Reading: Luke 2:1-21
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Celebrate the birth of Jesus in a way which is full of life and love. This video includes Max’s amazing, creative talk for the kids and Phil’s short sermon on how the gift of Jesus which is ours at Christmas – is more than we could ever hope for or imagine!
Ever had an experience when you were expecting something, you had an idea of what it would be like and it turned out to be much more than you could ever imagine?
Like the time when my family and I visited the Grand Canyon. I knew it was big, but I still remember walking around the side of the visitors centre where we had been dropped off and just being stunned. It was huge, so much bigger that I imagined.
Or … as a teenager, being suggested by a friend to watch the classic Christmas movie Die Hard. Having never seen it, I imagined it would be an ok movie – but I remember being absolutely blown away by it. Or … last night’s Christmas Eve play. When Bec and Max were planning it, I was imagining how it might turn out … but that was so much more powerful then I could ever imagine.
Our memory verse for the past week at Countdown to Christmas has been Ephesians 3:20 – “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could hope or imagine.” I wonder if the people at the first Christmas also had that experience of being blown away, that Jesus the newborn King was more than they could ask or imagine?
You see, the people of the Old Testament had been waiting for this moment for a long time. 600 years earlier, through the prophet Isaiah, they had been given a promise that although things looked dark, a new light was dawning. That in their struggles and troubles, God had heard their cries and had promised a saviour. One that would help and guide. An everlasting Father. A Prince of Peace.
And over the generations, people imagined what this Messiah, this saviour would be like. A mighty warrior who would defeat any enemy. A Good shepherd who would lead them to good pastures and quiet waters. A king who would be greater than their greatest King David. They were full of hope and they were imaging huge things for this Saviour.
So it is a pretty big call when our memory verse says, “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could hope or imagine.” More than a mighty warrior, a good shepherd and the greatest king ever? It sounds absolutely amazing.
But then we come to our Christmas narrative – and it seems to be … well, it seems to be a little ordinary. A young girl from a small town, Mary, who is engaged to an everyday Joe – pregnant and in Bethlehem for the census. And when the time came for their baby to be born, and she wraps him in cloths and places him in a manger. Surprising? Yes, but this is not far beyond they were hoping or imagining.
But God is at work, and this story is not finished yet. There is something happening that truly is more than we hoped for or could ever imagine.
We get to the next part of the narrative, and this theme of ordinary continues with some shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem, keeping watch over their sheep. In the social hierarchy, these people are nobodies and yet God chooses them to be the first to hear the good news. The thing that they have been hoping for has happened. But this is where it gets crazy. God sends a whole company of angels singing Glory to God and proclaiming that the saviour has been born. The Messiah has come. It’s really happening.
And the shepherds rush off to Bethlehem to see this thing – but are confronted with the … ordinariness … of the whole situation. No warrior. No King. It is a baby, in the animal section of an ordinary house, wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.
But something else is happening here. Because they shepherds when away praising God and everyone who heard them speak of this child were amazed. What is happening here that somehow within this little baby is more than we could ever hope for or imagine.
For me, the answer is in a classic Christmas word – Immanuel. We find it in Matthew’s version of the Christmas narrative when the Angel is explaining to Joseph in a dream that Mary was pregnant conceived from the Holy Spirit. The Angel explain that this child, Jesus, will save people from their sins – that Jesus is the Saviour. But more – But more that this – that he will also be called Immanuel, which means God is with us.
We hoped that God would send to us a saviour, a helper – we could never imagine that God himself would come. This is so much more than we could ever hope for, so much more that we could ever imagine. In Jesus – Immanuel – God is with us. But wait, there’s more.
In the Book, Life of Pi, one of the experiences that the young Pi has was stumbling into a catholic church where the priest, Father Martin, tells him the story of Jesus – of how God became one of us. As a Hindu, Pi knew plenty of gods – gods that were angry, gods that were aloof … but never a god who would humble themselves and come to us as a baby.
“Why?” Pi asks, “Why not just leave mortals to their own mess? Why would God leave the divine realm to come here?” Father Martin just looks at Pi and says, “It’s love”. The answer is love.
John 3:16 tells us, that God so loved the world, that he sent the gift of Jesus. At Christmas we recognise that in this gift of Jesus we not only have Immanuel, God is with us, but we find love. More love than we could ever hope for or imagine. But wait, there is still more.
I love Christmas all carols but it is hard to find more impacting words than the beginning of O Holy Night…
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
Why does the fact that Jesus came to us help, our soul find its worth? Because we get a tiny glimpse, that this love God has is personal … that God not only loves the world, but loves us! That this great awesome God who is bigger than the universe was willing to give up all power and to be born as a baby … all driven by love. And as Jesus grew, he taught about love and became an example of how to live by love. And this love is so wide and long and high and deep that Jesus was willing to stretch out his hands and die on the cross … all because he loves you. And what is more, Jesus now offers this love to you right now, to hold you and guide you and to make things right again. At Christmas, God not only steps into our world, but steps in our story because we matter. At Christmas, our soul feels its worth.
Are you getting this? Are you seeing that Jesus is so much more than a child, wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger. That the people were hoping for someone to defeat their enemies and be their king – but in Jesus they got so much more…
- In Jesus we find Emmanuel, God with us
- In Jesus we find love
- In Jesus we find meaning and worth
- In Jesus we find a saviour
No wonder the angels praised God. No wonder that the shepherds told everyone they saw about it. No wonder that the wise men could do nothing else but fall on their knees in worship.
It is my prayer that this Christmas, as I talked about last night, that you might see that in Jesus we can find more than we could ever hope for or imagine. That you might get a glimpse how this Christmas story speaks of an awesome, wonderful God who did the unimaginable, came to us, born as a baby. And that this Christmas you might experience this love that God has for you – in ways more than you could ever hope for or imagine. Amen.