Luke 2:14 (NIV)
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”
The birth of a baby is an amazing thing. A miracle. Those of you who have been present at a baby’s birth will know the awesomeness of the occasion.
Yet the birth of a baby is still a mystery. Doctors may be able to explain the physiology - but how does it all happen? And what’s the purpose of the new human life?
Christians know something of God’s intentions for the birth of a baby. In God’s original plan for the world a child is born into a loving relationship of husband and wife. But this isn’t always the case in our sinful world.
God wants this to change so He established a loving relationship with us. But we don’t always reciprocate that love. Even we Christians sometimes treat God as unimportant.
We show inconsistency in our love to God by the negative way we sometimes talk to, or deal with each other, selfishly seeking our own advancement and then there’s our infrequent participation in worship and/or neglect of prayer .
“Why go out of our way to love God?” we might think, “there’s too much else to do and worry about - especially at Christmas”.
So, what was there in the last week? Gift shopping, groceries and drinks to organise? It was such a rush. There was all the parties to attend then the preparation of gifts, dinner, cleaning up.
But now a lot of that’s done. Now on Christmas morning the fuss is almost complete. There’s just the Christmas dinner and perhaps a family get together to look forward too.
For the moment we’ve taken some time out from the rush and bustle to participate in the real point of Christmas. We Christians know that we celebrate the miracle of birth - the birth of a particular baby some 2000 years ago.
Jesus’, whose birth was the result of a loving relationship – that of God towards humanity, He is the “reason for the season” so to speak.
Jesus’ came to be born because God loves His creation – He loves humanity. He loves you! Loves you so much that it cost His lowering Himself to a cattle stall and then the humiliating death on the cross.
We have reason to celebrate this birth as John 1:14 tells us: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
God did enter our history as an infant - an infant like any other. His mother Mary suffered the pain of childbirth as all mothers do. As we welcome the birth of a new family member, Jesus was also welcomed.
Jesus extended family came: from both ends of the social spectrum - the shepherds to honour Him, the wise men to bring gifts and angels to praise the Father. And now we come too.
Jesus was truly welcomed into the world. He became part of what we are - flesh and blood. He cried, dirtied his swaddling clothes, ate, slept, and lived with human parents.
It’s amazing that almighty God chose to be like us - weak and frail, limited by the bounds of creation. He humbled Himself and lived in the corrupt world where God was, and is, often not popular.
As we look at Jesus’ birth in a stable, we see the natal bed as unhygienic and uncomfortable. Our Lord was born amongst the dung, the straw and the animals. Such humble surroundings!
A few years ago there was a song, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Our modern culture and new age philosophy make it hard for us to accept humility in ourselves. It can also be hard to accept the humility of God revealed to us.
But, none the less, we see the glory and power of God in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God who is so powerful, yet so weak and vulnerable when He was born and when He died some 33 years later on Golgotha - demonstrates His glory and power in humility.
Even as a baby in His vulnerability, we see His power and grace in both the poor and the wealthy visit to worship Him.
Even King Herod was scared of Jesus, and as a consequence of his fear slaughtered the innocent children of Bethlehem.
Fascist and Communist nations have tried to supress the life story of this baby. Elements in our own society would try to do so too. But this baby has the power to uproot society just as surely as He uprooted you and I from lives at war with God and His love.
Just before Christmas in 1991 an editorial in a South Australian newspaper painted a gloomy picture for humanity: “those who have lived long enough have seen the light of Christmas hopes extinguished too often to expect humankind will change easily and that peace and good will descend upon us like manna from heaven.”
The light of Christmas hopes has descended from heaven like manna but much of humankind is too stubborn and proud to realise that this baby Jesus enables us to change and make this a better world.
The power of this Baby has changed society. His love has changed the hearts of millions of people. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire because of Christian witness. The Berlin Wall fell because of peaceful Christian witness.
Notorious men in the history of the world have changed.
- Emperor Constantine in the 4th century;
- John Newton the 18th century, slave trader who was led to write of the change God worked in him, in the hymn “Amazing Grace”;
- Charles Colson in the latter half of last century, who was implicated and imprisoned for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, who established and ran a prison ministry in the United States. In truth He comes to each of us in different ways, giving faith and hope, inspiring deeds of love forgiveness and reconciliation. To you Jesus may come through hearing His Word, a prayer of a friend, an experience of worship, an experience of pain or suffering. But Jesus does come.“Glory to God in the highest with whom His favour rests.” In this fellowship together we receive the full grace of the one true God in humble elements we receive, eat and drink. Jesus said that we cannot come to God unless we go through Him. It’s a good thing He came to us first to show us how we too can love and give unconditionally. Amen.
- So this Christmas it is my prayer that you all trust and believe that through the baby Jesus you have life, the world has hope and we will enter the gates of heaven together when Christ comes again in power and glory.
- We see this grace too in the gifts we share with each other and those less blessed than we as they are given in love.
- Today we experience Jesus glory in His Word and Sacraments, through faith given. Faith given to believe Jesus was born our Saviour who frees us from evil powers - faith given uniting us in fellowship. This fellowship is most fully expressed as we gather to receive Jesus in His Body and Blood with the bread and wine in Holy Communion.
- and on earth peace to men
- Some 2000 years ago there were visible signs of Jesus’ birth. God’s glory was seen in the star, the wise men, the gifts given and the angels praising God and saying:
- Jesus came to me first in my baptism as an infant and later in the midst of severe illness in the latter days of my 18th year.
- We can see this Baby - His miracles working today. Perhaps not as the world expects with political and economic reform, but as one who will enable and bring about changed hearts full of peace and joy. Inspiring food parcels for the distribution to those in need, and the funding of aid for refugees and those living in third world conditions.