Phil provided an excellent sermon building on the fact that words are critical to a good story and the greatest story ever told was based on the Word – “THE WORD became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” He reminded us at Christmas time, God provides us hope, peace and MOST of all love in the birth of Jesus Christ Our Saviour.
Christmas Day 2019.
Bible Reading: John 1:1-14
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Wow, did you like Jonty’s story before. That was a good story.
There is something about a good story. Humans have since the beginning of time told stories – from the Neanderthals who etched out their hunting stories on cave walls, to those who painted hieroglyphics inside a pyramid, the playwrights and poets, right through to the little ones who when tucked up in their beds hear from their parents another story about dragons or princesses. Stories are a big deal.
We love a good story. I love the story of this church – the story of how two churches came together to form this amazing community, of how it has always had a strong emphasis on children and families, the story of CEW this week is a great part of that story. I love the story of how this year God has moved within the people of this church, within the youth groups and bible studies. I love how this church is taking a risk next year and increasing our ministry staff because we want our story to continue and be richer and full of life. I love the story of our church!
But this church is just as small part of the larger story that God is doing in this world. The story of God is huge – the greatest story ever told. Let’s review this amazing story … where is the best place to begin any story? At the beginning.
Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 – In the beginning … (don’t worry, I’m not going to read the whole thing!). In the beginning, God created, God created the heavens and the earth and thought it was good. He created the plants, the birds, the fish, the animals and thought it was good. And God created us, and though we were the best – we were exceedingly good.
But the story takes a lousy turn. Bad choices enter the story. So does rebellion and even death. The story is not going according to the script. But God doesn’t give up on the story. God steps in and says that he will fix the story, we will save us from the mess we find ourselves in. He will send a saviour – some to rescue us, to restore things back to the way they should be.
The prophets also spoke of God’s desire to send a saviour. One prophet had a better picture of this part of the story then all the others – his name was Isaiah. Isaiah wrote in chapter 7 verse 14, Do you want proof that God will do all this? “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Let’s just pause for a moment so that I can highlight a point.
What is important for any story? What does a story need to be a good story?
- Happy ending? Plot?
- Character development? Hero?
- Suspense? Action?
There is one thing that you are missing? A story needs … words!
I know, a picture can tell a thousand words … but there is only so much you can do with pictures or charades. A good story needs words and the right word can make all the difference!
It is like that verse we just had from Isaiah – what did Isaiah call this newborn child – Immanuel. That is not any word, that is an amazing word. Immanuel means “God-with-us”.
Let me take another tack on this point, but this time I need help from the kids. I got a Christmas Card yesterday … and it has the story of Christmas in it.
Is that right? That’s not how the story goes! We have really messed it up. I should know how the Christmas story goes … my mum and dad read it to me every Christmas Eve. If we don’t get the right words, stories can get messed up! And if we don’t get the right word, Christmas can get messed up.
Let’s see if we can get some right words in this..
(put the right words in)
But for the Christmas story to make sense we don’t just need a right word … we need THE WORD. The word that we have to get right at Christmas is … Jesus. But Jesus is not any word … Jesus is THE word.
In our bible reading for today, the writer John understood what stories was all about. The Gospel of John is written as one long story … all designed to help us understand who Jesus is. But he starts the story in a funny way. John 1:1 – In the beginning (sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 that we read earlier)
John 1:1 – In the beginning was THE word. Not just any word but THE WORD! John is saying that the story starts with THE WORD, the story ends with THE WORD – actually without THE WORD, none of the story makes sense.
If we get THE WORD wrong, then the story gets mucked up – just like our Christmas Card earlier.
John sums it up so beautifully…
- THE WORD has been around from the beginning,
- that THE WORD is like light coming into the darkness,
- that THE WORD can bring life and a relationship with God.
- And in verse 14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is THE WORD. Jesus is the central word in God’s story. Without Jesus, the story just doesn’t make sense. Jesus, THE WORD makes the story right. Jesus enters the story – this story which has got off track – Jesus enters the story and THE WORD makes it good again.
When it comes to the Christmas story, when it comes to the words which we associate with Christmas, it should be words like happiness, celebration, rest, laughter, giving.
But for many of us the Christmas story has got a little off track and the words we now associate with Christmas are words like busyness, tension, money, debt, cranky (kids – who has seen mum or dad cranky lately?), or even worse words such as heartache, dysfunctional, pain.
They are not the words that we want our Christmas to be about. The good news is that THE WORD has come to us, Jesus offers to come into our Christmas story, to make things right again. When we invite Jesus into our story then we suddenly find that other words become part of our story.
Actually – you tell me. What words would you like to be associated with your Christmas? What words, maybe words from our songs we’ve been singing, maybe words from our bible reading … what words do you want to be part of your Christmas story today?
Let’s just stop on the four words that our Christmas candles represent … JOY PEACE HOPE and LOVE.
Christmas Joy – Joy is gratitude for the gift. Joy is hearing the thrill of the children as they buzz around the room today. Joy is when you are sitting around the dinner table today and you are laughing so much at a story you’ve heard 100 times but it is such a warmth because you are together … that’s Joy.
Christmas Hope & Peace – some people here are struggling this Christmas because their story has been hijacked. The wrong word has dropped into their story and has turned everything upside-down. Words like unemployment, addiction, betrayal, cancer. The story has been hijacked. Hope is defiantly holding onto the promise that no matter what is happening in the story, that God will have the last word. Either in this life or the next, God promises to have the last word on your story. When we cling to that we find hope and peace in a way which doesn’t make sense.
Christmas Love – this is an amazing Christmas word. Why did THE WORD come into the world? Why did THE WORD become flesh and dwelt among us? Love.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, for God so loved you, and you, and all of us that he sent his son, THE WORD into our world, into our story. That is Christmas in a nut-shell.
This is great story … but I don’t care how good the story is, it is just a story if it is not your story. It is when we get to a point where we realise that we need Jesus in our story, when we realise that we need a saviour in our situation … it is when we say yes to Jesus then Jesus will enter your story and THE WORD will become personal to you … and THE WORD changes everything. This story is true and this story can be yours!
It reminds me of a great hymn…
This is my story, this is my song.
Praising my saviour all the day.
(can you sing it with me?)
Some of us can sing that from the depths of our soul, some of us don’t know that yet, some of us are trying to work out what it means. Wherever you are at, it is my prayer that you might be able to celebrate the Christmas truth that THE WORD has come to our story, that Jesus dwells with us – Immanuel. And I pray that we will experience the Love and Joy and Peace and HOPE that Jesus brings in our lives.