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Christmas Eve - Family service - two reflections

Notes & Transcripts

1st Christmas Reflection       “Superhero… Baby?”

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, Lord  - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Amen.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you wish to be any super hero you wanted

For some of you, you may not know of many super heroes

But I think that most people have heard of Spiderman – the web-slinger

He can walk up walls like a spider and make webs for all kind of purposes – he can catch the bad-guys in webs or swing from them - from building to building – pretty cool

            Then of course there is the cartoon - Mr. Incredible and the Incredible family

So if I were to ask you if you could be any Super hero at all, who would you be?

            For me the answer was immediate and obvious

                        I would be Superman!

                                    He had superhuman strength

                                                He was the man of steel

                                    He could run faster then a locomotive

                                    Leap tall buildings in a single bound

                                                And he could fly…

Other than Kryptonite and the surprise of Christmas presents being ruined by x-ray vision

            I don’t see too many negatives in being Superman

If I was write a story of someone to save the world - it would be a Superman-like person

            His father, Jor-El, was both a brilliant scientist and the leader of the whole planet

                        Like a loyal ship captain he nobly stayed with the self-destructing planet and also provided                      miraculously for his son’s safe escape…

                                    Did I mention that Superman could fly…

                                                These are the elements of good story that make for a great leader, one that                                                             could save his adopted home

But tonight, we come together, not to celebrate the birthday of Superman

But the birth of Jesus

In our reading from the prophet Isaiah that Mrs. Vanderstelt  read out we hear a man telling us that the God will provide a great leader and He will be “named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

We are given the idea that the one that God will send to the world, to save the world, will appear on the scene – fully formed ready to go – a super hero type guy.

But this is not what God did!

God’s ways are not our worldly ways - God turns the tables upside down and comes as a fragile little baby

His story, as recorded in the bible, surprises us in so many ways

            First - Jesus is not born to a noble or wealthy family

                        He does not start out life with the obvious advantages that worldly power or that which                           wealth can provide - He does not have a jump-start on life

                                    Mary, a young girl, a young teenager by our standards, was engaged to a working                                      class carpenter and they had not yet been married

                                                News of her pregnancy, not by Joseph, if it got out - would have been                                                        considered really bad news and the repercussions would have been dire.                                                                 Not exactly a detail of mythological, larger than life - hero standards

Jesus was not even born to the ruling race of people - but to a people that were living under the thumb of the most powerful empire of the world at that time

The Hebrew people lived only because the Roman Empire had a policy of occupying the land which they had conquered and letting the people continue to maintain much of their own culture provided they paid heavy taxes - money that was then used to strengthen the Roman rule through-out the     world

                        And… It was the desire for even more taxes that:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered

                        Keeping track of everyone is a way that you can get money from them

It was this census that brought a poor couple Mary and Joseph from back-waters Galilee to the city of David - Bethlehem

            The Messiah, the Saviour of the world - parents’ were forced about by the whims of the worldly powers that be

                        Not exactly how we might write our Superman story

                                    But this detail had poetic beauty in it - this fulfilled the age-old prophecy of the                                        messiah to be from Galilee and born in Nazareth of the Kingly family of David

                                                God used the greed of the Emperor to complete even the smallest of details

All of this, all the aspects of God’s ‘stealth marketing’ begs the question - why?

            Why would God in the flesh - God amongst us - Emmanuel - come this way

                        To humble, near-peasants parents - Mary and Joseph

Well as I have said before - God’s ways are not our worldly ways

            God plan is not how we might plan a ‘Superman in the midst of us’

Jesus’ entry into the world as a fragile baby was to unsettle us

            To shatter the expectations - to show us how ‘the way the world does things’ needs to be turned on         its head

                        We celebrate Christmas - Christ - Mass - the feast of the coming of the messiah

                                    As the greatest unexpected gift the world has ever witnessed

Unexpected in so many ways

And God came into the world, in the midst of us, in a humble way, a common way - born unglamorously in the midst of an animal stable to common people

                        It is to this that God chose to show His glory

Now whether you came here because someone in your family dragged you here, or you came because we dropped off a door hanger flyer at your house or you call this church your home

Regardless of your reason that you are here – you are here, because it is Christmas and tonight we celebrate the unexpectant arrival of the baby Jesus

                        and I are so glad - overjoyed in fact - that you are here tonight

                                    It is for you especially that I share this message tonight

                                                God came into this world as a fragile baby - a helpless little baby

                                                            needing protection from the world by his parent’s Mary and Joseph

                                                                                   

            And God wants to break into all of our lives as well

                        We are supposed to be shocked by the arrival of God in the flesh as a fragile baby

                                    We are all called to be like Mary and Joseph and nurture that baby in our hearts

It is the most incredible message ever told - Not as Superman – but as to live amongst us - face the same challenges that we have to face

                                    It is amazing grace that God loves us so much that he sent His one and only                                               son into the world - to us - as a baby

It is this reason that we have the biggest holiday of the year to celebrate - Christ – Mass

2nd Christmas Reflection       “Who does God come to?”

May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, our Lord and our saviour – Amen

If you were to ask the average person on the street – what are Christians all about?

            Ask people that are not at all religious

                        I believe ‘what’ you would hear said – is that Christians are all about Love…

Now I said that I believe this to be true, but the whole truth is that I have know a study that was done and in fact – Love – is what people most people associated with Christians

To this I say – great!

            Not a bad thing to be known for

I am sure that everyone here gathered tonight – would be proud of that reputation – Love

In fact it is a very understandable answer,

It is not as fashionable as it once was, but in many major sporting events – you might see someone in the stands holding up a sign that reads simply – John 3:16

The most known passage in the bible – what some would say ‘in a single verse’ tells the whole story of what Christianity is all about…!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

We Christians are know for our love - because – God did the loving first

This Love is often seen as quietly benevolent – some might even say “passive”

            Where we, Christians, just care and love for others

                        … Sitting on the side-lines – doing nothing – loving others

Is that the story we heard tonight?

            The three scripture readings that told the story of over 2000 years ago?

Was it a story of quiet people in a quiet land – just going about their business and quietly loving others?

No – in fact it is the complete opposite

The story we are given is entirely about God interrupting everything and coming right into ‘the mess of it all’

Consider the characters in the story…

In fact – before we do that, let me expand the characters a little further to include the dominate ‘or should I say dominating’ culture of the day

The Roman Empire ruled all the ordered world – The Empire was ruled by an emperor –Caesar was ‘ruler over all’

Surrounded by the brightest – richest and most powerful people of the day

‘It’ is into this ‘surrounding’ that one might expect to hear news of ‘The’ Lord

In the Roman royal courts that one might expect to hear news of one that was to be the most influencial man ever to live. To be the Lord of all – past, present and future

But this is not where our story is located and the royal Roman court are not the characters in our story

In fact the characters of our story are almost a complete mockery of that – a mockery of what is worldly defined as power and authority

Our story opens with the one of the lowest groups of people of the time – Shepherds

            People ‘living’ in the fields – keeping watch over their flocks by night

They were rough people, people that lived in the land that was inhospitable to any reasonable ‘farming of crops’ – rocky, rough land reduced to growing unharvestable grass that only sheep and goats would feed on

            They keep watch from bandits and wild animals

Then there is a teenage bride and her fiancée – Mary and Joseph

            A couple that is forced to travel far from their home to make a perilous journey

just to be counted by the oppressive roman empire

It is to these unlikely people that we have God’s greatest interruption

            For ‘all of them’ life is certainly not quiet – life is not a ‘passive, peaceful love-fest’

The shepherds very existence could be define as nomadic near-outcasts

homeless – animal babysitters in a rough unforgiving land

To each of these - Angels appear – messengers from God – come to these lowly people

The first thing that the angels say is - don’t be afraid

            In the midst of the apparent mess of their lives – God interrupts

God interrupts and yet says through the Angels – don’t be afraid

            God knows of their fear, offers comforts right away – don’t be afraid

The message, of course, doesn’t end there – the interruption

- Both to Mary & Joseph and to the shepherds is to tell them of the craziest thing imaginable

God has come – and ‘they’ are to be the witnesses

           

Not to power and authority as we would expect – as the world would expect

Not to a comfortable palace, with servants to attend to any need

                        God completely mocks ‘any and every’ worldly expectation

God comes ‘in need’ ‘of us’

God’s Love is certainly not passive

Definitely not quiet and peacefully

God interrupts our expectations

God interrupts our plans – messy or ordered

God interrupts our peace and understanding

And comes in fragility – to Love in a way never expected

So if the world associates Christianity with Love –  – thanks be to God

‘Thanks be to God’ for the fullest, most surprising, most unexpected - whole and perfect Love the world has ever seen…

Happy birthday Jesus the Christ - Merry Christmas to all - Amen

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