Sunday 13 December
Luke chapter 2 verses 1 - 21
The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “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.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Message - Playing One’s Part
If I asked if the spread of Corona Virus is worse now than in March – would you say it is true and if so why?
I sometimes question whether everyone is playing their part! If, as we are led to understand, hospitality is a cause of the spread, it can only be that either the rules, i.e. 1-meter distancing, are inadequate. Or, people are not following the rules. In pubs, the suggestion is that after a few beers people stop following rules and it is also suggested people are still meeting up in homes where they shouldn’t.
There will always be people who choose not to follow rules and where rules are not enforced, they will be broken or if not broken they will be bent as far as possible.
For that reason, there are two parts to my message today.
The first is about following the rules and the second about playing our part. They have to follow that pattern or there would be anarchy.
I remember a story of children playing football. The referee didn’t turn up and the children were running all over the place not knowing what to do. They looked worn out and miserable too. Eventually the referee turned up and almost immediately the whole game changed. The children, sticking to the rules, engaged in the game, and they had a ball. – Sorry about the pun.
It was bad enough when no one applied the rules but what would have happened if some of the children were playing what looked more like rugby than football. Once someone applied the rules, the children could enjoy their game and we need to see that is why there are rules in all walks of life that we need to follow. There are rules in Christianity too. Rules where I am probably as bad as yourselves, if not worse, when it comes to following them. They are simple rules too. Never mind the hundreds that the Pharisees conjured up, there are only 10! Can you tell me them without looking them up? I probably can’t, or not without a good bit of thinking about it. It is no wonder we break them as often as we do.
Then when we recall from James 2: 10 - 'For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it'. We can see why it was necessary for Jesus to be born in the first place.
Can we not therefore help each other to comply with the rules when we need to? Saying that, can I stress, if we can’t do it in a loving way then perhaps, we should hold our tongues.
As to my second point, I can’t conceive of our God needing billions of people on this planet to get one or two to play their part. I know, I believe in freedom of choice, but still! We all have a part to play. Some choose to be the listeners, the passive audience. Even where that isn’t God’s choice for them!
Others choose to ignore the call to play their part, I did for years, choosing to believe God can’t call me into ministry.
Some however accept the call. Take the shepherds in today's reading. They would have known their place in society and the rules that surrounded their position. Stay with the sheep and protect them from thieves and wild animals. For angels to come to them was counter-cultural to say the least. Quite rightly they chose to follow God’s call and went to see the baby in the manger. They set aside their understanding of rules to follow God’s plan, to play by God’s rules as they played their part in the singularly most important game for not just their culture but for the whole human race.
The Birth of Christ is what gives us freedom to join the Angel’s song and worship Him.
I believe our only appropriate response is to give oneself to him and play our part in God’s plan for the salvation of His children, us included! Are you ready to forgo the cultural norms of the Advent Conspiracy and join in the game of spreading the Good News? That isn’t to say we all become preachers but it is saying to seek out God’s will for us. Making phone calls, praying, it can be a big list if it is God’s list and yet it can also be a small list too.
We all need to know in our hearts that what God calls into being he will resource to the full. How about from now on we choose to say and to mean? Thy will be done. Amen