Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Sermon for Christmas Eve: with reference to Isaiah 62.6-12, Titus 3.4-7 and Luke 2.1-20

I was challenged by Father Joe's Two Kinds of Christmas Sermons over at the most excellent felix hominum. It's what put diapers in my mind which got into Hezekiah's mouserel in the post just before this one.

I'm not particularly good and laying out the whole plan of God's salvation in 10 minutes either, but I just can't seem to let it go by without at least putting the question somehow. Here's this evening's attempt.
“See, your Saviour comes!” trumpeted the prophet Isaiah. And so he has. What’s a Saviour? One who saves. Who needs saving? Someone who is in danger. In danger from what? Enemies, for one thing, says Isaiah in v8 of the OT reading. Eternal death for another, the opposite of the “eternal life” to which Paul refers at the end of the Titus passage.

That’s pretty negative for Christmas Eve some might say. But it’s the truth. Jesus wouldn’t have been necessary if humanity hadn’t been in serious trouble. Jesus himself experienced that trouble by being born into it. First there was Herod. Then there were the religious leaders of his day. Not to mention the cross. That’s pretty negative, too. But it’s part of the true story.

As we celebrate here tonight there are people sleeping in homeless shelters down the street. And there are families wondering from where their next meal is coming. I’m not saying this to try and spoil your Christmas, I’m just saying that as there was trouble, suffering and grief when Joseph, Mary, the angels and shepherds celebrated his birth then. There is trouble, suffering and grief as we celebrate it now.

That’s the dark side. What’s the bright side?

Paul states it clearly in our reading from his letter to Titus, in Jesus “the kindness and love of God…appeared.” That appearance, the one we celebrate tonight and for the next twelve days, saves us, if we choose to believe it, receive it and live it out. It saves us not because of the good things we’ve done, or because we deserve it, “but because of his mercy,” wrote Paul. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth,” should we have believed and been baptized, “and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” in other words, the regeneration and transformation that comes with a way of living which is aligned with what the birth we celebrate tonight represents. All of which was, “poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

His birth is chronicled in some detail in our gospel reading by Luke, a trustworthy physician and a learned man. He calls it “good news of great joy…for all the people…a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” And, rather like the shepherds, each year we leave our places of work to find Mary and Joseph and the baby again, to see the thing that has happened.

It is an amazing story. Consider what we’ve heard about Jesus this evening:
  1. Jesus has, indeed, come into the world

  2. He represents the kindness and love of God

  3. He saved us

  4. He is Christ ( which means God’s anointed One)

  5. He is Lord; that is, he is King of Kings, absolute Sovereign of the Universe. 
Tonight I want to encourage you to suspend any disbelief and decide to believe it all; the virgin birth, the cross, the resurrection, the whole nine yards. Let’s face it. You’re in trouble. I’m in trouble. And we can’t get ourselves out of the trouble we’re in. Jesus has. Jesus is able. Jesus will. All we have to do is believe that the message of this holy night is true and ask him to save us. And he will.