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Christmas Day Message 25 December 2018 – ready for relatives?

Readings: Hebrew 1:1-3; John 1:1-5; 10-14

Do you get relatives coming for Christmas?

I noticed on SKY TV a suggestion from the Mental Health Foundation in Australia to help you get through the season in good shape:

MENTAL HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Sleep and relaxation
  • Exercise
  • Eating and drinking in moderation
  • Keeping calm during family gatherings
  • Doing good

Keep calm in family gatherings! A fair call. Just remember those this Christmas who have no family or whose loved ones are in care or in hospital and they can’t be together.

By the way there’s a lovely version of the serenity prayer when it comes to interesting people in our lives:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know its me. 🙂

Yes family descends. It often means a bit of work preparing for their coming.

Some family members inspire you to do a lot of cleaning and sorting. The house has to be tidy – perhaps for granny or your favourite auntie.

And on Christmas day if they all come along – well there’s all kinds of cleaning and cooking. That Christmas meal is heaps of work. Especially preparing things like turkeys or Christmas Ham. My favourite Mr Bean story is where he plays with the nativity set in a shop. But the craziest part of his Christmas adventure is when he gets a turkey stuck on his head. It can’t be that bad for us!

You’ve got to know what you are doing in the kitchen. And you’ve got to get ready for the day.

The truth is that we put a lot of time into preparing for Christmas celebrations – but how much effort goes into preparing for Jesus’ coming?

  • It’s one thing if your gran checks if the house is clean and dusted.
  • But Jesus’ coming means a lot of other things may need inspecting and cleaning up.

Jesus’ first coming as a baby is almost like “coming ready or not”. Very few people actually recognized his coming. And his own people did not receive him.

Mary and Joseph were prepared by angels bringing messages. Those revelations were quite frightening I am sure. The “wise” kings were alert and looking for signs. But there were to be risks for them too. Some like the shepherds got one of those “surprise” moments.  All in all it makes sense that angels should say: “don’t be afraid!’

John’s gospel doesn’t talk about the birth of Jesus like Matthew and Luke. There’s no detail. But there is explanation. especially in these verses:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:10-12)

We need to make sure that we receive Him. Look what happens when we receive – and believe;

He gives us “the right to become children of God’ Born of God.

So what does that mean?

1. No longer orphans or lost boys

It reminds me of the lost boys in the story of Peter Pan. There are a number of countries in the world where there are many orphaned children in homes due to the disasters of human conflict. And tragedies on our roads take parents away.

Becoming children of God is a wonderful blessing. Like the lost boys we too need to be found. Becoming children of God also means:

2. Having a really good father

Chris Tomlin has written a wonderful song called “Good good Father.”

The words are a good reminder of the Father’s heart:

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

The chorus follows and a brilliant second verse:

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
‘Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word

And finally in this short Christmas day reflection:

3. We also don’t have to be afraid…

Fear and anxiety dominate our lives so much today. The words of the angels still ring in our heads: ‘Do not be afraid”.

Our nation and many others have hundreds of thousands of people on anti-anxiety medication. Keeping calm is not easy even on a normal day, never mind when the relatives descend.

John who writes about us having the right to become children of God through Jesus the word who became flesh and made his home (literally pitched his tent) among us, also writes this in his first letter chapter 4 verse 18:

God’s “perfect love drives out all fear.”

Paul in one of my favourite passages also says this:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7.

These are the blessings of receiving this gift – the person of Jesus – whose coming we celebrate today.

A blessed Christmas to you all.

Amen.

 

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Christmas Day sermon 25 December 2013 – God chose who?

Readings:  Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20

Message

We’ve looked at Mary through these weeks – her soul and spirit response to God’s call on her and the awesome responsibility of being mum to Jesus.

We looked at Joseph too – a man of God so open to God’s word and direction – a loving righteous man not wanting to submit Mary to public disgrace.

Last night we looked at the inn keeper  – and asked ourselves about our own openness to Jesus and His family – and by implication to all people in need of shelter and protection – the least of His little ones or brothers. Whatever we do to them – we do to Jesus! What a responsibility!

Today we look at the shepherds.

God chose them – angels spoke to them – and they too were stunned.

Matthew Henry says they were sent to: “…poor, humble pious industrious shepherds, who were in the business of their calling, keeping watch over their flock”

He goes on to say that we are not out of the way of Divine visits, when we are employed in an honest calling and abide with God in it”.

There are simple things we can learn from these illiterate and simple men:

  1. 1.      God gets their attention – and they investigate further.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

There is no mention of who keeps watch over their sheep!

Simply an urgency:

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

  1. 2.      God speaks to whom he chooses – and often outside of the religious establishment.

I’m not a fan of organised religion. That sounds odd really because I live indebted to organised religion.

The point is SYSTEMS and IMPORTANT PEOPLE are not always the vehicles through which God moves and acts.

The people in Jerusalem who advised Herod knew that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But they didn’t make the 7 or 8 km journey to see. They were too busy with their systems.

(Nicky Gumbel – story of the Anglican warden who tapped a man on the shoulder and said:  we don’t do that here” when he raised his hands in worship. The man said “but I’ve found the Lord” to which the warden replied “well you didn’t find him here!”)

God sovereignly spoke to these shepherds – it was all unexpected.

Let’s watch this kids production “An unexpected Christmas”. (Video)

An unexpected Christmas

Surprises galore! (Key line – they’ll not be expecting that!)

  1. 3.      Good news is always worth sharing – and it’s normal to do so! 

The passage goes on to say:

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. They were evangelists – they shared good news! And people were amazed – at the story, and you can be sure – t he story tellers themselves! Shepherds – seeing holy visions? What’s up here?

  1. 4.      Worship and praise are an appropriate response to this story! 

Suddenly Luke returns to Mary – who in his words:

19 But Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 Then he goes onto the shepherds again:

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

It was back to work for them – but to be sure their attitudes were changed!

God spoke

They investigated

It was JUST AS THEY HAD BEEN TOLD!

The implications – that the Lord shared the good news with THEM and they weren’t in a trance or imagining things.

This was the real thing.

When we walk away from listening to this story – what is the impact on our lives?

A great question!

Only you can answer that. But God surely knows your heart – as do you.

Amen.