1st Sunday of Christmas – Sermon 62
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
So – How’s the celebrations going? – Did the day match up to your expectations? – has it been a Christmas to remember? –
What’s been the best so far?
The food? Time with family or friends?
Coming to church? – Opening the presents? –or watching the children or grandchildren open theirs?
If you had to choose three words to represent your Christmas – what would you choose?
The Christmas Dinner? – the Queens Speech? – Morcambe and Wise? –
I wonder what three words God would want us to choose ?
Maybe our readings will give us a clue?
Point 1 – Hope is heralded!
Our OT reading contains the last part of Isaiah’s second servant song
What the Lord says about His promised redeemer – the Holy One of Israel – the light that will come to the nations
The Israelites had fallen on hard times -they had lost their homeland – and were living in exile in Babylon – but God promises to rebuild their lives – and “set them free”
He will send a man of prayer – who will bring security, enjoyment, liberation and a transformation –
a new covenant blessing will be given through a personal relationship with Him –
He will redeem and save – bring peace and harmony
The promised Messiah will be both a new Joshua – and a new Moses –- it will be like a second Exodus – pilgrims will come from all over the world to be guided by Him – as a shepherd guides His sheep – there will be – shouts of joy and celebration –
“for the Lord has comforted His people and has had pity on them in their distress”
Isaiah’s message from God is one of restoration and hope – a new beginning –
At Christmas when we celebrate the birth of that promised Messiah – “God with us” – we think of Jesus as the child in a manger – Our readings and hymns are all about a baby – a bundle of hope born to ordinary parents – who became extraordinary because of Jesus’ presence with them – –
Maybe this Christmas our celebrations of Jesus’ birth has given us – “a new hope” – “a new beginning” – a new way of looking at things – that if God can change the world through one small child – maybe with his help He can make a difference to our lives as well
But as we see from our NT reading – True hope can only come as people see Jesus’ real glory and listen to Him as God’s Son –
Paul in his letter to the Philippians speaks about the mind and spirit of the true Christian –
Philippi was a great commercial center – one of the greatest in Macedonia – full of ex-pats from the Roman Army – who settled there with their families – at the end their service –
This “little Rome” – had a thriving Christian community – and Paul was writing to them from Prison – to thank them for all that they had done for him – and warn them of things that might divert them from their course -–
Selfish ambition – when we do something for our own advancement instead of furthering the work of the church –
Vanity – to have our opinions sought after – and to be listened to – or be flattered by others – can often be the greatest of temptations
And looking after self – if our own interests come first – then we will inevitably push someone else out of the way –
Paul appeals for a life of love and harmony – in unity and service –
That we should all have common thoughts when it comes to God – and the work and witness of the church – we should follow the way of thinking shown to us through the words and actions of His Son
This reading from Philippians contains one of the greatest and most moving passages in the NT –
Believed to be taken from an ancient hymn of the time – in it – we see Jesus’ humility, obedience and self-renunciation – in action – He didn’t choose His own way – but God’s way – He didn’t wish to dominate – but to serve – He didn’t choose self-esteem – but renounced it – for our sakes-
There’s a story I read – of a Christian missionary suffering from TB who was a patient in a hospital in India – all his efforts to try to tell the people in the hospital about Jesus and the gospel met with hostility – to them he was a rich outsider – taking up valuable space in their hospital –
Then one morning at 2am an elderly Indian patient struggled to get out of bed –he wanted to go to the bathroom –but he was too weak to make it – and the next day the smell from his bed – was so overpowering that it filled the ward – the other patients yelled at him – and the nurses visibly showed him their anger at having to clean up the mess – one even slapped him –
The next night the old man tried to get up again – and again fell back –
But this time the missionary heard his cry – and although weak himself – got out of bed – picked him up – and carried him to the bathroom – and helped him – then carried him back to his bed –
The next morning a complete change came over the hospital ward – all the hostility towards the missionary had disappeared and the patients and staff started to talk to him – and ask questions – several eventually accepted Jesus into their lives –
By putting the other patients well being first – he had shown them what it means to be a follower of Jesus –through him they saw the light from a Saviour who made Himself nothing – and took the form of a servant – and humbled himself before us
We are all called to do the same – sometimes loving others can be unpleasant – but that’s when His love speaks loudest –
So maybe “Love and harmony” or unity and service” would describe and important part of your Christmas
Point 3 what does it mean for us –
But we might say – what about giving and receiving gifts? – that’s an important part of Christmas too
At Christmas more than any other time we are ready to give and receive from others – because at that first Christmas God satisfied our greatest need
We should remember that:
If our greatest need was for knowledge – He would have sent us a teacher
If our greatest need was for money – He would have sent us an accountant
If our greatest need was for technology – He would have sent us a scientist
If our greatest need was for enjoyment – He would have sent us an entertainer –
But because our greatest need is for forgiveness – He sent us a savior –
Jesus was obedient to God – even to the point of death – death on a cross –
He came to die – so that our sins can be forgiven – so we can start again – in our relationship with God – and with those around us –
Jesus gave everything for us so that we could receive everything from
In the second half of that ancient Hymn we perhaps see the words that God would want us to choose to describe our Christmas
“Therefore God raised Him to the heights and bestowed upon Him the name above all names – that at the name of Jesus – every knee shall bow – and every tongue acclaim – “Jesus Christ is Lord”
Has Jesus been Lord at Your Christmas?
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit