Christmas Day sermon 2017

Driving down Brunswick Rd on Sat afternoon.  We slowed before the lights at Sydney Rd intersection and cars band up.. maybe 7 or so between where I was and the intersection.  On car was turning left in Brunswick Rd so I let him in and he got about half way into lane but was half still in the street he was turning out of.  Not probs. Looked in my rear vision mirror and saw a cop on a bike coming up behind.  A pedal bike not a motor bike.  He came past – had a gun, radio, the work but a pair of ankle high white socks which did  look a bit un scary.  He negotiated around the car half in ahalf out and pedalled up the rest of the cars in the line looking in the windows of each one.  Oh he after someone – seat belts on?  no texting while driving?  And then he turned and came back up the line.  Stopped at car in front of me indicated the person in the rear to wind down the window and proceeded to pull a lollipop out of his pocket and present it to whoever was in the back – presumably a kid.

Someone was buying mince pies at Baker’s Delight, the woman next to them asked if they had any hot cross buns. “Not until after Christmas!” said the baker’s daughter. I’m glad someone is keeping to the old standards

Today we gather to welcome the God who is never absent from us into our world.

Yet the genius and the wonder  of Christmas Day and the Christian faith is that this God who is never absent does need to be born into human flesh.

   The fundamental thing that Christmas day is proclaiming – that which will be the wonder or the stumbling block — the stupendous Christmas claim itself, that “God was in Christ reconciling the cosmos to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Authentic faith requires genuine astonishment, astonishment of the sort that appreciates the border lands of disbelief

The King and the Maiden

Søren Kierkegaard

Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents.

And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in a poor village in his kingdom. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know for sure? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend to her. Clothed as a beggar, he approached her cottage with a worn cloak fluttering loose about him. This was not just a disguise – the king took on a totally new identity – He had renounced his throne to declare his love and to win he

On this night of birth many years ago when Mary’s waters broke Jesus received his first baptism into the human race.  Surely we can say that for Jesus himself referred to his death upon the wooden cross as a baptism, so why not his birth into a wooden manger?

Mary held in her arms
The God of love
That we might hold in our hearts
The love of God.

But if Christmas means anything it surely means first of all that this God of love has held us/you in the heart of God.  There is a place for you, even if there was no place for Jesus that night long ago.  Is there a place for everyone?  What if Jesus is a refugee on Manus Island?

The theolgican Karl Barth  said somewhere that tomorrow morning when you awake on Christmas morning we are all like children, surrounded by discarded wrapping paper, and staring wide eyed at the wonderful generous gifts.

But while that is easy enough to say Christmas is it is a bit more challenging than that. To live in our society pretty well guarantees we have been innoculated with a slight case of Christmas

The thing is  that in our heart of hearts most of us don’t find it easy to receive gifts that we have not earned or do not deserve. Grace makes us uncomfortable and the whole Christian faith and Christmas is about grace.

And so sometimes we are reluctant to be a recipient, hesitant to open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift. “Oh my, no” we say. “Thank you very much, but I can’t accept that.”

God intends to make you into a genuinely alive giver by coming to you with a precious gift: the gift of God’s own eternal, unconditional love, given in a child.

The good news, which is for all of us, for the whole world and for each one of us, is that the gift has been given, God’s love has been born among us. God’s love would be born again this day, in your heart and mine.