Christmas Eve/Day 2015

Sermon Title: CHRISTMAS EVE/DAY 2015

Date: 24th December 2015

Preacher: Revd Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: Christmas

Lectionary Reading: 2 Samuel 7.1-5, 8-11 & 16, Psalm 89.19-29, Luke 1.67-69

There is something very special about tonight/today that if we can enter into the wonder of this birth and the reason for Christmas, we can be blown away by the way God is always present in our lives, but often in the most understated, quiet ways.

Whether you believe in the nativity story or not, it is a story that has changed the lives of many people, through many generations…. And it’s not just a story about a baby, but a baby that grew up and became the change we want to see in ourselves and in our world.

What do I mean by this?

Luke in his telling of the birth of Jesus, is making a point that God coming on earth as a human being, and in humble surrounds, and with very ordinary people, and in a not prominent town, says that those who exploit, oppress, who are violent, who believe that brute power is the way to gain power, is not the way it was meant to be.

God created and continues to create with us, a world of wonder and beauty. Our imaginations through cartoons of astro boy, the jetsons, (showing my age!) Star Wars, may become a reality with the way we are heading through our space travel and our understanding of the many galaxies out there! We have an amazing world of nature, of cultures and we have the adventurous who explore beyond this planet earth and can take photos from satellites looking at our planet and ourselves!

We humans are capable of great good!

This story of Jesus birth, focuses down from space, to one point in history and in the life of a family.

Jesus, grew up learning his dad’s trade as a carpenter, he went to synagogue as all Jews did, knew in his heart that all people were cherished and loved by the God. This got him in lots of trouble. The religious leaders were mostly unable to move from their safe, comfortable positions to see what Jesus could see.

Throughout history, we know of men and women who have fought for the rights of human dignity. Who have stepped out of their comfort zones and challenged themselves and others with the good news that Jesus, this little baby, this Word made flesh was teaching us..then and now.

Each Christmas as I reflect on the nativity scene, I get another insight to what this story is about.  This year our Sunday school pageant reflected on the nativity from the Inn keeper’s perspective. A guy who didn’t like being woken from his sleep by a young couple, by them wanting a small blanket, again woken by a bright light, again woken by singing, again woken by shepherds.  The inn keeper then went around the back where they all were, because there was no room in the inn, to go crook at them all. Instead of going crook, his heart was softened when he saw the baby Jesus.

A cute story and it didn’t happen like that but it gave me some insight as to why the story in Luke’s gospel was told in the first place. What was Luke trying to get across to his community and to us in 2015?

Luke sets the scene in a specific moment in history.  When Caesar was Emperor, when registrations of the people were taking place. ‘The Roman imperial system was one of the dominating realities of the Mediterranean world.  From Luke’s point of view, Rome epitomised how we can abuse our power: through exploitation, oppression and violence.’ It doesn’t take much imagination for our present age with what is happening in our world!

‘The ‘registration’ symbolizes life in the Roman Empire. The registration refers to Rome enrolling residents for the purpose of taxation.  In a bitter irony, by paying taxes to Rome, the residents of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee would pay for the oppression and violence visited upon them by Rome.

In the upper levels of the Roman imperial world, the birth of a potentially significant person was often heralded with great fanfare.  The birth of Jesus takes place in an ordinary house in an ordinary town.  Jesus was born not in Rome or Jerusalem, but Bethlehem, a modest community.’ [i]

And who came when the baby was born?  Shepherds.

‘The lives of shepherds in the ancient world were often difficult.  Shepherds frequently lived alone for long periods of time.  They were often on the move, taking the flock from pasture to pasture.  The weather could be uncomfortable with heat, cold, drought, rain or lightning.  Wild animals could be threatening.  Some shepherds owned their own flocks, but many were hired hands who were neglected or exploited by the owners.  Shepherds could be rough and even anti-social.  Hireling shepherds sometimes had reputations for cheating their owners.

The Roman Empire assumed a rigid class pyramid in which people in the upper classes had incredible benefits in comparison to the lower strata, where the shepherds were located.’[ii]

So, you might be saying to yourself, so what’s changed over the years? There are still those who exploit, oppress, use violence to feel powerful and gain power. There is a social class distinction and that’s not just in other countries but here in Australia too. We know the gap is widening between those who have and those who have not.

When the angel came to the shepherd, the angel said “do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”.

ALL people.  This is significant.  We sometimes think, oh, the good news is only for those who…go to church, who come from the right side of the tracks, who dress the way I do, who smell the way I do!  Who speak the language I speak.

The good news is about God becoming one of us. Who seeks peace and justice.

Our people on this planet always have choices whether to follow the path of peace and justice or for violence and exploitation.

We are bombarded with the awful things we can do to each other in the name of…greed and abusive power.

Is there hope?  Is there ever going to be peace on earth?

I believe by just being here tonight/today, that we are people of hope.  People of joy; people of love.

What we don’t hear is the many people who are caring for the 4 million Syrian refugees through emergency relief packs to families fleeing Syria. For the countries like Germany who are saying ‘come.  We can do this!’

For many other people in poor countries where there is medical assistance, providing education and housing and water.

When we have bush fires, people give of their time to fight fires, to help those who have lost everything… the many community lunches that happen on Christmas day…and I think of a neighbour who has organised about 70 people to meet in a park to have lunch together so they won’t be on their own.

Yes, there is dreadful things happening in our world. There’s no denying that….but

Over 2000 years ago, a baby was born to help us see the potential we have as beloved children of God who can save the world through Love.

I will finish with a reflection from the Revd. Dr Peter Millar, one time warden of the Iona community wrote the following reflection in 2010, for Christmas.

 

“One truth of our times:

For us all the journey is uncertain –

Rich in uncharted paths and hidden mines

which easily arouse our silent fears.

So we are hesitant, and hope the storm will pass.

Yet we are not immune from global pain,

and share a common fate on fragile earth.

A “fate” we say, but is it only thus as we survey the strangeness of our age and feel embedded in discomfort?

Have we ditched “hope” and life-giving ways of understanding?

Of seeing new paradigms amidst the gales and learning once again to sing and dance?

We are not lost, nor in despair for everywhere are signs of light when we have eyes to see and the gift to free ourselves from ourselves.

It’s Christmas- and One who knows beyond our knowing is closer than we think.”

The Lord be with you.

[i] Ron Allen: working preacher website

 

  1. Ron Allen: working preacher website Professor of Preaching and New Testament
    Christian Theological Seminary
    Indianapolis, IN