Thursday, 25 December 2014

Can't Make it to Church? Christmas 2014

It's Christmas and therefore it's all about:

Light.

An invisible God becoming a very visible human. Thank to the willingness of a teenage girl:

Mary: An of course Joseph without whom things might have been equally difficult!

The Roman Empire; who make sure that she ends up in a place that is far from home and far from comfortable either!

Yes this story has it all:  World powers, travel, drama, a personal interest story as an unmarried girl has to tell her fiancĂ© she's pregnant, a God interest and some smelly Shepherds.

Goodness me, not even Tom Stoppard could produce a plot like this (although perhaps his ex, Miriam, would have been handy at the delivery perhaps!).


At last - the fourth verse is with us too!

So beginning with Isaiah, a chap who some seven hundred years before the event is foretelling the birth of a Messiah who will do wonderful things (take a look at the job description in the Isaiah passage: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Increasing authority) and suffer some terrible stuff too!

This child, born in a catspaw of a nation, is to bring God's Grace - which means getting what we'd like but don't deserve from a God who doesn't call in the debts we've run up but scrubs them off the sheet! -  and bringing His (that's God's) love, light and peace to those who choose to accept it.

The 'accepting it bit is only fair, after all if you don't want it then you don't have to have it you know! But as the Titus passage so succinctly puts it, 'Here it is: salvation to all'

How very cool is this?

So the Romans send Joseph, who takes Mary from Nazareth, to Bethlehem to make sure that the Isaiah prophecy comes true and the Light comes into the world; a world that He created! A place where another of the readings, from John One, really hits the spot too, for it talks of Jesus as the light and how we, through His coming, living, dying and resurrection, can become 'children of God' - But you'll need to look at that yourself).

So here we are: 'Jesus is the reason for the season' and all that stuff as we put 'Christ back into Christmas!' But we need to understand what is on offer for us here:

It is the offering of self for others: and were are the others and Jesus is the self that is offered.

It is Jesus putting everything that is divine aside to engage with everything we do as someone who is truly human (Jesus isn't playing a role - He is truly human) so that this 'sin' thing can get dealt with 'Once and for all!'

It is that revelation moment when those who say they will believe when they see it - see it! This is why the journey begins with the lowest of Bethlehem's society - after all if it was good enough for them then we must be OK because we are nowhere near as smelly or despised (I hope!).

It is an offer of God's Christmas presence - something that keeps on being true for every day of our lives should we so wish. Not an 'arm up the back' or 'leave your brain at the door' life - but a life that puts others first and brings into the game an 'otherness' that defies reason (especially self-serving reason).

Yeeha! 
It seemed to the Warden that numbers might indeed lower this year!

And later we'll have some geezers from the East appear. these are the brightest and the best - but we will save that until Epiphany (when they arrive at the scene).


The Collect
Almighty God, you have given us your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 9.2-7
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Titus 2.11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all has appeared to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Luke 2.1.20
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Post Communion Prayer
God our Father, whose Word has come among us in the Holy Child of Bethlehem: may the light of faith illumine our hearts and shine in our words and deeds; through him who is Christ the Lord.

And why not listen to the 'world's favourite' Christmas song:


(have to say that it's not mine but then again I'm not of this world - I'm just passing through :-)

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