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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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Sunday sermon 28 July – When you pray…

Reading:

Luke11:1-13

Luke 11:1  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:2  He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

Luke 11:3  Give us each day our daily bread.

Luke 11:4  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”

Luke 11:5  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Luke 11:6  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

Luke 11:7  “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

Luke 11:8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Luke 11:9  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:10  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:11  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

Luke 11:12  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Luke 11:13  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Sunday Sermon @ BBP

Story:

Learning to Pray (Bruce Larson)

There is a story that I hope is true about a man working the four to midnight shift every night. He walked home and his route passed a cemetery. One night he was in a particular hurry, and since the moon was full, he decided to take a short-cut through the middle of the cemetery. The route lopped five minutes off his walk, and soon it became his regular path. But on one particularly black night, he had an unfortunate mishap. He fell into a freshly dug grave. He wasn’t hurt but the hole was so deep he was unable to get out. He began to yell, but nobody heard him. Resigned at last to simply wait for morning, when his plight would be discovered, he pulled his coat up around his neck and huddled in a corner to try to sleep.

He was awakened in an hour or so by the noise of a falling body. A second unfortunate man had stumbled into this unexpected hole. Sleepily, the first arrival watched his companion trying frantically to crawl out. After a few minutes, he felt obliged to comment, “You’ll never get out that way.” Well—he did!

The story illustrates whimsically that all of us have undiscovered and unexpected powers—powers we didn’t know we had. One of the most effective ways to appropriate that power is through prayer.

This passage today is my favourite passage. Together with dozens of other favourite passages! Sorry – I can’t help it. The Bible is a treasure, is it not? Remember these:

“How I love your Law” says the Psalmist. “I meditate on it day and night”. (Psalm 1)

And Psalm 119:111 says this: Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

Learning to pray from Jesus – is seen in this wonderful passage in Luke 11.

The pattern for prayer called the Lord’s prayer – well we know it all too well – and probably need to spend weeks digging into it. It’s worth a whole sermon series really.

For today – what we really need to hear is about the nature and character of God.

Jesus doesn’t even go through the whole of the Lord’s prayer here. We have to turn to Matthew chapter 6 (from verse 9) to get our longer version.

And it’s not surprising. Either Jesus got carried away on this occasion or Luke got carried away in the writing of his version of events!

This whole passage is about one thing!

The nature and character of God – specifically as FATHER.

Jesus leaps from the model of prayer to stories about the Father and fathers in general.

Yes he talks about a friend arriving at midnight asking for bread – emergency rations.

But that doesn’t get stuck on the responsibility of friends either. Remember that hospitality was normal and expected in that culture. Both from the guy who had his friend show up (at midnight!)and his friend whom he goes to for help.

In verse 8 Jesus says that friendship is not the reason for the man eventually getting out of bed to get bread

It’s about boldness. Listen again:

Luke 11:5  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Luke 11:6  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

Luke 11:7  “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

Luke 11:8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Boldness is key to the relationship children have with their Fathers. Good fathers whom they trust at any rate.

With parents in general there is the freedom to ask what are called BIG ASKS!

So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray – the first words are key.

Our Father, (in Matthew – a corporate prayer together which is what we do) or following Luke, simply Father.  In both cases the word is ABBA – Father – which is intimate and personal.

“He invites his disciples to call upon God as children call upon a loving parent, trusting that they belong to God and that God wants for them what is good and life giving.”  (Elisabeth Johnson)

It is a radical shift fundamental to this new people of the Way – which became the Christian Faith we know today.

It’s about intimate love.

A wonderful platform onto which we can attach our theology – our beliefs about God’s love, forgiveness and patience. And also his commitment to truth and wanting the best for His children.

And Boldness in prayer is Jesus’ pattern – and it is linked to this intimate love. Because God is a father you can ask the world! He won’t always give it to you and he may say wait and trust me! But boldness is an antidote to fear and timidity!

And remember that all of this is not just linked to God’s love but it is grounded in God’s love – as the Apostle John writes in his first letter:

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:19  We love because he first loved us.

Then – linked to this too – is Trustworthiness. It comes close to Integrity.

The next story he tells is actually funny and powerful all at once.

You rotten old sinful fathers won’t give their children a snake when they ask for fish and a scorpion when they ask for an egg!

Come on people! Yes there are wicked dads but this is about FATHERHOOD.

Man its great when people become parents for the first time! Did you watch Baby prince George come out of hospital?

Did you see that dad? Did you hear what he said?

William – looking a very happy dad – was going on about the baby being tardy – and how he would have a word with him about it later! But he was all smiles – and I loved it when he took the baby from his wife. There’s a film clip of his dad doing that when he was a baby – taking him on one of those first public viewings – and cradling him so lovingly and proudly.

Image

It’s tough being a royal and living in the public eye and under the spotlight. A bit like Pastors kids – no paparazzi for them – just well-meaning church folk!

Parenthood is a wonderful gift.

Knowing God as Father is more wonderful. Knowing his nature and character is really important.

So remember

  • Intimate love
  • Boldness
  • Trustworthiness (the old term – faithfulness)

That last one – faithfulness – reminds me of the traditional hymn: “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee!” The scripture that underlies the hymn is James 1:17:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

May you grow in leaps and bounds in your relationship with God our Father – in your conversations with him – especially the honest ones where you pour out your heart – where you persist shamelessly like the man waking up his friend to get bread – with confidence, knowing he won’t give you something dangerous when you ask for the things you need.

Let me pray for you using Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-18

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Let’s save more time today and each day to pray more.

Amen.