Merry Christmas! Today is one of the most significant days in the Christian Calendar.
Unfortunately, we can easily miss how powerful and transforming this day really is – unless we’re willing to open our lives and hearts not just to the Christ Child, (in the manger) but to the way that God intends us all to live our lives – God’s Kingdom – which he brought into our world.
When you think of Christmas what do you think of?
For me this year it has been LOVE
I have noticed recently people finishing a phone call or in saying goodbye to use these words: LOVE YOU
Christmas: God’s love made real in Jesus, in the flesh amongst us. We sing of this in all our Christmas Carols.
Christmas: God’s love born in us anew and you we witness to this GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY.
What is the Good News of Christmas?
The Good News is that CHRISTMAS IS FULL OF Spirit, Blessing and Heart.
Spirit – the Spirit of Christmas which is PEACE
This year has given us many challenges and, domestically, these have included the continuing disruption of COVID-19, and an ever-increasing cost of living (food, rent, electricity, petrol).
In addition, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has for many people created a persistent low-level anxiety: as we wonder what will happen next? And will nuclear weapons be used this month?
There is such a need for peace in conflict between countries like Russia and Ukraine; for peace in conflict within countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and South Sudan; and for peace in conflict within communities and within families here in Australia.
How good then will it be to hear these well-known words on Christmas Day:
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father; Prince of Peace…” (Isaiah 9:6).
Remembering this, I think we are all called to be peace makers in some way;
Blessing – the Blessing of Christmas which is HOPE
Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen, and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass.
God has promised to be WITH US, to SAVE US. The message for Christmas is clear and simple: in Christ, God comes to us.
Immanual – God with us
JESUS – One who savesw
There are so many ways this can be – and has been – understood: God’s presence is not far off, but close and accessible; those who are first involved in this coming are poor and excluded people – shepherds, women, and foreigners – which demonstrates God’s commitment to justice.
But, perhaps at the heart of all this is the question of seeing.
Isaiah calls Ahaz to ‘see’ God’s work – God’s light shining in the darkness – on behalf of God’s people.
The shepherds are invited to see the Christ child, and in this event, see God’s coming to them and to all humanity.
When we allow our eyes to be opened, we see, we discover God’s coming in every moment and place and that fills us with HOPE –
Remembering this, I think we are all called to be hope bringers in some way;
Heart – the Heart of Christmas which is JESUS
It is tempting to think of Christmas as nothing more than an event that happened a couple of thousand years ago.
But it is so much more than this. The Christmas story actually begins in Genesis 1 when God speaks creation into being.
And it ends with a vision of a new world that is whole and one in Christ. It is because God has always been working to bring the entire cosmos into God’s life and love that Jesus was born.
The birth of Christ was not God’s plan B to address the unexpected problem of sin. (Carols: Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” O Holy Night, long lay the world in sin and error pining, til HE appeared and the soul felt it’s worth)
Rather, the birth of Christ was the moment God had been working toward for millennia when God’s Reign would become visible and active in a new and powerful way in our world.
This means that Christmas is not just about the birth of a unique baby. It is about the rebirth of all things – including you and me.
If you think about it: we live in a MESS AGE – God comes to us and in Jesus, he SAVES us from our MESS.
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah (saves us), the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
The gospel message is about the greatest gift of all time—God gave us Jesus Christ, his Son, who brings great joy to everyone who receives him. The purpose of Christmas is to share this gift. And what a perfect opportunity!
Reconciled – returning to God – relying on our every need in Jesus. The opportunity is here for you today! Lord, I need you in my life, I long for your PEACE, HOPE, JOY AND LOVE.
Remembering this I think we are all called to be joy givers in some way and love givers in some way… and, in God’s grace, these things are present right in the middle of our worship, and activities wherever we are this Christmas and every day!
We look at the manger and picture the manger with the Christ Child every year.
This year, I pray that we don’t just leave our hearts in the manger, or at the Church door, or after the Christmas Day celebrations, but that we take Jesus with us in our hearts every day, wherever we are and then we will experience, the HOPE, PEACE, JOY AND LOVE of Jesus’ birth always!