Thursday, 28 December 2017

Year B - Christmas 1 - Text: Luke 2:22-40 – Waiting for our Saviour

Sermon 31st December 2017
Text: Luke 2:22-40 – Waiting for our Saviour

The year ended in similar way to how it began.
In January a driver used his car to drive through the streets of Melbourne killing 6 and injuring many more.
In December a driver used his car to drive through the streets of Melbourne injuring almost 20 people.
Throughout the year there have been many highlights and many lowlights.
Some of the highlights for me included our family wedding of our daughter Grace to Chris – and the breaking of the 37 year drought for my beloved Tigers.
Included among the lowlights - it was a year where we saw many high profile celebrities and people of power fall from grace because of sexual abuse.
Big names from Hollywood were led by Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.
In Australia our much loved Don Burke and also the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle were accused of sexual harassment.
It was a year where we continued to see violence in our streets – home invasions – jewellery store heists – houses destroyed by wild parties – the violence of the gang known as APEX and terrorist cells known as ISIS.
There were earthquakes, floods, cyclones fires and diseases including the deadly flu virus.
It was a year of challenges for the church as it considered how it would respond to the two pieces of legislation introduced of assisted dying, or euthanasia, and same sex marriage.
It was also a year that continued to point the spotlight on the abuse of children in the church and other institutions.
You wonder what 2018 will present.
As we look at our past many wonder what is happening to our world.
Many Christians believe that Christ’s return must be very close.
We are becoming more advanced in our technology, medicine and knowledge but it seems the old primitive nature of humankind has not advanced at all from when Cain used violence to solve his problems with his brother Abel.
Our world is no longer the world God created in the beginning which he declared “Very Good”
It is for this very reason that God entered into our world through his Son Jesus Christ to show us the way out of it.
That’s what St Paul declares in our 2nd reading today:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
God has adopted us as his children so we are no longer heirs of this world but of the world to come.
What Paul is saying is that our future is not here but in the world to come.
But as you know, an inheritance is not received by an heir until death comes.
And so until our death we are still under the effects of this world and all its ways.
And that includes not just the human waywardness but also the waywardness of the world with floods, fire, earthquakes, climate change and all the other signs that our world is coming to an end rather than getting better.
Even if this year were an amazing year of success and highlights, 2018 would still be a mystery because none of us know what lies ahead.
As Christians we rely on God’s goodness that even if the year ahead brings us challenges that we find difficult, we cling to the promise made to Mary and Joseph that their child would be called “Immanuel” God with us.
Joseph and Mary also relied on God’s promise to them because they will hear and experience things they never expected.
From the very beginning things weren’t very clear for either of them.
Imagine the physical exhaustion they felt, especially Mary – pregnant and travelling to Bethlehem to register for the census.
Mary was unwed – she was told she would give birth to the Son of God.
Joseph was told the same thing and to trust God even though his first worldly inclination was to divorce her.
Their child was born in a poor and needy environment – is that really how God would allow his own son to be born?
They took the infant Jesus to the temple to offer the required sacrifice but were too poor to offer a lamb as required so they offered a pair of doves or two young pigeons.
They must surely wonder how God is going to provide for them?
How on earth are they going to provide for their child?
Mary and Joseph are like so many families today struggling to find money for their ever rising power bills – child care fees – even the bare necessities.
Again we are reminded that God sent his Son into OUR world, OUR flesh, experiencing OUR struggles.
As they brought Jesus to the temple it’s interesting that Anna and Simeon both recognised that this baby Jesus was no ordinary baby.
Why did they recognise this special baby among all the other people at the temple that day?
Because they had been waiting for and expecting him to arrive:
For Simeon we are told:
There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
For Anna we are told:
She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Simeon and Anna were guided by the Holy Spirit to recognize God’s gift to the world.
They had eyes of faith and saw the blessing God was giving.
With all the problems and uncertainties in the world, are people still looking to Jesus with the same enthusiasm and expectation?
Or are we fearful and lacking trust in God?
Are we confident enough to trust in God that whatever happens in 2018 he is there for us – Immanuel?
Or will we continue to rely on our own strength.
The birth of Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies as God is a God of promises which are irrevocable.
And that’s what we are to take from Anna and Simeon.
They knew that God would fulfil his promise to them that they would see God’s Saviour before they died.
Even though they were aged they knew that God would fulfil his promise.
We too sometimes have to wait and go through difficult times.
Sometimes that wait will continue till we are in heaven.
But Jesus promised as did the angel Gabriel – “I am with you always – till the end of the age”.
And it is after our encounter with Jesus today when we receive his body and blood in Holy Communion to reassure us of God’s presence and promise that we sing with Simeon:
Now, Lord, You let Your servant go, in peace, according to Your word; For I have seen Your saving love, which You have shown to all of us.

So as you go into 2018 go with the promise of Jesus, Emmanuel – I am with you always.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Year B - Christmas Day - Text: Luke 2: 15,16 – Looking again to the manger

Sermon Christmas Day
Text: Luke 2: 15,16 – Looking again to the manger

I wonder what would have happened if Jesus were born in today’s world.
In all our busyness would we have responded like the Shepherds and said:
Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place. So they went with haste.
Would we have been too busy?
Would we want to check our emails first?
Just hang on, my shows got 5 minutes to go.
Would we want to update our Facebook status first –“on my way to Bethlehem”.
Would we have gone in and worshipped or first checked in on Facebook and taken a selfie?
And what’s so special about this baby anyway?
We are living in a world that has become so self-obsessed that we are looking less and less to Jesus.
A recent medical journal has identified a new syndrome that is affecting society and it’s called the Selfie Syndrome.
It’s closely linked to Narcissism which is a mental health condition.
Narcissism is characterised by believing one’s  self  to  be  superior  over  others,  to  constantly pursue admiration from others, and to participate in egotistical thinking and behaviour.
In other words – it is where I am the focus of my attention and I constantly need people to tell me how good I am – how beautiful I look – how great I am.
And we are never satisfied and have to keep taking “selfies” and have affirmation by people “liking” our pictures on Social Media.
And we hate it when other people take focus away from us and onto themselves.
When they get more “likes” than we get it causes great distress.
The birth of Jesus Christ goes totally against the selfie syndrome.
In Philippians we hear Paul talk about Jesus’ birth:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.
Facebook has over a billion people using it – about half the amount of Christians in the world.
Whereas Luther instructed in his Catechism when upon waking, make the sign of the cross as a reminder of your baptism and pray the Lord’s Prayer – most upon waking check their Facebook.
Christmas turns all that on its head as we are told to look away from ourselves and to look, firstly to the child wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger – and then to look to our neighbour in need.
Just as Jesus’ birth is about God loving the world so much that he gave us his son, Christmas is about goodwill to all by loving our neighbour as ourselves – loving our enemy – feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger.
At his birth Jesus was homeless – no room at the inn.
Soon after, with Herod wanting to put him to death saw Jesus become a refugee fleeing to Egypt with his parents.
These are 2 demographics that we have seriously neglected because of our self-focus – my taxes – my country.
Jesus birth challenges us to look beyond the world immediately around you!
Why? Because God wants the whole world to know that he is there for them, too.
God needs to be known where people are starving and hungry -- where people are powerless and homeless -- where people are fighting or dying -- where people struggle for freedom and justice and human dignity – to know that God has not forgotten them.
God was not sent amongst the elite but amongst the lowly shepherds – born to lowly parents – born in lowly lodgings.
But he was also received by the elite as he was visited by the Magi from the East.
It is when we look beyond our immediate world that we hear Jesus saying to us: "As you did it for one of the least of these my brothers or sisters, you have done it for me."
And doing it for one of the least of these doesn’t mean clicking “like” on a post or posting a sad face on the Facebook post.
Christmas is a mystery which occurs not just on December 25th but over and over again each time we respond to Christ's command to reach out to the lowliest of society -- and especially those whom society would ignore.
Christmas is an encounter with God’s Son that continues to bless us as we look beyond our own lives.
Looking away from ourselves gives us meaning and a sense of satisfaction.
The more we focus on ourselves the more dissatisfied we are with our lives and the less meaning we find.
You only have to listen to people speak today about their lives to understand that.
It is said that Christmas is a time of giving.
But to truly understand “giving” we look firstly to what God gave us;
For God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but receive eternal life.
There is giving and there is giving.
The giving we example is the unconditional giving we see exampled in God giving his Son and in Jesus giving his life.
It is a giving that gives to help and heal other as a sign of our love for them.
So much giving today is done with conditions and an expectation that if I buy you something then I expect a gift from you in return.
Christian giving is a giving that goes unrewarded.
It is a giving that goes to the undeserving.
It’s a giving to those who aren’t on anyone’s Christmas list.
Christmas is a joyous time of year and it is a great time to celebrate with family and friends.
We are not asked to forego that but to spare a moment for those who struggle at this time of year for many and varied reasons.
Christmas is about Joy to the World.
Christmas is about good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
It is news that can’t be contained just as the angels in heaven rejoiced even though it made no difference to them but they were overjoyed at what God has done for humankind.

May God bless you as you again celebrate our Lord’s birth and all that God gives to us through him and may you share that peace on earth with all people.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Year B Christmas Eve - Text Luke 2:12 - Our gift wrapped Saviour

Sermon Christmas Eve
Text: Luke 2:12 – Our gift wrapped Saviour

Christmas is a very exciting time, for adults and children – for everyone. 
It’s a highlight of the year and part of the excitement is the giving and receiving of gifts but it’s getting harder and harder to think of gifts to give.
It seems these days that our friends and family have everything they need and so we often take the easy way and buy a gift card and leave the decision to them to what to buy.
The kind of gifts given at Christmas has changed a great deal over the years. 
Gifts were often homemade – maybe some biscuits or jams. 
As children it was the mystery of the gift that brought excitement.
Seeing a few gifts under the tree – wrapped in Christmas paper – trying to work out the present from the shape.
Somehow gifts mysteriously also appeared under the Christmas tree during the Christmas Eve service or while the children were asleep.
It may have been a simple gift – a pair of knitted socks – a small bag of marbles for the boys and doll clothes for the girls. 
Gift giving is a highlight of the Christmas celebrations.
We know that the first visitors who came to visit the new born King of the Jews brought gifts. 
The shepherds who were watching over their flocks were poor but they brought the baby in the manger their love and adoration. 
The wisemen from the east brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the more important gift for this baby was that they knelt before the little child and gave him honour and worship.
Just as we give our gifts wrapped in paper to create a surprise, today God gives us the gift of his son, wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. 
This child is God’s Christmas gift to us and the world.
Sometimes we focus on the giving and on the gifts so much that we miss the fact that what we are celebrating at this time of the year is God's gift to us. 
Our gift giving is a reflection of the generous gift that God gave to us at the first Christmas – the gift of his Son. 
This gift from God is for all people – no one is excluded.
It is a gift given out of extreme love – a love so immense, so deep, so wonderful and powerful that we struggle to understand what kind of love it is that would cause God – the creator of heaven and earth – to become a vulnerable and helpless baby born to human parents to experience all the hardships of life, including an unjust brutal death. 
God came from heaven to earth; his first bed was a manger; his first visitors strangers.
A new life had entered the world and he was Mary and Joseph’s to care for and to love. 
But he was God's gift not only to them but also to the world and the world would never be the same again. 
This child is a gift for all humankind; he belongs to everyone and he will give everyone the greatest gifts of all – peace, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And like all gifts, this child in the manger, brings joy.
But unlike other gifts, he never becomes irrelevant or unneeded.
After visiting the stable "the shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen." 
But it was not only the people on earth who rejoiced but also the angels of heaven rejoiced at this baby's birth.  “A great army of heaven's angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God.” 
The Christmas story is about a gift that brought joy to all people.
This Christmas gift from God has changed everything.
The gift that God gave us at Christmas is our Saviour. 
Christmas is a celebration of God becoming human, being born in a manger, for us. 
There are many traditions and customs associated with Christmas.
Giving and receiving of lots of gifts.  Santa, Christmas parties, and Christmas Day celebrations with friends and relatives but in the end the only thing that really matters and makes a difference is the gift we receive from God. 
The gift of a Saviour - “God with us” in all the sin, the trouble and death of this world.
This is the gift that brings peace.
This is the gift that saves. 
This is the gift that lasts.

In David's town our Saviour was born for you – Christ the Lord.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Year B 2017 - Christmas Carols Service - Text Luke 2:8-12 - Expect the unexpected

Sermon Christmas Carols Evening
Text: Luke 2:8-12 – Expect the unexpected.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

We all feel quite inadequate at times when it comes to helping people’s problems.
When you walk the city streets and you see the homeless person sleeping on the footpath – or when you’re driving and you see the collectors at the lights and try not to make eye contact – can your donation really help them?
Or maybe you feel guilty because you say you can’t afford to give them anything but you’re on your way out to a restaurant.
Or when you help out a charity by sending a donation and they keep contacting you or pass on your details to other charities who then start to ask you as well.
You feel like not giving anymore because you don’t want to receive all those requests.
When we match all the problems in the world or even the problems in our local area, we can feel as if there’s really not much we can do – and sadly it means we end up doing nothing.
And then we have all the world’s problems and wonder what we can do about it.
Wars – drugs – global warming – to name only a few that are daily in our headlines.
The Christmas story really is a very strange story when you think about it.
It is the announcement of the Prince of Peace coming in the midst of a very violent world.
The announcement of the Prince of Peace however contradicts our assumptions of what would need to happen if someone were to bring peace to our world.
If you were God, would you really have sent the Prince of Peace in the form of a fragile child?
Would you use an unwed young mother to bear this Prince of Peace?
Would you allow this Prince to be born in a barn?
The Shepherds are told by the angels to go and see how God is going to solve all their problems – all the problems of their people – all the problems of the world – how?
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The Christmas story is full of people who weren’t expecting God to come to earth as a baby. 
Mary wasn’t expecting to have a baby who would be the Son of God
When Joseph was told that Mary was pregnant – he wasn’t expecting that!
No one was expecting God to send a baby.
When King Herod was asked by some passing Wisemen from the East about a new born king – he wasn’t expecting that!
A baby king would have to be born of a King – and he was the reigning King.
The Wisemen came bringing special gifts for a prince – but they didn’t arrive at a palace as they might have expected. 
They knelt before Mary’s baby with all humility and worshipped him – they saw the Prince of Heaven sitting in Mary’s lap – they weren’t expecting that!
The Christmas story really is an unusual story, an unexpected way for God to react to the people and the world. 
Evil is a very powerful existence in the world which goes back to the days of Adam and Eve when they chose to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 
God could send angel warriors to deal with evil, just as Jesus said when he was arrested and Peter want to respond with violence:
Don't you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?
But no, God sent his son – not as a warrior prince but as a baby whose mother will be a peasant girl who will give birth to him in a stable. 
No one was expecting that.
Why did God choose this unexpected plan to save the world? 
God is all wise and all-knowing and he chooses a plan that places the Prince of heaven in the arms of a teenage girl who had no child rearing experience and no family in Bethlehem to help her.
He will be so small, tender, and vulnerable. 
Why did God choose this plan above any other plan?
For God there was only one plan that would work. 
It was a plan that grew out of his love for all people. 
The way God chose to rescue us from our own destruction was to send his son to become human just like us. 
No one expected that!
But that’s how God works.
God of the unexpected.
Jesus’ numbers grew but also opposition to his teaching grew. 
His enemies had him arrested, tortured and he died on a cross. 
And just like before, his disciples didn’t expect that! 
Before he dies he doesn’t curse his enemies but cries out for all to hear, “Father forgive them”. No one expected that!
Women will go to the tomb where Jesus is buried and they are greeted by angels who tell them that Jesus has risen from the dead. 
The disciples didn’t believe them because they weren’t expecting that!
But this is the plan of God to save the world – from Jesus’ birth at Christmas, to his death at Easter and then to the glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday. 
No one expected God to save humanity from the violence and trouble of the world by placing his own Son as a victim of the violence and trouble in the world.
 God’s ways are always unexpected from the moment of Jesus’ birth to his death and resurrection.
The angels who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph and then to the shepherds excitedly told about the good news that brings great joy to all people. 
The Saviour is coming into the world, his name is ‘Jesus’ because he will save people from sin and death and give eternal life to all who trust in him. 
Christmas shows us that God does some very unexpected things and works in some very unexpected ways. 
In the same way, expect God to work in unexpected ways in your life.
Maybe God will challenge you with new directions in your life;
Maybe give you peace and hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation:
Maybe he will challenge you to restore a relationship;
Maybe he will challenge you to reach out to a person you would never have reached out before;
Christmas is a time where the unexpected happens.
It’s where God turns hopelessness into hope.
It’s where God turns despair into Joy.
It’s where God defeats evil with good through the birth of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

May God bless you Christmas time again this year as you celebrate God’s love revealed in a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Year B 2017 - Advent 2 - Text: Mark 1:1-8 – Winners and Losers

Sermon 10th December 2017 Advent 2
Text: Mark 1:1-8 – Winners and Losers

We live in a society that seems to be more and more categorised into winners and losers.
The recent postal survey on Same Sex Marriage is a classic example.
It didn’t solve the issue or bring about a consensus on the matter – it simply created winners and losers.
And so we keep hearing the reaction – you lost, we won.
That doesn’t bring about harmony but further division.
In the church we sometimes forget what our purpose in the world is and we tend to come off feeling that we are losers because the world seems to be changing around us and we seem to be losing more and more of our authority and presence in the world.
And that’s how the world treats us and speaks about us at times.
It calls us irrelevant – it calls us dinosaurs.
We need to change the way we look at things and realise that it’s not about being a winner but about bringing comfort to a world that is hurting.
In Jesus’ time the world looked at Jesus as a loser.
He was brought before Pilate, judged, humiliated and executed.
The people looked at him even - his own people - and didn’t understand what he came to do.
They looked at him on the cross – shook their heads in derision and said – he saved others, he couldn’t even save himself (Matthew 27:42).
To them, Jesus was a loser.
They were actually correct in their criticism – he did save others by not saving himself from the cruel death he underwent.
But that is what he came to do – he died to save us from our sins and eternal punishment.
And so we need to understand that our purpose is not to be winners in this world but to continue Jesus’ work of bringing comfort to a lost and hurting world.
We hear those words in our Old Testament readings where God is speaking to his people Israel:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
But it is so easy to feel that our purpose is to bring the world back to the perfect world God created.
If that were our purpose then Jesus would have lived a very different life.
Instead, God is bringing this world to an end, as Peter points out in our 2nd reading: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire.
God calls us to look at our own lives to ensure that WE are living in a way that pleases God:
“leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God”
As we read Peter further we see that God’s purpose is not about changing the world but about changing people’s hearts:
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
It can be difficult at times as we watch things in the world go in a different direction to how we would want it to go.
And sometimes we respond by ways that cause more hurt and more antagonism.
Peter calls us to first look at our own lives to ensure that WE are living lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for the day of the Lord to come.
We need to remember that it is God’s day coming and not ours.
God is the one who will bring about the end and when he does, Peter says, everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Our call is to point people to Jesus Christ, which was John the Baptist’s role too.
Imagine how difficult it must have been for him to have all the power and authority given to him by God but realising it wasn’t about him – it was about Jesus:
He says: one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
And later on John will further declare - He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30).
We would all like to see this world a better place but we mustn’t lose sight that we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
As Christians, as the Church, we are not about winning but, like Jesus, about saving.
And sometimes, like John the Baptist, we must decrease so Christ can increase.
Like John the Baptist we have been called to prepare the way for the Lord.
But sometimes, by our need to be right, we can in fact create a roadblock for the way of the Lord.
Like God, our desire is not to make THIS world a better place but to bring all to salvation and sometimes we can forget that.
God knows everything that is happening and nothing happens without God allowing it.
Jesus reminded Pilate of that when Pilate said:
“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
The power belongs with God – we are sent to prepare the way.
It may look as if nothing is happening but remember that with God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.

Year B 2017 - Advent 3 - Text: John 1:6-8,19-28 – Peeling back the layers of Christmas.

Sermon 17th December 2017 Advent 3
Text: John 1:6-8,19-28 – Peeling back the layers of Christmas.

I was getting my car serviced during the week and I overheard a couple of the staff chatting at the coffee machine.
One said to the other – “so, are you ready for the silly-season”.
You’ve probably heard similar references to Christmas including those such as – I can’t wait for Christmas to be over – or, I really hate Christmas.
Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year – in fact it’s supposed to make us happy all through the year.
Christmas can be a time that doesn’t cause celebration for some.
It might be a time of grief for those who have lost a loved one.
It might be a time of sadness for those who are alone and don’t have anyone to celebrate with.
It might be a time of sadness because you don’t have the money to buy presents for your family.
Perhaps we have made Christmas something that not everyone can celebrate because of expectations that each year we have to spend more than we did last year.
Or we get a card from someone unexpectedly and we feel obligated to add them to our ever growing list of people we have to send cards to.
When we think of the very first Christmas it was nothing like that;
In fact it was very meagre with no room at the inn requiring Jesus to be born in a barn, in a feeding trough for the animals.
Christmas should be a time of rejoicing for everyone as Paul says in our 2nd reading:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
But has Christmas become something that doesn’t give people reason to rejoice and give thanks?
You might wonder – what do I have to give thanks for?
That’s when we need to peel back all the layers we have put onto Christmas and get back to the basics of the message.
John the Baptist had the same concerns.
He had to strip back all the people’s expectations and bring Jesus Christ to the front:
The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
They had all these layers and John put it in the simplest form:
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
The world has put all these layers on Christmas – buying presents, sending cards, Christmas feasts, Christmas holidays.
And please don’t get me wrong – I’m not against those – in fact I really enjoy them.
But it is often those trimmings, as we call them, that causes people to stop rejoicing at Christmas time.
Even some of the traditional layers cause much debate in and outside of the church causing confusion and doubt;
The challenge as to Jesus’ birth and whether it was really on December 25th which was originally a pagan festival date.
It was in the 4th century when this date was declared to be the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The inclusion of the wise men in the nativity.
Santa Claus becoming the symbol of Christmas for many families including Christian families
And this is on top of the debates of whether we should be saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas so we don’t offend.
Christmas has seemingly become something it was never meant to be.
As we debate these and other things we can actually lose the true message of Christmas which is found, not in the traditional Christmas texts but in a text that we don’t often hear at Christmas or associate with Christmas:
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but receive eternal life.
That’s the Christmas message we should be making a straight path for.
Sometimes I too feel overwhelmed by everything that goes with Christmas; the extra sermons; the expectations of the Christmas Eve service, all the trimmings that you soon hear about if they’re not quite right or different to what we usually have.
And sometimes I too can’t wait for Boxing Day.
And that’s when I need to remind myself and other people about John’s message about himself:
He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
Are our Christmas ways testifying to the light or to ourselves.
Sometime we have pointed people to the wrong light.
Sometimes our Christmas traditions become an end in themselves and we are not hating Christmas but we are hating what we have made Christmas to become.
Christmas is the most beautiful time in the church as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who is the full expression of God’s love for us;
For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son.
It is a time to rejoice – it is a time to give thanks as Paul urges us:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;