Christmas morning – Repps
‘To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’
Here we are again on this most Holy Day, singing our carols, listening to the familiar readings and hopefully paying attention to the sermon. We do it every year, and yet there is still something magical about it. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – and as a little boy said the other day. I have got duck lumps –meaning Goose bumps.
It all happened so long ago – over 2000 years to be precise - but I am sure every one of us here could tell the story, they may differ a bit, just as Matthew and Luke’s account differ, but the main event is the same. It has of course been contaminated with myth over the years, and I am sure you will see Santa Clause, Rudolf and even the 7 dwarfs alongside the baby Jesus in a manger in many a garden!
The Angels said to the shepherds: ‘To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ We are so familiar with that verse that we hardly give it a second thought but let me unpack it this morning.
It Was a Real Day
“For unto you is born this day . . .” It happened on a day. A day in history. Not a day in some mythological imaginary story, but a day when “Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome and Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
It was a day planned in eternity before the creation of the world.
It happened in a Real City
“For unto you is born this day. . . in the city of David.” Not in Narnia. Not in Middle Earth. Not in a galaxy far far away. The city still exists today.
It is Bethlehem six miles from Jerusalem, the city that Micah prophesied over:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2).
It happened in a city. A real city, just like Norwich
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour .
The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” That is why God sent His Son into the world. Jesus is God with skin on.
The angel said: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ.” Christ is the English for Christos, which is means “anointed one,” which is the meaning of “Messiah” He would fulfil all the hopes and dreams of Israel. And more, because he is also
“. . . the Lord.” “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
It was an event which changed the world for ever.
On a day — in real history.
In a city — in a real world.
The Saviour — to take away all our guilt and sin
The Christ — to fulfil all our hopes
The Lord — to bring us peace.
Of course we know it didn’t end that night. Mary wrapped her baby in strips of linen which was customary for the time. A bit like a mini Mummy. They thought it would help the child to grown tall with straight limbs. The irony being of course than in 33 years’ time, women would again wrap Jesus in strips of linen but this time it was after his crucifixion.
But something strange has happened to this story.
If you Google ‘Missing baby Jesus’ you will find countless accounts of the baby Jesus being stolen from manger scenes. From cribs in church, and outside of church, from Nativity sets in front gardens, and schools. It started as a craze in the United States and as they say has gone viral.
Once again we have the irony – as many today have taken Jesus Christ out of Christmas and replaced him with an X - Xmas, or have abandoned the Christian element altogether and called it Winterval.
This Christmas morning we have a choice. We can leave here and carry Jesus to a world crying out for the love of God or we can leave him here in the crib for another year.
God is love, God himself came down and entered the human race. He became poor like us so that forever we would hear him saying, “I love you.”
If the world had needed education, God would have sent a teacher.
If the world had needed an army, God would have sent a general.
If the world had needed more money, God would have sent a banker.
But since the world needed a Saviour, God sent a baby! And that is the surprise, and the wonder, and ultimately the delight of Christmas. God did what we would never have done, and in so doing, he opened the door to heaven for all of us.
It’s so simple that it must be true. Only God would have done it that way. Christmas is about celebrating that love and here is how to do it: Many of you will be familiar with the letter of Paul to the Corinthians – famously read at weddings –I leave you with the Christmas version:
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of mince pies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
If I work in the soup kitchen, sing carols in the nursing home and give money to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I decorate the tree with angels and snowflakes, attend a myriad of parties and sing in the choir’s Christmas cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug a child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy a friend’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linen.
Love doesn’t shout at the children to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure forever.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas tide and all you hope for in the New Year.