Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sermon for Midnight Mass

the time came for her to deliver her child. 
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, 
and laid him in a manger,

It is a remarkable thing.

That the actual birth of Jesus is spoken of in such a normal and brief way.

There is nothing in actual birth which if taken away from the rest of the story would lead us to believe that this baby was anything special at all,
let alone the Son of God.

This was noted by the earliest Christians,
many other birth narratives were written which include the baby being born in a cave, great luminoius light everywhere, and one even have Jesus standing up and speaking straight away.
Even the Islamic holy book the Koran has a more detailed and fantastic birth narrative for Jesus.

In our time, this brief sentence about the birth of Jesus seems bizarre.

Remember earlier this year when the Prince George was born.
It was all over the news, reports from inside the hospital were leaked out.
We hear how perfect the birth was.

It was everywhere. It was more than a sentence.
It was tweeted, facebooked, instagrammed, blogged and youtubed.

People want to know:
Was the birth natural? Was it a cesaerean? A water birth?

All this information is offered to the media, and we are fed it on a 24 hour news cycle.

Even a mother’s bodyshape after giving birth is big news.

A celebrity giving birth is big news.

So, it is no wonder that we find this one rather ordinary sentence about Jesus birth unsatisfying.

It is unsatisfying until we start to look at what happens around this birth.
We learn how important the baby is, not by his actual birth, but the events surrounding it.

We hear of shepherds and angels.

Now we can all agree that the appearance of angels make this birth something spectacular,
God’s own messengers are sent to proclaim the birth of his son.

But the fact that they are sent to Shepherds is perhaps even more significant.

The first clue is that the shepherds are living in the fields.
Not just working, but living.

These were men who were on the outside.
They were not in the town, they were not with families, they were not rich. They were quite alone, other than with each other.

Shepherds were not highly regarded at this time.
In fact, they were not regarded at all.
They were thought of as pretty low in society.

Shepherds were thought of as criminals, due to their habit of grazing their flock on others peoples paddocks.

So, they were thought of as criminals,
and because of that, it was job that also attracted criminals.
These were guys who society had no time for.

Furthermore, due to the hours of their work,
they could not take part in the religious goings on.
They couldn’t go to the temple or the synagogue.
They couldn’t hear God’s word, or pray with everyone.
So in Jewish understanding at the time, they were outside of God’s realm.

They were both outside of society, and outside of God.

So on this night,
the fact that an angel appears to them must have been quite a shock.

It would be shock to anyone, angels are always saying ‘Do not be afraid.’

These men who believed they were outside of God were being brought in.

God’s very own messengers were telling them what was going on.

The angels didn’t go to the King, the Emperor, the leaders of the Temple, or the wealthy merchants.
They went to these lowly men.

I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
who is the Messiah, the Lord. 

God chose to tell the shepherds.

The first thing that happens after Jesus is born is a great expansion of who God regards as having his favour.

The circle that had some in and some out was being expanded to include anyone who wanted to be with God.

Being with God was no longer dependent on race, status, or class.
All this moments after Jesus was born.

Tonight we join with the shepherds.
In many ways, we take the place of the shepherds.

Gods all embracing love that was expanded to include shepherds this night nearly 2000 years ago is now so expanded it includes us.

So while the actual birth was rather normal,
the ripples of God’s love that went out from the manger,
out to the field with the shepherds, out of Bethlehem,
out through the middle East, over Europe, all over the world,
and to here in Branxton.

We are the shepherds, kneeling before God’s  Son.
We are loved with all our failings.
We may feel at times that we are outside,
but the shepherds remind us that we too are loved by God.
The shepherds remind us that even though we may get it wrong, God still loves us. He forgives us.

The birth of his Son is the revealing of his love,
in his desire to be with us,
his desire to be with us through all the messiness of life.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only son,
so that anyone who believes in him will never die,
but have eternal life. 

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