Christmas Day 2015
50 Words of God
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the LORD,
give yourselves no rest,
7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.
8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
“Never again will I give your grain
as food for your enemies,
and never again will foreigners drink the new wine
for which you have toiled;
9 but those who harvest it will eat it
and praise the LORD,
and those who gather the grapes will drink it
in the courts of my sanctuary.”
10 Pass through, pass through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.
11 The LORD has made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your Saviour comes!
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.’”
12 They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the LORD;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted.
God reached down
Joseph feared much.
Don’t be afraid
Despite our limited awareness and small place in the universe, God come to us and shapes his world through us…..
Marriage vows made.
The plan of God’s grace is underway and we are in it like they were. God moves in us and through us to bring good things to his world….
Joseph and Mary
No room found
God works in limited space! He limits himself to our space and makes sure that he is at very ground level so that all that happens is for everyone and so that he gets the thanks and praise for the good that he brings to our lives.
Word made flesh
Born on straw
Cattle low and shepherds kneel
God is real.
That is what it is all about isn’t it? God is real. That’s the story. That is what God did and said to convince us. That is what we Christian bother about this time of year – saying to a culture who has been replacing and removing God’s voice at every turn that God is real and God is love, despite our mistakes, our weaknesses, our lack of vision as his church – God is real and God is good and God is with us for our good not our bad.
But many believe we are forsaken by God. We understand that feeling. When things go bad and we are hurt or too challenged or damaged by life’s events and people around us it is not that hard to believe that God has forsaken me and us.
This is not new….
Closed Off and Disgraced
God speaks to his people at the end of the book of Isaiah. We heard part of his word to them in Isaiah 62. When God speaks these words, the people are far away. They are in Babylon in captivity. A few have remained at home in Judah in their gutted city, Jerusalem. He speaks to them too. They have been repeatedly conquered by their enemies and humiliated in the eyes of their neighbours. The road to Jerusalem is in disrepair. Those at home are cut off from the outside world, as well as their sisters and brothers in exile.
This is not so far away from us Aussies is it? Lately we may have found ourselves fearing that we are losing our identity, that we look weak when compared to the good old days when we helped save the world from Hitler. Now and again a politician says that foreigners will overrun us that they will not assimilate to be like us, but will change our way of life. “Our” country is being taken over by “them,” and we want to “take it back” before it’s too late to prevent its total collapse.
Seeking Other Gods
How did God’s people of old get in this bind? Isaiah says that they turned away from trusting in God and put their faith in the things that nations usually put their faith in: the might of their armies, alliances with other nations, the promises of their neighbors to supplement the projection of their power against their enemies. They have also turned away from God by abandoning justice and righteousness within their own borders, taking advantage of the weak instead of caring for them, neglecting the widow and the orphan.
Where are we placing our trust when we go along with this sense that we have to take things back and make sure we are safe and etc? is it true that we can also chase after other gods and the promises of this world: market-driven economies, the fortunes of the few being built on a the misfortunes of the many, the trust in violence and the threat of violence both at home and abroad, the tribal instincts that pit races, cultures, and religions against each other, instincts that have historically (ironically?) led to dark days?
Forsaken (by God)
Isaiah says that because of the people’s unfaithfulness, God also turned away from them. God no longer accepted their prayers and their sacrifices (see, for example, Isaiah 1:10ff). More than that, God actively opposed them–became their enemy.
Sought Out (by God)
But like a random act of kindness by some enemy out of nowhere comes a huge turning point today! The turning point for God’s people comes abruptly, unexpectedly, and entirely at God’s initiative. God just announces that it will be changed for the better (Isaiah 35). There is no hint that the people have done anything to incline God to their cause, nothing to indicate that they have even begun to turn their hearts toward God. As at the beginning, God creates again out of nothing. The desert blooms, the blind see, the deaf hear. “See your salvation comes!” cries the Word.
God in this Jesus baby – human and divine is not against us but for us. And God-with-us (and for us), Jesus, charts a different course for us, a new and truer way of life. Amazingly, by his death he breaks the stranglehold of darkness, fear, doubt, self-focus and pride and we are free from all of them!
Friend, on Christmas Day the Living Word calls you to simply trust him. Like the words of Isaiah evoked trust in God’s promises among a troubled people, and the hearts of God’s people are turned back to God, so today evokes that same trust in the Lord of life for your life – wherever and whoever you are.
God’s people heard. They begin rebuilding the highway that connects them to the rest of the world. That’s our job too. Because we are at peace with our holy and loving creator in Jesus, we are animated by our the calling we received at our baptism to reach out in compassion and love to the world around us, removing the obstacles of hatred, suspicion, and fear that impede our relationship with others, together with the rubble of this world’s broken promises.
Opened Up and Famous
We are open for business – personally and as a community because of Jesus. Like Isaiah said to God’s people, the Holy City is opened once again, and God’s people are free to return from the ends of the earth.
You are free to return to a gracious God of life who welcomes the stranger and forgives the sinner and makes us complete in the soul.
Jesus himself is the Way, God’s holy highway that leads to genuine life for all people, just as God has always intended.
As the body of Christ. Among us there are no foreigners, and all are fed and praise the Lord.