Sunday 25th December 9am Christmas Day Worship
Bible Reading: Matthew 2:8-20
Preacher: Phil Swain
I love Christmas morning – especially when there are kids involved. I love the joy and energy and excitement when the kids first race to open their presents. Well actually mine a little bigger now and a little less enthusiastic about getting up early … but on Christmas morning they are still keen to open their presents. Now we are a family who likes to wrap everything. You name it, it is wrapped. No present is presented without being first wrapped up. And we are not a family who carefully unwraps a present as to save the wrapping paper for next year – so consequently after the rush of opening presents on Christmas morning our lounge room looks like a wrapping paper bomb has gone off.
Anyone know what I am talking about? Does anyone else had that experience this morning. Actually … I have a photo of our lounge room taken just a few hours ago! The crazy thing is that because we all rush off down here for church … it is still like that! There is one danger in having it explosion of wrapping paper all over the lounge room. There is one huge problem that we need to be very, very careful to avoid.
Has anyone ever had the experience of opening all your presents and the excitement is all over and you finally get around to cleaning up the mess … and there, hidden in all the scraps of paper and chaos – you find an unopened present! Has that ever happened to you?
It is super exciting. Especially if the present if for you. It is like finding extra french fries in the bottom of the McDonalds bag. Here is an extra present that you were not expected and that you almost missed – that almost got thrown out with the other mess.
And what if that present wasn’t just another pair of socks but rather better than any other present that you had received. What if the present was something that you really wanted and you had hid your disappointment when it looked like you weren’t getting it this year … but then … you found this almost missed present and it is more than you could have ever imagined. (Apparently this is what happened to Ralphie in the movie “A Christmas story)”.
This morning I want to help us to get a glimpse of a most amazing Christmas gift that sometimes gets lost in the midst all the mess.
Over the past four weeks during advent we have been exploring how we make sure we don’t get too caught up in the worlds Christmas story where we rush and buy and eat and consume. If this is all that Christmas is, it ends up being a little like my lounge room … it can be so messy and chaotic that sometimes people miss the absolute gift that is there in the midst of it.
So this morning, I want to just step through our bible reading and highlight three things that might help us not to miss Jesus in the midst of the Christ-mess. I’ll skip over the first part of the story … not because it is not important but just because we all know it so well. Jesus is born, the shepherds were washing their socks by night, an angel turns up and gives them good news of great Joy – A saviour has been born in Bethlehem … and the shepherds race off to see this new born king.
Ok, 3 things that happen in the second half of the story that I think are extremely helpful for us to get the most out of Christmas.
What the shepherds did when they saw Jesus?
What do you think the shepherds did when the saw the baby Jesus? You see our reading doesn’t really tell us. It says that they hurried off, found Mary & Joseph and the baby … and after they had seen him … the reading goes on. BUT I wonder what they might have done when they were there? I want to suggest that they would have worshipped Jesus.
The shepherds were caught between a rock and a hard place when it came to worshipping at the temple. Because of their vocation, shepherds were considered unclean and could not take part in temple worship without ritual cleansing … but the time needed to become ritually clean would take them away from their sheep for too long, so not possible. Consequently, they were never got to worship at the temple. Could you imagine that … not being able to come to church, ever?
But now we have in the Christmas story the shepherds being invited to come and see Jesus – the object of worship himself.
There is no doubt in my mind that after not having the opportunity to worship for so long that they would have jumped at the chance to kneel at the manger and declare … How great is our God. How great is our God … and all the world will see, how great is our God.
Maybe that is one way that we can make sure that don’t miss Jesus in the Christ-Mess … by drawing near to the manger and worshipping Jesus.
Second thing I wanted to highlight was…
The response of Mary
Verse 19. The shepherds finally leave, Mary leans back … and the bible tells us that Mary pondered all these things in the heart. This was not a “sigh … I am glad that is all over” but rather a proactive pondering. What is God up to here?
The shepherds seem to confirm that this child really is something special … that this is a moment in history that God is really stirring up stuff. And God is including me in all of this. I wonder what is next, Mary thinks. I wonder what God might do next.
Are you getting this type of pondering that Mary is doing? Maybe we should find a few moments sometime today or tomorrow in the midst of the celebration and chaos and mess to do what Mary did.
Maybe we could also sit quietly and ponder things in our heart. Maybe look around us and give thanks to God for all his blessings. Or Maybe we can begin to ponder … I wonder what God is up to in my life.
What dots might God be connecting together to open up opportunities within you or your life for growth. What is God up to with you?
It is good to ponder – as it reveals to us more and more of the Jesus in our midst.
So we have two piece of wisdom of finding Jesus in the Christ-mess … to worship fully and to take time to ponder. One more point …
The response of the Shepherds
After the shepherds came and saw the saviour and worshipped the saviour, what did they do? The bible tells us that shepherds went back to their normal life and to the mess that is still there. That’s the reality of Christmas, isn’t it? When it is all over, the tree comes down, the decorations go back into the box, the presents disappear and we go back to normal life.
But for the shepherds, they didn’t leave the Christmas experience at the stable, they took it with them. Verse 20 tells us that they returned praising and glorifying God and in Verse 17 we read that they shared their experience with everyone they saw. Meeting Jesus was not just a memory for them, the experience had changed them. The experience was now part of them and influenced how they lived.
The Shepherds had discovered this amazing gift in the midst of the mess of their life … and they were not going to let this gift go.
So … what is this gift that so deeply impacted the shepherds? Of course the answer is Jesus – but it is more than that.
Remember that these shepherds were rejected and marginalised by most of society because they were poor. They were rejected by the religious system because they were unclean.
But when they drew close to Jesus they discovered that in the eyes of the almighty God they were not rejected or unclean at all. Rather that they were accepted and loved. They discovered they were really loved. Like the line I mentioned in my talk last night from O Holy Night … for the shepherds when Christ appeared, their soul felt its worth.
Maybe this is the most powerful piece of wisdom about finding Jesus in the Christ-Mess. Yes, draw close and worship. Yes, take time to ponder what God is doing in your life. But if you want to be deeply impacted by Christmas, then you need to see that in this story of Jesus being born, that in this story of Jesus coming to us … the truth is revealed…
- You are loved – really loved by God.
- That you are not alone – Jesus promises that you will never be alone because Jesus Emanuel – God is with us – has come.
- And God has done this because you are worth it. Are you hearing this? God thinks that you are worth leaving heaven and coming to earth for.
Christmas is messy. Life is messy. But I encourage you to look beyond the mess and find this extraordinary gift.
This is good news, not just for Christmas day but for every day.