May I start my Christmas piece by wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas time from our church family. Yes, I do realise Christmas is still over three weeks away, and of course much must happen in that short space of time for us all to finally sit down and be ‘happy and peaceful’, but this is a special time of the year isn’t it? Our thoughts are clearly with those for whom this is a more difficult time, but for most of us this will be a celebration. Whether we are celebrating for the same reasons is another question altogether as Christmas means many different things to many different people, but Happy Christmas anyway.
Given all I have said, may I remind you why Christmas is important to me as a Christian. For me the purpose of Christmas is a celebration but the reason for this celebration is found in Luke Ch 2 v 10-11: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” As the angels and shepherds sang or gazed in wonder, God had wonderful news that would cause them and us to rejoice and celebrate, and we will!
This celebration unravels the message of Christmas: God loves us. The most famous statement in the Bible is Jesus' explanation of why God sent him to earth: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3 v 16) Can you hear that Christmas message: God loves us so much that he came to earth as a human, so we could get to know him and learn to trust him and love him back. Theologians call this the Incarnation. God became one of us, a human being, so we could understand what he is really like.
This is all lovely but what difference does the Christmas message make? The baby born in Bethlehem did not stay a baby. Jesus grew up and modelled for us the kind of life that pleases God, taught us the truth, paid for every sin we commit by dying on a cross, then proved that he was God and could save us by coming back to life. An American writer named Rick Warren said it like this in his little book ‘The Purpose of Christmas’: ‘When the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross, they stretched his arms as wide as they could. With his arms wide open, Jesus was physically demonstrating, "I love you this much! I love you so much it hurts! I'd rather die than live without you!" The next time you see a picture or statue of Jesus with outstretched arms on the cross, remember, he is saying, "I love you this much!”
Come and hear more. Come and celebrate. Come and worship this Christmas.
Alan Comfort, Rector