We are celebrating the birth of Jesus with Christmas music, “show and tell” (a chance for people to show off their Christmas presents), a creative talk for the kids, our minister Phil will be speaking about the Joy that Jesus can bring us at Christmas and some special Christmas prayers.
Four weeks ago when we started the season of Advent – the time of preparation for Christmas – I suggested that maybe after the year that we have had, we needed to focus on joy. I quite liked that idea, especially after all the challenges that 2020 presented to us.
I was reading an article that suggested that during the lock down in April, May, June … one of the most popular activities was … decluttering. Did anyone do any decluttering? (It was just sad that we didn’t have a flea market this year for all the decluttering to be sold at!) Did anyone use the Marie Kondo method of decluttering? Do you know what I am talking about. Marie Kondo wrote a book (and also a Netflix series) where she encourages us to speak to our clothes or other clutter and ask the question … does this bring me joy? And if it doesn’t, to toss it out.
Well, if we are focusing on JOY this Christmas, maybe we need to be doing some Marie Kondo and asking whether all the clutter we have at Christmas brings us joy? Because, let’s be honest … Christmas has gotten a little cluttered. Not only with all the trimmings, the busyness, the decoration, the presents, the activities etc … but also the Christmas story itself has become cluttered.
Seriously, the story of Jesus’ birth story in the Bible is full of wonder and profound insight, but over the years we have added to this story – through Children’s books, Nativity plays, carols, pictures on Christmas cards and even sermons … and we have ended up with a story with a lot more in it than is in the original story.
I am not saying that is bad or wrong, I am just saying that the story itself has become a little cluttered with other good things and sometimes it is hard to work out what is from the Bible account and what been loving added over the years.
Do you think that you can do some decluttering of the Christmas story? Let’s have a quick quiz and see if you can guess whether something is from the Bible account or has been added. Up for this?
1. How did Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem?
d. Mary rode, Joseph walked
e. No reference / None of the above
In spite of all the kids Christmas plays and Christmas cards that portray this event, Scripture never mentions by what means they travelled to Bethlehem. There is no donkey in the Bible.
2. What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?
a. “There is no room in the inn.”
b. “I have a stable you can use.”
c. Both A and B
d. No reference / None of the above
Scripture never mentions an innkeeper, just that the guest room (kataluma) – which is sometimes incorrectly translated as inn – was full.
3. In what was Jesus born / delivered?
f. No reference / None of the above
Again, Scripture omits the specific details … all the kids books has a beautiful wooden structure out the back but historically they just didn’t exist like that. Most people except the very wealthy kept their animals at one the end of their small one room homes at night.
4. Where did they lay the newborn Jesus?
a. On his mother’s chest
b. On Mary & Joseph’s bed
c. In an animal’s feeding trough
d. No reference / None of the above
Come on, don’t be fooled into thinking all the answers are “No Reference”. The Bible clearly tells us in Luke 2:7 that Jesus was laid in a Manger.
I have plenty of these and I will put them up on our website for you to see all 30 questions … but I just want to jump to our Bible reading for today about the wise men and ask 3 more questions, to once again show you that we have valued added to the biblical Christmas story and possibly cluttered it a little.
When we talk about the three wise men, or we things kings from orient are … there is nothing in scripture that say that they were men nor wise nor the studiers of ancient texts (that was the priests) nor that they were kings but rather, Matt 2:2 simply tells us that they were astrologers … they study they stars.
And the Bible doesn’t ever state how many they are. There are three gifts, so we imagine that there were three magi … but their might have been four or two or …
Why I am asking these questions? My intention is not to mess with the Christmas story … but rather to show that over the years that we have added to the story – in good ways – but sometimes these additions can clutter the story and sometimes we can miss the profound message that is there.
So in the next 3 minutes, I want to do a Marie Kondo and pull something out of this story of the Magi and ask us all … does this bring us joy. You see, the Magi were singularly focused. They travelled a long one for one purpose only … what was it? (I will even give you the Bible reference … Matthew 2:1-2).
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
That’s it … when you strip everything back, the magi were only interested in one thing – to follow the star, to find the newborn king and to worship him. And we see that in verse 11. What did the magi do when they came to the house where Mary and Jesus were? Even before they got to the presents … the very first thing they did … they bowed down and worshipped Jesus.
Can you see, when we get rid of some of the clutter, this Biblical story of the magi is simple but profound. They wanted to come close to Jesus and worship.
But in the words of Marie Kondo … how does this bring us joy? Well if we go back one verse to verse 10 we read … when they saw the star, the were “filled with joy”. When the magi realised that they were close to Jesus, there response was … joy.
I said at the beginning that after the year we have had, that maybe this Christmas we need to be focusing on Joy … this deep sense of rightness and assurance that things are ok, even when things around us are not. This inner happiness that can shine even when there are tears. This joy that bubbles up from our heart, from our souls that allows us to say that God is indeed good. After this year, we need joy.
And here the magi are showing us a simple but profound truth … that we when seek Jesus, when we come close to Jesus … we will be filled with joy. Maybe if we strip everything else away … that is all we need to hear this Christmas. If you wish to be filled with joy … come closer to Jesus.
This doesn’t have to be super spiritual … it is as simple as praying a prayer in your mind … something like, “Jesus, I would like be closer to you. Can you help us to be closer”.
And as we draw closer to Jesus, I truly believe that we – like the magi – will be filled with joy. And our response will be to worship, worship Jesus the king.