old shepherd reaches out with a trembling hand to touch the baby but he thinks better and withdraws his hand. Mary says gently, “He is a gift for all mankind” and she holds out the baby and he reaches out again to touch the little one whom the angel had said is “your Saviour – Christ the Lord”. The old man is overcome with emotion as Mary says, “We have each been given a gift”. If you watch the sleeping baby carefully, he gives a little smile as baby’s do – almost a smile of approval or acknowledgment of the old man’s devotion.

Whatever was going through the shepherd’s mind at that time, he was overcome with joy to know that he was included in the happy news that the angel had announced. Today in David’s town his Saviour was born, the Messiah, the Lord God himself came in the flesh and was wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. This child was his Messiah – the Saviour – God’s Christmas gift to the shepherds and to all of us.

Sometimes we focus on the giving and on the gifts so much that we miss the fact that what we are celebrating at this time of the year is God’s gift to us. Our gift giving is a reflection of the generous gift that God gave to us at the first Christmas – the gift of his Son. This gift from God is for all people – no one is excluded.

It is a gift given out of extreme love – a love so immense, so deep, so wonderful and powerful that we can hardly begin to fathom what kind of love it is that would cause God – the ruler and creator of everything – the supreme power that holds the universe together – to become a vulnerable and helpless baby born to human parents, subject to the laws of nature and the laws of mankind, and to come into this world in such a way that is hardly believable. God came from heaven to earth to the sound of a mother crying out in childbirth in a stable; his first bed was a manger; his first visitors strangers.

Like any new parents I’m sure Mary and Joseph were overcome with emotion as they held this new life in their arms for the first time. A new life had entered the world and he was theirs to care for and to love. They also realised that this tiny bundle was God’s gift not only to them but also to the world and the world would never be the same again. This child is a gift for all mankind; he belongs to everyone and he will give everyone the greatest gifts of all – peace, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, eternal life.

And like all gifts, this child in the manger, brings joy.

After visiting the stable “the shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen.”

In fact, not only the people on earth but also the angels of heaven rejoiced at this baby’s birth. “A great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God.” The Christmas story is about a gift that brought joy to all people.

This Christmas gift from God changes things.

The father of Tom and John Peterson had died and willed the farm to his sons with the idea that the farm would “bring his sons closer together”. But it didn’t work. John had married and lived nearby in a small town with his family. Tom, who remained single, lived alone in the old farmhouse.

Tom thought, “John is always preoccupied with his family. He does what he has to on the farm but then he’s off home to the missus and the kids. I do more than my share to keep the farm going. Who gets up in the middle of the night when there’s a sick cow? Who rounds up sheep that get through the fence during the night?” And so he began to resent his brother.

On the other hand his brother John was thinking, “Tom has become so grouchy lately. It must be living alone in the old house. He seems to resent me going home to my family. He’s become such a grumpy ol’ man.” And so a wall of bitterness gradually built up between them to the point where they would hardly speak to each other.

On Christmas Eve they sat on opposite sides of the church. One of the carols they sang went like this.

Now to the Lord sing praises,

all you within this place,

and with true love and brotherhood

each other now embrace;

this holy time of Christmas

all others doth efface:

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,

O tidings of comfort and joy,

As John sang these words he was troubled because he had hardly acknowledged his brother’s presence in church that night.

On the way home he said to his wife, “Tom is alone in the farmhouse and has no one to share Christmas. I know he won’t come to our place. Maybe we can take a nice Christmas dinner to him.” His wife prepared a delicious meal. It was only a short walk so he wrapped up the dinner to keep it warm and headed for the farmhouse.

Tom was sitting alone and thought, “Life is too short for this kind of thing. John is my only brother and it hasn’t been easy for him to provide for his wife and family. I’ve just smoked some fresh metwurst and I’ve got some gifts I’ve made from wood for the kids.” So he set off toward town with his arms full of goodies.

Down in the valley between the farm and the town they met. They were silent for a moment, and then they embraced with tears in their eyes and words of “Merry Christmas! Brother, please forgive me!”

You can see what happened. The barriers came down, reconciliation took place and peace came to those brothers. The peace that God gave to each of them through his Son; the peace they heard about as they sat in the church that Christmas Eve moved them to be peacemakers toward each other.

You and I know what devastating effect sin has in our lives. Sin is so destructive. It destroys everything that is good. It destroys good relationships, like the harmony between God and us, or the friendship between people. Just think of pride, or greed, or impatience, or unkindness and how destructive they can be. We all know what it means to feel guilty when we have hurt someone in some way. Christmas changes all this. The baby in the manger is our Saviour – Jesus – the one who rescues us from our sin.

Or what about the illness, the trouble, the tragedy, the unresolved problems that burden you? You wonder why this has to happen to you. When will it end? When will we have peace of mind again? How will you ever be able to cope? Christmas changes all this.

The gift that God gave us at Christmas is a Saviour. Christmas is a celebration of God becoming human, being born in a manger, for us. As unintelligible as it is to think of almighty God becoming a weak helpless baby born in a cattle shed, that is what happened so that he could be Emmanuel, that is God with us.

That is the whole point of Christmas. There may be lots of traditions, customs associated with Christmas. There may be the giving and receiving of lots of gifts. There may be Santas, Christmas parties, and Christmas Day celebrations with friends and relatives but in the end the only thing that really counts is the gift we receive from God. The gift of a Saviour is “God with us” in all the sin, the trouble and death of this world.

This is the gift that brings peace.

This is the gift that saves.

This is the gift that lasts.

In David’s town our Saviour was born – Christ the Lord.

Born for a purpose.

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Isaiah 9_2-7 Born for a purpose

Well, by now most of us have opened our Christmas presents, taken a look and perhaps, especially the kids, have even played with them, using the gifts for their intended purpose.  Every gift has a purpose.  Every gift is given to be used and enjoyed for what it is.  Perhaps you received chocolates.  They were made to be eaten and enjoyed.  Or perhaps you received a digital camera.  It is made specifically to take pictures, so that we can record the special moments in our life.  We receive and give gifts for a specific purpose.

Christmas Day is a special day in which we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus as a baby, born to human parents, Mary and Joseph, and yet born the son of God.  We also rejoice and celebrate Jesus’ birth because he was born to us, given to us, as a gift from God.  His birth is good news and of great joy to us, because he was born to fulfill a specific purpose.  Now, none of us could say that about our lives.  Yes, we can look back after many years and see how God has used us for one purpose or another, but none of us could say that from our very first breath, to our last, we were born for just one purpose.  Jesus can.  From his first cry at the breast of Mary, to his last agonising cry from the wood of the cross, Jesus life was purely and only a gift for us.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of Jesus’ destiny, telling us of his purposeful life, saying he will be all of this “a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and a Prince of Peace.”  The angel of the Lord, who appeared before Mary, told how he will be called Jesus, because the purpose of his life is to save people from their sins.  The shepherds, who were out in the fields, looking after their sheep, heard an angel say “Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  No other baby has ever been born to such a destiny and for such a purpose, only Jesus.  He was born as a gift for humanity and he was born to be given to you and me for the specific purpose of being the Christ.  Since Jesus the Christ is a gift to us, as with every gift we receive, it is important we acknowledge and receive the gift for its intended purpose.

The title ‘Christ’, used by the angel announcing his birth, is not Jesus second name, it is the meaning of his birth; Christ means ‘The anointed one’.  He is specifically born the Christos in Greek, translated from the Hebrew word Messiah, meaning ‘anointed to be king.’  Jesus, born in a stable, a place where only slaves, the poor and the hired workers go, is the king of humanity.  Jesus, lying in a dirty manger wrapped in rags made into cloth, surrounded be frighten parents, smelly animals and sinful shepherds, is the world’s Christ.  The lowly place of his birth, and the humble people that gathered around him on that holy night, reveal to us the purpose for his birth; to be the Christ to those without hope; to be the savior to those who are sinners and to be Lord to those whose only king is sin, death and the devil.

Jesus was born into the messiness of life to be Christ the saviour.  And Jesus the Christ is purposely born into the messiness of our life, not so we will try and clean up our act…the stables were never cleaned for his birth; but that he clean us with the waters of baptism.  He was born into our failures, not so we try and be better people, the shepherds remained shepherds, but that he may save us from our sins; the sin we were all born into, and the sin that rules our life and leads to death.  Just as Jesus was born king in the dark Bethlehem night, so too is Jesus born to us Christ the king, in the darkness of our life, where only we know and go, not so we shine with good works, but that he shines in us like the star over Bethlehem, pointing us to that good news that he has been born to redeem us.

The words of Isaiah are now true for you “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined.” This is the purpose of the gift to us of Jesus birth.  And for this purpose we come here today, to worship the Christ; to receive the gifts of his kingdom, the forgiveness of sins.  And to leave this place, this stable, and finally this life, in peace with God.  “Saviour of the nations, come, Virgin’s son, make here your home!  Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.  For you are the Father’s Son who in flesh the vict’ry won.  By your mighty pow’r make whole all our ills of flesh and soul.  Amen (LSB 332:1, 6)

What can contain God.

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Luke 2_1-14 What can contain God

I have this present I want to give to a friend of mine.  But I can’t just give it to him like this.  It needs to be put into a box.  It needs to be all nicely wrapped and on show, so it looks like a present from me.  I have a few boxes here.  Let’s see.  (try fitting into the boxes).  Oh no, the boxes are just too small; perhaps if I just push a little harder and squeese it into the biggest of the boxes.  There is just no way it can fit…oops, now I’ve broken it!

Tonight is Christmas Eve when we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  And part of celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is to give and receive presents; to place gifts into boxes, wrap them and either put them under a Christmas Tree or give them to people we love and care for…belongs we have the right size box that is!

What size box would it have to be to contain Jesus who is God?  How big would it have to be?  In the gospel of John, we are given some glues, he writes “I the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  The whole universe was created through Jesus.  Everything that is in existence is smaller than God; that means, he is very big.  Let’s try and measure just how big God may be, to see what size of box we would need, if we were to wrap him up as a gift.  1. Here is a picture of the earth, its circumference is 40, 000 km’s, that’s big, but God is bigger.  2. Here is a picture of our solar system which is 5, 913, 520, 000 km’s across from the sun to Pluto, big, but God is bigger.

3. Here is a picture of just part of the known universe.  One of those bright dots is our solar system.  Scientists say the universe is immeasurable, but if we were to try, it would be about 46 Billion light years across!  Now if light travels at 186, 282 miles per second, you do the sums!  That’s big, but God is bigger!  Work out what size box you would need to wrap God…you just can’t.  God is immeasurable, unknowable and beyond our understanding.

All things were created through him, so he is beyond creation.  Yet tonight we hear something astonishing, something remarkable that is announced by the angel of the Lord “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all 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…[or this is the box you will find him in]…a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Jesus Christ the Lord, through whom the whole universe was created; the Son of God, who was, who is and who is to come, the biggest of big, is so small and venerable, that he can be wrapped in cloths and be lying in a manger.  The angel said “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”  The good news is that Jesus came to us so small, that Mary could hold him in her arms; that we too can hold Jesus in our heart through faith.  The great joy for us is that Jesus came to us so harmless that shepherds could dare to come near, that we too can dare to come to him and be touched by his love and forgiveness.  He came for all people, so that even three wise men traveled from afar just to bring him gifts; so that we too, no matter where we live in response to Jesus we may raise our holy hands to him in prayer, praise and thanksgiving.

This is wonder and amazement of Christmas, that God would become one of us in baby Jesus.   That God, who is big enough to fill the universe, is small enough to fit in a box, the size of a manger.  The good news of great joy of his coming is that he was born as a child, as one of us, so that nothing can separate us from the love of God; neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.  For he is our present, our gift, our Lord and our salvation, sent to us with love from God.