Saturday, December 24, 2005

Small Beginnings

Do you ever wonder why churches are packed at Christmas... and not so busy at Easter? As a child, I was once taught by a lay minister (who looked suspiciously like Ben Kenobi), that if you could only make one service a year... it should be Easter and not Christmas.

Yet each year we see the midnight services on Christmas Eve and the Christmas Day communion are filled to bursting. .. whilst Easter services are rarely any different in attendance figures. Why do you suppose that is?

It's very simple, Jesus as a baby is very inoffensive - nobody has a problem with the infant Christ because there is very little radical about a baby. Yet when we see Jesus as an adult, it is a direct challenge to us where we are. Do we take him at his word? Accept his amazing techings and more than this... accept that he lay down his life for us... rose to new life, and will come to claim us as our risen King? Or do we put the baby away with the rest of the decorations, when the season of goodwill is finally over? It's a deceptively tough choice isn't it? Do we keep our rose tinted nativity scene, and never look into the consequences of that event? Do we look at the cute baby and think how amazing it was that God the Father kept him safe through all the threats and hazards... that he went to all that effort to bring that very special baby into the world.... and yet still fail to be moved by the reasons WHY God did that... and WHAT happened next and WHO the baby was? Do we?

It's all too easy to sweep the remainder of the story under the carpet and forget who Jesus is. As Charles Wesley wrote in his carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing (one of my faves), Jesus was:

Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
This day, I'd like to challenge you. When you next look at a nativity scene... look deeper. If you feel able, meditate on it. I'd like you to picture in your mind Jesus as a child. Think of all the things you could have done if you were there? Herod tried to kill him... the shepherds and wise men came to adore him. How do you want to react? Think of that child growing up as a boy; as a young man; as an adult. Do you still want to stand by him? Think of the things Jesus did and said. Then think about the greatest thing he did. Think about the fact he lay down his life for you. Finally I want to challenge you with words from an old carol:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Would you be willing to do that? It does not matter what condition your heart is in. We are all broken:

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26,27

Christ came to heal our hearts, to make us right with God. He came to our world... our physical home; that we might be able to one day come to his world... our eternal home.

I read this morning that a little girl... just hours old, was left abandoned - cold and naked in the streets. Nurses in Yeovil (where she was found), have dubbed her "Angel". In our society, we frown on people who would abandon a helpless child to die... and rightly so. However, I wonder... is that technically what we do every Christmas - abandon Jesus in the manger and return to the rush or madness or pain of daily life?

There's an old cliche that has been adapted from an RSPCA saying - "God is for life... not just for Christmas!"

Whatever you do this Christmas, I pray that God blesses you immensely and draws near to you. May you know the peace of God... the peace that passes ALL understanding.

May you have a very merry Christmas.


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