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Friday, 3 January 2014

Christmas Talk // Carol service 22nd Dec

I usually post my talks online the day after, so apologies for the delay with this one, but post Christmas has been a tad busy! So here's the notes fro my talk at our carol service (as usual they are my notes so ignore the highlighting etc)

Intro: carol service at kids school

So, I went to a carol service at one of my children’s schools this week and it was really lovely, in a wonderful chapel, 9 lessons and carols, cute kids doing the readings…. just beautiful. And at the end a lady in front of me turned to her friend and said ‘that’s the nicest carol service I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to a few over the last 10 years’. I thought, gosh that’s so lovely, what a nice thing to say. Then she turned back to the friend and said ‘of course its because there was no sermon!’

So… I’m very sorry that there is a talk tonight! But hey this is a church so you’ve got to give us the ‘God slot’…! And I promise not to be too long!

But that lady did get me thinking. We want the traditional

Why is it that as a society largely we want the traditional side of Christmas but not the God bit?  We love the sparkle and bling don’t we, we love a Christmas jumper, some mulled wine, bit of a sing along with the Buble, but when it comes to the actual reason why we’re celebrating Christmas, so often that is forgotten, unwanted or swept aside.

Lets think about it – how much time, effort and money do we spend planning for Christmas? I don’t know about you, but for us the last few weeks for us have been pretty crazy! So we decided this year to make things as easy as possible. We decided to do all our Christmas shopping online this year and let’s just say that our recycle bin might as well be sponsored by Amazon right now, we did an e-card rather than sending cards this year, I haven’t slaved for hours making wonderful homemade Christmas presents with love, and the ultimate sin, I’ve even bought ready made bread sauce (horrors, my Nan would turn in her grave) and I still have some presents to buy!! But it has still been busy. And the reality is, I’ve just felt tired and a bit stressed and I have to admit I have not particularly felt the love of Jesus  through all this. And I’m sure I’m not the only one, right? Anyone else recognizing this scenario??

Need a break?
So if like me you’re needing a break, or a bit fed up with commercialism, whoever you are, whatever you believe, I encourage you, let’s just for a few minutes open our minds to the possibility that Christmas is more than that. There is more! More than the money spent, more than over indulgence, more than the Christmas dinner, more than the Next sale on Boxing Day, more than the gifts – its about the most precious gift of all, Jesus.

Poll/ relevance
I saw on ITV this week a poll which referred to what people believed about Christmas. One of the questions was ‘is Jesus relevant today?’. 51% of people said no.

And after all, why should he be?  He was just a baby born over 2000 years ago in a stable, right? How can he be relevant in the technological age of the 21st century. So many of us see just the baby born in a manger, the lovely nativity story, but that’s all it is to us, a story, and we don’t see its relevance in our lives today.  That is the challenge to us all…

In the Luke passage that we heard the Angel says ‘I bring good news of great joy that will be for all the people’. Good news for all

The good news is not just that a baby was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, the good news is that that baby grew up to be a man who showed the most amazing depth of love and compassion to those around him, whether you believe that he is the son of god or not, he made a difference. He was a radical. He didn’t put up with the status quo. He challenged the world order of the day. He made a difference in individuals lives, to the woman with the issue of blood who was healed on touching his cloak. To the blind man whose sight was restored. To the father whose daughter had died and was raised to life. He made a difference to those individual lives and I am sure hundreds more that didn’t get written down. The bible says in instances where he preaches to large groups of people that people brought their sick to him and he healed every one.  Every one! He made a difference to those individuals lives but also to groups of people to communities.  He preached a message of love, that’s what he came to do, and he is still doing all of that today.

I see him…
I see him impacting individuals lives daily, I see him encouraging people to challenge the world order and stand against corruption, help those loving in poverty and hardships, I see him impacting large groups of people and communities.

And all this from one baby who was born in a stable 2000 years ago.  

The nativity is not just a nice heart warming story that makes us feel good about celebrating this time of year. The nativity is the beginning of something. And it can be the beginning of something for each and every one of us. 

End of the year…
It’s interesting that we celebrate Christmas at the very end of the year. Historically we know it was unlikely Jesus was actually born on Dec 25th.  But that is the date we have celebrated on for hundreds of years.
But because it comes at the end of the year we tend to see it in that way don’t we? How many people have a week off work before the new year? How many businesses are closed for 2 weeks? Someone drove into my car just before Christmas a few years ago and the insurance company just told me from the outset they wouldn’t even look at it until the new year! December becomes  a write off doesn’t it? It’s about Christmas prep, nativity plays, end of term concerts, work dos, preparation - buying presents, ordering the turkey, getting over family difficulties. And I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me I can’t wait for Christmas so I can have a rest (me included!) although if you work for the church that means rest comes after the Christmas day service…! 3 days and counting…  but Christmas is not the end of something, the birth of Jesus is not a one off event or the end of a story, it’s the beginning!
New birth, new life. 
Jesus was the fulfilment of the Jewish scriptures but his birth is also the beginning of an amazing transformation in this world. And that can be an amazing transformation in your lives too…

Our story…
I want to tell you a story, it’s set just before Christmas a few years ago. It’s a story about a couple I know, who were far from God. Their relationship was failing. They had little time for each other. They had little hope. Then God sent an unlikely messenger to them in the form of a builder. He proclaimed the good news to them just as the angel did to the shepherds.
Like the shepherds they were afraid but they were excited by this good news and as they ran towards Jesus just as the shepherds did, choosing to follow him God healed their relationship, literally overnight. A Christmas miracle… For them it was a new beginning.

Since then
their lives have been transformed in amazing ways. Now, they wouldn’t say that their lives are perfect, or that there are no worries, or that there is no fear of the future, Jesus is not Harry Potter. He does not come and wave a magic wand and make everything perfect.

but they would say they are happier than ever before, that their life has a depth of meaning that it never had before, that God has led them to places they never dreamed they would be and that they are filled with a joy and a peace they have not experienced. They know that ‘there is more’.

That is the transforming power of Jesus and I know that, because that story is about me and my husband.

And that’s the thing. There is so much more to Christmas than the presents, than the turkey, the family, even that the nativity story. All the wrapping, the presents, the food, it’s all temporary. What Jesus gives us something eternal.


So today I want to say to you, keep your hearts and minds open. We don’t have to shut the door to the possibility that Jesus IS relevant for todays 21st century lives.  Be open to the possibility that ‘there is more’. What Jesus offers us , offers you, is a new beginning…

There is more. This is just the beginning. Amen…

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