Advent 4B, Sunday December 21, 2014.
Gifts of Christmas: Week 4 Essential Ingredient – Jesus
After viewing the ‘Bread Basket Case”

Romans 16:25-27
25 Praise God! He can make you strong by means of my good news, which is the message about[a] Jesus Christ. For ages and ages this message was kept secret, 26 but now at last it has been told. The eternal God commanded his prophets to write about the good news, so that all nations would obey and have faith. 27 And now, because of Jesus Christ, we can praise the only wise God forever! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

Christy, truly believes she can cook well! She believes that confectionary can be a “manifestation of heaven”.

She has her strong opinions about food. There is one item of confectionary she vows to never make in her kitchen – she calls it a “Christmas abomination” – the fruit cake!

Truth be told, my own kids might actually agree with this funny cook, even though I actually don’t mind a bit of Christmas fruitcake.

For this woman, cooking is a godly thing. She was taught by her mum that cooking is something you do for others. What you cook and give away is a sign of God’s heart of grace. So, “you pray as you bake”.

As you pray you also bake believing that good things from our good God come from little acts of kindness, sometimes from unrecognised or unknown places, and through simple things.

Now if there is ever a Church who knows this to be true it would have to be St Petri and the whole Barossa community, and in fact the whole LCA! We have lived in two states and two countries and have been on the receiving end of much good baking and praying!

Lutheran’s tend to pray as they bake and see their food offered to others as a sign of God’s grace for people. Just ask the mums at the Family Centre who relish partaking of the home made biscuits some of our ladies provide! Just ask the Zimmermann family as well!

Small things produce important and hopeful things for people who need hope and love. Good things come from often unrecognised or even unknown places – like Bethlehem.

She is right. There are two Bethlehem’s in Israel – Bethlehem up North, hardly ever mentioned, and the much more named Bethlehem Ephratha, down South near Jerusalem, whose name does indeed mean something like “fruitful house of bread”.

Just because a biblical place is highly regarded by us, does not mean it was highly regarded back then. Bethlehem Ephratha was no Sydney or Paris or London! But as this fruity cook said, “Little old Bethlehem was chosen to be the place in which the Saviour would draw his first human breath”.

In this sometimes derided little satellite town of the city, the Main Ingredient for life was given to the world. Just like the main ingredient of sugar to sweeten the cake is put into the mix, so the astounding and wide grace of God given in Jesus Christ in a way that we can hear, understand and receive was added “into the mix”; given to be received by the “lost and the found”, “the saints and the sinners”, the “ins and the outs”.

And doesn’t the world need a lot more of his wide underserved love and the hope it brings for humanity.

The stunning beauty of Christmas hit me this week. The very good news of God entering our darkness in that glory song of the angels and that nativity scene in the paddock shone bright as I watched the news of that siege in Sydney.

If the whole point of the death cults is to just suck in disconnected, angry young men to grab a weapon and cause as much innocent suffering and death as possible for no particular belief or reason – but just to create terror that terrible things can happen to anyone anywhere, then this was partly achieved in Australia this week.

But only in part because there is another One who was born to fulfil an ancient promise to take the death and the dark and the meaninglessness of any terror into himself and suffer and innocent death on a torture machine, for the world.

This magnificent mystery of God gracing the world with sheer compassion and kindness when completely underserved by any of us all begins in this cow shed. That is why Christians celebrate Christmas the way they do.

The baby is the answer to human longing for meaning and the end of senseless killing like that sickening school mass murder committed in Pakistan this week. The world needs to hear about the Main Ingredient for peace and love a lot.

Paul knows this as he writes to his people in the city of Rome. He affirms the people of Jesus in that city…..

25 Praise God! He can make you strong by means of my good news, which is the message about[a] Jesus Christ. For ages and ages this message was kept secret, 26 but now at last it has been told. The eternal God commanded his prophets to write about the good news, so that all nations would obey and have faith. (Romans 16:25-27)

The “mystery” of which Paul speaks is that all people of all nations are on God’s radar of inclusion. This is the complete opposite to the fundamentalism we are seeing. God is seeking and include Jews and Gentiles – all people. This is sheer grace that changes people and changes the world daily – in unexpected place through ordinary people.

Can we call upon each other to not make the mistake of substituted salt for sugar this Christmas?

Let’s not waste a lot of time as this funny lady did when she put salt all through her mix instead of the key ingredient – sweet sugar.

Let’s not consume terror and fear and death and the evil one and all his last gasp grabs at winning a few back to his hatred and evil schemes that destroy human life.

If we do consume this cult of death trying to win us over we will be as useless to the good news as fruit cake at Christmas in this lady’s opinion! Only good for being a boat anchor! We will only weigh people down with our worrying words and hope-less outlook. We will downplay and deny what God is doing in his world through us.

Let’s not peddle this evil intent but instead bury our hearts in the best ingredient for human life and flourishing – the sweetest, the most beautiful ingredient for our work, our families, our hopes and dreams, our church and our own character – the sweetness of the Word of God – the gospel Word of life – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and his living voice.

The ancient song writer gets it well;

9 Worshiping the LORD is sacred…
All of his decisions are correct and fair.
10 They are worth more than the finest gold
and are sweeter than honey from a honeycomb.
11 By your teachings, Lord,
I am warned; by obeying them, I am greatly rewarded. (Psalm 19:9-11)

Hear his teachings this Christmas. They bring the reward of renewed hope, renewed heart of love for others, renewed keenness for his light and life in his Word, renewed awareness of his presence in this gathering, in this church and in your home.

As we strain to hear the mystery of Emmanuel – God with all of us and we will be the key ingredient that flies in the face of all this fearful evil. He is the main ingredient to life and love and hope we all need.