Christmas Eve 2015
St Petri, 7.30pm
Luke 2: 8–12
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Why shepherds? Why did God choose shepherds? Why star gazers, young women, tradesmen, ordinary families out in towns and paddocks – not in castles, shopping malls, church buildings or government offices? Why farmers, business owners, mums. Dads, kids, everyday people and why not the powerful – government, political leaders, church leaders, CEO’s of large companies – movers and shakers?
And why all the fuss and why all the calls by Christians to keep the reason for season – the keep “Christ in Christmas”?
Why re-tell the story and why go to such length to remember it, share it, teach it to our children and tell it to friend and foe alike this time of year?
Because this event is much more.
Christmas is more than…..religion or politics.
The gospel witnesses make it abundantly clear that this event in a mere satellite suburb of the city is neither in the realm of the government under Caesar Augustus or Governor Quirinius or the religious community under High priests Anna and Caiaphas.
When “the Word came and dwelt among us” (John 1) the word of God didn’t go to the church building. The angel’s announcement of the fulfillment of prophecy goes not to the Temple but to shepherds sleeping rough in the paddock. The Word did not first go to big billboard signs and massive advertising campaigns during prime time TV but to John the Baptist out in the wilderness. And not in his father Zechariah’s office in the Temple.
Hear tonight that the Word made human flesh and blood comes to people where people need him most – in real life, real time, real need, real issues, real concerns.
He comes tonight to where we all live in one way or another, in one time or other, now, then or soon –
In the lonely isolation of the paddock,
In the loss of place or the threat of future financial security.
In the complexity and confusion of strained family relationships,
In the uncertainty about this world,
In the pain of illness and sadness of suffering,
In the comfort of being self-sufficient,
In the veil of pride in our own achievements that cannot last or deliver the final peace, joy and hope for which we all long
In real life that is not for show or not even close to being famous or powerful – the life we all live, He is – Immanuel – God with us right in the middle of life, not only in this beautiful candle lit church building or this beautiful Valley of vines and life and this relatively well healed and safe Country called Australia.
God goes out to that lonely place, those dry places, those parched sands, those troubled places where hate seems to rule – he goes into them and calls you to himself and his immense love in those places. Our God is not a God who dwells in ivory towers or star lit skies, although he creates them all and is in all and through all.
That infant in the trough tells us in a way we can feel and smell and touch that he really is interested in way more than mere religious observance or even being a good citizen. He is interested in the real me and you – the heart of us, the heart of the matter and his interest is pure love – wrapped in cloth made of human hands, infant Jesus from a human uterus, hands, feet, breath, face – his life in our life, his breath in our lungs, his love in our words and deeds, his fire to call them all home to himself in our belies.
Let Christmas be what it is – more than family or religious observance. Let it be more than keeping up appearances and being seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ and see what happens.
You might find yourself….
Shaking in your boots with amazement like those working shepherds as they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the good news that hope has come, life is renewed and the God truly loves me in real word and action.
Embroiled in a real struggle like Joseph. God has done something to change my plans and now I either go with it or keep my own way – knowing that if I go with his plan it will be revolutionary for my life – and very, very, good, despite what others may think.
You might find yourself with Mary, quietly pondering the great blessing of being chosen as the one to bear something new, some one new – someone you carry to work and into life that changes your relationships – to the surprise of those around you!
The alternative is to keep it religious or political – stay with Annas and Caiaphas or Quirinius or the King – Augustus. It is safer, and for that the glory for any good comes to you.
But what if you gave your glory away tonight and simply marvelled at his! “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to the world he loves,” call the angels of God to us tonight.
That is lasting glory and it is all him. His grand plan to love the worst and welcome the underserving is a plan worth living for. His plan for my life is better than mine. His will is more gracious, grander in scale, not dependent on me but totally given in love for me to enjoy and live in.
Why the story and why to everyday people? Because Christmas is much more – more than religion or politics.
Jesus comes to you in real life to bring a hope yet unseen, a love yet unfathomed, a peace immovable a life grander, fuller, and needed way beyond politics or mere religious observance – real lifer with real heart for real people.
That’s the baby in the manger there for you tonight. Angels, stinky loin cloths, bad grammar, big questions about life, people who think they don’t matter (but obviously do!), crazy night, wrong clothes, we “cannot not” welcome him. That’s best double negative you’ll ever hear!