class=MsoNormal>May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, our Lord and our saviour – Amen
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.”(John 3:16)
We Christians are known for our love - because – God did the loving first
This Love is often seen as quietly benevolent – some might even say “passive”
Is that the story we heard tonight?
From 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?
Might I suggest that the story we are given this and every Christmas is entirely about God interrupting everything and coming right into ‘the mess of it all’
Consider the characters in the story…
Our story opens with the one of the lowest groups of people of the time – Shepherds
People literally ‘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 grass that couldn’t be harvested - 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, with what most believe to be a way in which more taxes could be put on them - to oppressed them even further
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
Joseph and Mary – righteous good people certainly – yet they are poor– with an unexpected, unexplainable baby on the way – set a drift from their home to report to a foreign power’s census
To each of these – God interrupts… 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 is there
God knows of their fear, offers comforts right away – don’t be afraid
Both to Mary & Joseph and to the shepherds the Angels tell them of the craziest thing imaginable
God has come – and ‘they’ are to be the witnesses
Not only that, but God has come in the form of a fragile baby
A defenceless baby – God, has come into the world
Now in the animal world – we have all heard the saying “it is survival of the fittest”
Many animals after a very short time are able to walk or run or are provided with some protection
Did you know that there are brightly coloured frogs in the Amazon that has a protective film on them that is so poisonous that you only need to touch it and in matter of a few moments you are dead
Or even the gangly new born foal – within hours it is walking or even cantering with the rest of the horses in the herd
But God comes as a baby human – arguably one of the slowest to develop of all God’s creatures – needing the most protection and provision for the longest time by parents
This is how God shares in our lives
To the poor… to the weak… to the socially unlikely… to lowly
Not to power and authority as we would expect – as the world would expect
God did not come as the Roman Emperor
Not to a comfortable palace, with servants to attend to any need
But to poor parents, witnessed by social outcasts (shepherds)
And in the midst of the animals in the stable, with a ‘bed of a manger’ – a feeding trough
God comes to us vulnerable - ‘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
We Christians are known for our love - because – God did the loving first
The message of the angels to this rag-tag band of shepherds in the hills by Bethlehem is a beautiful aspect of the Christmas message heard each year
I for one, have this warm sense of God choosing the unchosen
The Shepherds, as outcasts, are the people that life has beaten up, and God includes them in this mystical sacred moment
But under the surface there is still more to see – a message for every reader to hear
First of all, it is personally so important
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)
And more than that, their message also gives a mandate for gospel proclamation to every person around the world.
"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10)
Brothers and Sisters, Jesus was born in Bethlehem for you.
And later he died on a cross and rose again for you.
He ascended to heaven and one day will surely return for you.
This is not being self-indulgent. It is not being self-centred.
Such a viewpoint is exactly what the angels heralded that glorious night.
Which we fondly and warmly remember and re-tell each year
But Jesus came not just for you.
He came for everyone, everywhere.
Jesus came to this world with every person in mind and He is needed by every person whether they know it or not.
This is good news for the world… good news of great joy which shall be for all people
And the gift of Christmas continues – continues in the form of a calling
It is a call to those who have already been found by this same Jesus to make him known as generously and as broadly as we possibly can.
It is no surprise that the shepherds having encountered the baby Jesus exactly as the angels had told them, acted as they did – recorded in Luke:
"And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them." (Luke 2:17.18)
If Christmas rightly is a time for sharing…and it is… then sharing the message of Jesus with people is the most meaningful and most important gift you could ever share.
So tonight as you yourself have received him, receive Him in your hearts in the spirit of the season and the this worship time – but also receive Him as we together share the communion feast
The Christ – mass celebration
In your hearts… and minds… Make plans to share Jesus with others
To family and friends, neighbours and colleagues
Please make provision this Christmas time and throughout 2013 for extravagant sharing of Him who was born for everybody
Ours is not a peaceful passive celebration
But the story of God interrupting our expectations
God interrupting our plans – messy or ordered
God interrupting our peace and understanding
And coming in fragility – to Love in a way never expected
We Christians, properly understood, are known for our love
It is so because – God did the loving first…
The gift of Christmas is giving indeed
A gift truly to be shared with all
Let us pray…
Heavenly Father thank you for sharing your one and only Son, thank you for loving the world so much, that everyone who believes might not perishes but have eternal life. Equip each and every one of us in the manner that is suitable to us, to share your gift – may we trust in the angels’ promise and ‘be not afraid’, and may we understand that God knows, we too are fragile, yet each and every one of us is redeemed by Jesus Christ… just as we are! Thanks be to God! - Amen