“Receiving some Good News”
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.”
People think that Christianity is about keeping rules, trying to be good, not doing anything wrong, finding a personal meaning to cope with life. People think that Christians who proclaim that God is real, good and present in the world now have spent way too long out in the paddock and are suffering from some kind of psychological trauma or are lost in some kind of delusional belief.
The Shepherd guy knows none of that is true. So do the first witnesses to the event of that first Christmas. So do people who believe what they hear in this room now.
Christmas is not a fairy tale, an age old fable to drag out each year to make us all feel nice as families or some concocted story that helps business along for the year. It has become this for many people. But we are not convinced about all of that. In fact we are convinced that it is the grandest vision of life and the greatest story of our lives and it is in essence very, very good news – not just for church goers but for alive human beings.
A grand vision for the world and for you?
How about a vision of life that proclaims that there is room in the divine inn for anyone, from anywhere who has done or not done anything?
How about a grand vision of life that speaks of the relentless divine interrupting of our lives to get through to us that God is love and in him all people find their home, their place, their peace?
How about a vision of God that says that you are like the Shepherd guy – chosen, invited in, called, welcomed, not accidental, isolated, banished from the church, outcast from acceptance and welcome and the kindness of the God.
How about good news that really is good news – the world is heading somewhere after all. Human beings , animals, rocks plants the seas and the sky and stars are still being shaped by a God who loves all of us and all of it. God is still operating beyond and behind and further out than we can know or see – but can trust.
How about your life being lived with God’s constant interruptions, so that the Creator and Sustainer of the world can tell you again that he is still here, still with you, that your baptism into his divine community in the presence of his Son, Jesus, still means plenty to him; you mean plenty to him and you have your place any time you want it?
Like the Shepherd, we folks at St Petri are different men and women, young adults and kids now, because of one thing. We are not loved and accepted and called and chosen because we are good. We could never be good enough to match God’s goodness and win his approval.
We are not called and loved because we have figured out the secret spiritual pathway, or understood the mysterious meaning of life in some philosophical system, or learnt some ancient spiritual ritual or practice that somehow cleanses us and makes us one with nature.
No, we have been made acceptable, made wise to God’s ways, aware of God’s presence and responsive to his word of promise in our ears by God with us – this human divine life in the hay and the wood and the cold and the love of those around him.
He is the third way. The gospel way, the grace way, the gospel way for this life and this town and this family.
It all begins in this cave, this feeding trough, this candle lit room, this gathering of strangers brought together by the star of God – the real star of Christmas – God with us and for us – Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Saviour, Friend of sinners, man of sorrows, triumphant king of kings, sung into birth by angels and presented gifts by science and reasoned men, seen by the workers of the world and marvelled at by a surprised carpenter and his very young wife to be.
Pack it up for another year?
Will we walk away from this darkened candle lit room tonight and pack Christmas and the star and the story away for another year like we pack up the tree, throw out the wrapping paper or store in the cupboard until we drag it out again next year or will we take this light into our own darkness and into the dark places in our families and community?
Will we be chosen?
Will we be chosen tonight? If we do what the Shepherds did and journey toward the Prince of Peace, will we need to own up to the fact that we have not got a leg to stand on when it come to being righteous, right, good, perfect or holy. But then he will say all this is done for you by this Christ Child as he grows to that adult bearing the shame and sin of the world on that Calvary hill, then bursting out of the dark dead tomb in light and life.
Friend, God is choosing you again this holy night. He is placing his star at your front door. He is speaking really good news which has nothing to do with you being good – just being made new – by this Light, this Emmanuel – God with us and for us.
Take the Star.
Will you take in that star and let him light up your house from the inside? Will you lay aside what you have summed up Christmas to be and let Jesus sum you up and speak his good news into your heart and mind?
Tonight is a sign – an ancient sign but a present sign, a human sign – a human baby of divine being and life. Tonight is a sign for you. A moment of Jesus seeking you out and interrupting your life again – not for the purpose of making you fearful of God, the church, the Saviour – but an interruption to your plans that is really good for you and your family.
We pray that you read the sign, grab a hold of the light, hear the news that is good and take it with you into tomorrow and 2014.
The light and hope of Jesus is shining tonight and interrupting us again, and there is no need to be afraid.