This is an transcription of the message I brought at the Mosaic Church Carols by Candlelight service on the 24th December 2014
So our time of waiting and anticipation is almost over; we’re here together on the edge of Christmas; we’ve counted the days on our advent calendars and now we’re counting the hours on our fingers. You might (like me) still have wrapping and food prep to face when you get home; but there’s something so different tonight isn’t there? The anticipation of your children’s faces and the satisfaction of filling loved ones tummies brings sheer delight; it’s not a chore or a bore – love keeps us going till the wee small hours!
Some of my favourite memories of Christmas eve as a child were when my brother, sister and I would all sleep over in the same bedroom; we’d talk, laugh (be shhh’d by busy parents downstairs) and reminisce of Christmas’s past, then finally doze off just in time for that silent visitor to deliver stockings at the end of our beds.
Christmas brings us together; we want to share memories, re-live traditions and do the same things.year.after.year. We smile and sing loudly when the radio plays ‘last Christmas’ for the 10th time that day, we click the ‘share’ button on the John Lewis advert on facebook; we want others to feel what we felt when we watched monty the penguin find his mate! We book concert tickets, we buy the sparkly dress, we polish off the chocolates in the staff room at work, we write a billion cards for our daughter’s nursery class despite knowing little Sally’s Mum will be showered with a whole class of them when she digs the bag out of the back of car the night before nursery starts again in January! Because it’s busy. We’re all busy. Busy blessing and baking and breathing and being, oh and bargain hunting.
Anticipation and preparation isn’t a new phenomenon, it was going on over 2000 years ago. On one particular night a young couple had to pack up and travel. Without a sniff of a baby shower, a cool Oyster buggy or a subscription to ‘Prima pregnancy magazine’ this nervous father to-be and his pregnant bride started their Christmas eve journey. They attempted and failed at last minute hotel bookings, and they were carrying a gift. One really special gift.
This gift, this son, was held by one but meant for many, this gift would never be returned, would never grown old and we’d tire of it, it would be passed down from generation to generation. This gift wasn’t a lush bath bomb, a set of golf clubs, a Frozen sing-along DVD, a spiderman suit or a diamond ring; this gift to share was a baby King. Jesus.
That journey was taken with our King in utero; Mary and Joseph walked the road to our Christmas story with much more anticipation than your 6 year old is feeling tonight.
This baby King was anticipated, hoped for, longed for and spoken of by Prophets of old. Just as you wrote a name on each gift you wrapped; this gift was named before He was revealed; wonderful, counsellor, prince of peace, mighty God, everlasting Father…and He has our name, your name written on His palm.
And His name; Emmanuel which means ‘God with us’ has hung in the air through centuries, years, seasons, days, hours and moments, like this one ‘God with us’ here right now – loving us, guiding us, whispering to us through this year of hard and happy, real and raw, fast and free. God really is with us tonight on Christmas Eve 2014.
One writer puts it like this:
He is the God who is so for you that He can’t stay away from you! The God who so loves you and likes you and isn’t merely a little bit for you or halfway for you or kind of for you but is always, fully, completely, totally, entirely, all the way, 100 percent for you – this is God whose chooses to be right with you.
So God threw open the door of this world and entered as a baby. He came as a baby because He was done with barriers. He disarmed himself so that you could take him in your arms. God came as a baby because He wants to be unimaginably close to you. What God ever came so tender that we could touch him? So fragile that we could break him? Only the one who loves you to death. Only the God who had to come back to get you, to free you, to be with you. Who wants the gift of His presence more than anything else? Christmas isn’t about getting something big and shiny. It’s about God’s doing whatever it takes to be with us – and our doing whatever it takes to be with Him
Ann Voskamp – The Greatest Gift
But this baby being born wasn’t the end of the story – it was just the beginning.
And maybe tonight is just the beginning for you; He’s a God of new beginnings – He does that so well. He brings perspective and we can but bring our Praise.
And maybe tonight is about perspective; along with anticipation and preparation – we need perspective. This journey, your journey might not quite be what it seems…
46 years ago on this night
Christmas Eve, 1968 the Apollo 8 astronauts – Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders – became the first people to orbit another world.
As their command module floated above the lunar surface, the astronauts beamed back images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis, closing with a wish for everyone “on the good Earth.”
The mission was also famous for the iconic “Earthrise” image, snapped by Anders, which would give humankind a new perspective on their home planet. Anders has said that despite all the training and preparation for an exploration of the moon, the astronauts ended up discovering Earth.
The moon landing was still months away but this significant journey brought a fresh perspective for many, of the place where God had put them; where they lived, breathed and existed. Why are we so quick to want to see something else, be someone else, have something more when God has given us right here, right now, and YOU, you’re incredible – infact you resemble the gift, you look like Him; our creator and He’s reaching out ready to meet us right here, right now, Christmas eve 2014
So go ahead wrap the final gifts, prepare the turkey, set out the table and get some sleep…if you’re able, but make room in your heart and home for this gift, the most important gift – you see He’s the prince of peace and who doesn’t want that in their life this Christmas?
And in this season when we remember that bright star that illuminated the place where the baby king lay; may we see His light guiding us into peace, hope, freedom and life.
So I finish with words of the prophet Isaiah:
For a child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.