We associate Christmas with homecoming, as we return to our roots by sea, air, road and rail. Some say “it is a time for children” and in a sense they are right, after all isn’t the child in the crib at the very centre of Christmas. But isn’t there something of a child within each one of us though we are adults.
Christmas – Past and Present
Tonight we focus in two directions. Firstly, on that Christmas night over 2,000 years ago and over 2,000 miles away. Bethlehem was five miles south of Jerusalem, the religious capital of the time. The country was occupied by foreign powers. People were vulnerable, they had experienced war, famine and exile. While they had read of the promises of the Prophet Isaiah who had announced that there would be light, the promises of God were painfully slow in being realised. But on this first Christmas night the most significant intervention of all time occurred with the birth of a vulnerable baby in a stable because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn.
All of that is history, but it has enormous and earth shattering implications for us today. That is why when we look to the first Christmas we must also look in another direction – to our world today.
God Present in Our World Today
Are we any different from the people around Bethlehem? We may not be ruled by a foreign power, yet our people have tasted poverty, famine and exile in different forms over the years. Our world has had its share of darkness. The 3rd Millennium which began with such hope and joy soon experienced darkness, conflict, evil, exploitation and tension, personal interests were allowed to dominate with no concern for the common good of others.
This Christmas story tells of the Saviour of the World, Christ the Lord being born, as a helpless baby in a Bethlehem stable, to poor and unimportant people like Mary and Joseph.
This plan of God illustrates that Jesus came to share the lot of people who were humble and poor.
This stirs up great hope in all of us, showing that Jesus has taken upon himself the limitations of our human lives. It means that God will always be present in our world and especially in circumstances that are humble and unfavourable in our lives.
God is always with us, Emmanuel, always sharing our lives and accompanying us on our journey.
Jesus Christ – A light in the Darkness
The Christmas story underlines the fact that Jesus Christ, the Word of God shines in our darkness; he wants to make his home with us. The question is how do we respond. God will not force himself upon anyone. We are reminded that he came to his own people, but they did not receive him. Where do we stand? The light still shines in our darkness, whether that darkness be broken relationships, serious illness, the death of a dear one.
I referred to the homecoming, which is always associated with Christmas as we endeavour to return to our roots with family and friends. Will there be a homecoming for God this Christmas? He wants to come and be with us. It is up to each one of us to decide whether God will find a home in our hearts this Christmas, or will we be like the inn-keepers declaring that there is no room.
Blessing and Christmas Greeting
May this Christmas be filled with the light of love-giving and love received, reflecting in our lives the love of God who has entered our story in the birth of his son Jesus Christ. A very happy Christmas to all and every grace and blessing for the new year, 2014!