Theme: Rejoice (Sunday 6 December, 2020)
Series: Advent 2020
Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-56
Preacher: Phil Swain
Secular historians concede that the birth of Jesus was one of the top world-changing events. The irony was that at the time, nearly the whole world missed it. At the time, less than 100 people even had an idea that the saviour of the world had been born – everyone else missed it completely.
I wonder if we are any different. Have you ever had one of those preparations for Christmas where you are just running around non-stop? There are presents to buy, food to prepare, plans to be made, the house to be cleaned, Christmas parties to attend – not to mention the end of year presentations, Christmas Services … the list goes on.
Do you know what I am talking about? Our great quest to celebrate the mystery of the birth of Jesus exhausts us – and as I mentioned last week, this year is already exhausting. I confess that sometimes I just long for Boxing Day and for it all to be over. And before we know it – it is over … and we have barely had a moment to reflect on the awe-inducing, soul-satisfying mystery of the incarnation – that God is with us, that God has come to us.
Have we completely missed the whole point of Christmas?
When do we draw near to the manger and worship Christ the Lord?
Worship should be at the heart of our Christmas experience – because it was at the heart of the experience of every character in the Biblical Christmas story. I know you know the Christmas story so well – but let’s go over it again and see how much of the Christmas story is about worship.
Just before our Bible reading today is the story of Elizabeth and Zachariah. Liz and Zac were elderly and had not been able to conceive a child. The story starts where? In the temple – actually in the Holy of Holies … the most sacred part of the temple. And what was Zachariah doing? Lighting the increase as a way of worshipping God. The Christmas story literally starts with worship. And it was in this time of worship that Zachariah has his experience with an angel and receives his good news that he and Elizabeth will have a child and he is to name him John.
What is Elizabeth’s response to getting pregnant? She praised God for what God had done for her.
Then we get to our reading for today – the story of a young woman called Mary. In terms of what we explored last week … Mary’s story is one of huge disruption. She was living the life that all young women of that time and culture lived. She was engaged and was waiting the traditional period of 12 months before the marriage became official. She was counting down the day until the next era of her life began when … an angel appears and throws that all into confusion.
The angel delivers the news that she is pregnant … divinely pregnant with the Messiah! Amazing except the fact that it is an absolute disgrace in that time and culture to be pregnant before you are married. People will judge her, Joseph will most likely walk away. She will be shamed and condemned.
So … what was Mary’s response to her news about her miraculous pregnancy and being the mother of the saviour? (Well, after the bit when she questions, “How can this be”) … Mary broke into song – the magnificant – her song of praise and worship to God. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…”
I could go on with the other characters of the Christmas story When Mary and Elizabeth met up – Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and praised God. Even John in her womb leaped for joy.
The Angels sharing the good news with the shepherds broke into a worship song “Glory to God in the highest heaven”. Luke 2:20 tells us that after they had seen the baby Jesus, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
When King Herod was talking to the magi, what was the reason that he gave for wanting to know the location of Jesus? Matthew 2:8, “As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
And lastly, what was the first thing the magi do when they entered the house and saw Jesus – Matthew 2:11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him”.
Even Joseph – whom the bible does not explicitly say worshipped God – showed obedience to God, which is an act of worship. Every major character in the Christmas story had WORSHIP as part of their Christmas experience.
Therefore, it stands to reason that we too should have worship at the heart of our Christmas experience too.
So how do we do this? How can we make sure that worshipping is not just one more thing that we squeeze into an already packed December but rather is at the heart of our Christmas experience this year?
I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help.
- Our Sunday worship services are good place to start. But don’t just sing the carols … let the music, words, youtube clips … as well as the bible readings and prayers … bring you deeper into a place of worship!
- Blue Christmas Service (10th). A time for quiet reflection and worship for those whom Christmas is difficult.
- Lessons & Carols (next week) special times of worship to focus on Jesus.
- Advent daily reflections. On Facebook but also can do printed copies if you like
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – full of life and energy and joy … but also have been working with the teams to make sure the true message of Christmas is clearly communicated and that worship the heart of those two services.
Christmas is about so many things – present, food, family gatherings, decorations etc … and all those things are good … but it is our calling as followers of Jesus to make sure the at the heart of Christmas, at the very core of Christmas is … worship. Rejoicing! Let us break into song like Mary and declare the greatness of our Lord, let us have times of silence like Zachariah and reflect on what God is doing in our lives, let us jump for joy like Elizabeth and baby John when we hear the good news of Christmas, let us worship with our obedience like Joseph, let us be like the shepherd glorifying and praising God wherever we are, and let us find time to be like the magi, and draw close the manger – to come and adore him, Christ the Lord.