Friday, December 25th 2020
(Revd Canon Malcolm Convery)
(Related Bible readings can be found here)
The Nativity Scene is complete.
Jesus has arrived after years of expectation.
He is surrounded by his proud parents, the shepherds, angels, wise men and the animals.
A familiar scene which most of us have known since childhood
and many of us set up the scene with our crib set each year.
Many people have come into Church in the last few days and seen the nativity.
They have heard the Christmas story through the Bible readings and the singing of the carols.
The words of the carols have brought out the true meaning of Christmas.
Probably something like 300 people or so have been in Church
and when we add the village carol service, carols round the tree and Cannan Court
and Michael Bear we cannot be far short of 500 people.
This is repeated across our island Churches at this time and in our schools.
How did people respond to Jesus birth and how do we respond today ?
The Shepherds were the first to respond.
When they heard the message of the angels
they hurried off to Bethlehem to see for themselves
and having seen Jesus they shared the good news and hurried back praising God.
The Wise men set out on a long journey guided by a star and when they arrived
they knelt down and worshiped Jesus and presented him with their gifts.
What a contrast – lowly Shepherds , who in those days were regarded as outcasts,
and wise and wealthy men from a foreign land bowing down before the infant Jesus.
We are indebted to the two gospel writers, Matthew and Luke for the accounts of the birth.
The information about Jesus birth would have been passed on by word of mouth
for some 30 years before it was written down.
Matthew sees it as a fulfilment of OT prophecy,
which, being a Jew, he was very familiar with.
The prophecy includes that Jesus would be born from a line of David to a virgin
and that the birth would be in Bethlehem and he would be God’s only Son
the longed for Saviour.
Matthew wishes to convince his Jewish audience that Jesus is the Messiah.
As to the birth Matthew simply writes :
‘ she(Mary) gave birth to a son and gave him the name Jesus’
Luke has more detail on the birth and it is from his account that we create the Nativity scene.
Luke is a Gentile writing to Gentiles, but his portrayal of the gospel message is universal.
Both Matthew and Luke see Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, Christ the Lord.
What is the response of people today to Jesus birth and what about our response ?
For many the focus of there attention would have been quite naturally
the performance of their children in the carol Service or nativity play.
For others it would have brought back memories of childhood Christmases.
Some people may have been moved by the story and want to know more.
What about us ?
We will no doubt have enjoyed those events we have shared
with those who don’t regularly come to Church.
It has been a joy to welcome them.
But most important is the significance of Christmas and the impact it has on our lives.
Indeed the Nativity is not the end of the story nor the beginning.
We are reminded of this in our gospel reading ,
those powerful and wonderful words from John Chapter 1 -
John begins his account with these familiar words
‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’
The Word is the reason and the purpose behind everything
the Word is divine,
the Word is God.
Then in verse 14 we read :
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’.
The Word is non -other than Jesus the divine Son of God.
It is amazing that God should reveal Himself in human form
and that through Jesus, His only Son,
His plan of salvation should unfold and be fulfilled.
Being divine, Jesus saves us from our sins which separate us from God,
and being human He is able to relate to us.
As John wrote in 3:16 :
‘For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,
What a promise!
And John reminds us that Jesus is full of grace and truth.
Grace H the goodness of God that benefits us although we don’t deserve it
and truth - is reality, which is the nature and purpose of God revealed through Jesus.
The embodiment of God in the flesh is referred to as the Incarnation
and the name given to Jesus in the old testament is
Immanuel which means God with us.
God was present in a unique way in His time on earth
and although He has ascended into heaven He is still with us .
The scriptures reassure us of this fact.
On instructing His disciples before He died Jesus said
‘ I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you’ (Jn 14v20).
And the apostle Paul wrote
‘ Christ in you the hope of glory’.
(Col. 1 v 27), and
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’.
(Gal.2 v 20).
At Christmas we celebrate Jesus birth,
but as Christians we also celebrate His birth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
God is not only along side us but within us when we believe and trust in Him.
As such, we experience the love, joy. peace and hope that comes through our relationship
with the Lord and we are able to see the true significance of the incarnation.
Indeed these four words frequently appear in our Christmas cards and carols and they are experiences that make a difference to our lives and the world in which we live.
Maybe Covid has made us appreciate the gifts of
love, joy, peace and hope in these challenging days.
I began this section of my sermon
asking what people make of the nativity scene and Christmas story?
For many it raises questions and perhaps doubts.
Nothing wrong with this.
We experience doubts and raise questions as part of our spiritual journey,
but like the man who met Jesus we can say to the Lord :
‘I believe, help my unbelief’
I finish with some words delivered by the prophet Isaiah some 500 years before the birth of Jesus :
‘For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord almighty will accomplish this.’
Is 9 v 6,7.
The Nativity is complete but God’s plan is a work in progress.
Watch this space.