This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Christmas Day.
As a child and young mum, I remember watching Blue Peter and I was fascinated by the idea of time capsules. I’ve got to admit I didn’t realise that “Blue Peter” is still running as a show and you can also chat live to star guests and presenters and that they have a diamond time capsule safely stored in the National Archives!
What does this have to do with Jesus’ birth? – stay with me for a few more minutes!
I’m sure many of you have heard and possibly even made an eco brick. For those of you who do not know about them they are plastic bottles filled with used clean plastic and they are being used to build walls and even houses. One young man, I think in the Cameroon has even made a boat with them and the Government has begun to take recycling seriously.
However, whilst I was putting some plastic in the one I have at home it came to me that in some small way these plastic bottles are like little time capsules. From mine you can tell I have a dog as there are cut up bags from dog treats, there are wrappers from kitchen roll, sweets, potatoes and carrots and most of them have dates on them. So, if and when they ever break down those who find them will be able to date when they were made.
Now going back over 2000 years ago, there was nothing like plastic or use by dates, there were no phones, no computers, but there were scribes who kept immaculate records, scholars and very wise men who could read the skies.
Archaeologists researching the time when Jesus was born would possibly only find bits of wood, fossils of straw, coins and possibly bits of material. Astronomers who have studied the events of 2000 years ago admit there was an extraordinary event that took place and thanks to the scribes and scholars who would record all types of events and the Bible, we know what that extraordinary event was.
It was the birth of a child in an inn in the small village of Bethlehem.
A birth that was to change the world then and now.
It’s hard for us to imagine the hardship that Mary and Joseph had to face walking the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then finding no room at the Inn, but this was all part of God’s plan.
Jesus was to be born in a humble manger, wrapped in strips of cloth not in a grand palace and instead of a mighty warrior, the Messiah came as a baby needing to be fed and changed. Dependent on human love and nurture.
Jesus’ birth had been prophesied about for many years, but only a few were ready and waiting to accept him when he came. Many of the devout and religious people missed his arrival, because he was “wrapped” in a way they didn’t expect.
His arrival was only announced to those who were ready to see and hear.
Simple Shepherds looking after their sheep and Wise Men studying the skies for a special star.
During Advent we have been preparing for today, to celebrate the birth of Jesus through weekly reflections and prayer. Through preparing gifts, writing cards, watching Nativity plays and preparing for visitors, cleaning and buying food.
People prepare for special events in different ways. One of my daughters regularly has a “to-do list” (actually I think she writes one every week). Personally I write little reminder notes and a friend of mine used to tie a knot in his hanky and would sometimes have two or three knots in it by the end of the day (I always wondered after if he remembered why he had tied the knots!).
I suppose to-do lists are quite popular and I would like to share with you a reflection from Archbishop Justin Welby and Rev. Isabelle Hamley.
“There is nothing more satisfying than a finished to-do list. It feels like such an achievement to be able to say, “I have done it all. I am officially ready.” Human beings love this sense of being in control, of mastering the world around them. Which is probably why Christmas is so difficult. Because we might prepare the practicalities, but to be ready for Christmas, for the coming of God asks us to put our to do lists aside, and simply open ourselves up to God.”
The message from Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
“This is the radical message of the Christian Gospel – we can’t find our way to God by our own effort. Instead, God comes to us, seeks us out and offers us grace. All we bring is ourselves, as we are, in truth and openness. To be ready for God, maybe we need to “unlearn” the things we’ve been doing or thinking – that we need to make ourselves “worthy” or “good enough”. Preparing ourselves for Christmas means being completely open to God and being ready to throw our lists away.”
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the best gift of all: salvation through your Son Jesus Christ. May this precious gift always be a reminder to us that you are worth waiting for and trusting. May our hearts be filled with anticipation and joy as we rest in the truth that you know what is best for us. Lord, thank you for loving us and giving us good gifts.
Christine Hardy (Reader)