Alan led our worship this morning and challenged us to think about the focus of our Christmas celebrations.
“Christmas is a funny time. In western countries, at any rate, we have concocted a peculiar and complex web of different traditions, which we cherish as ‘Christmas’”.
He then listed the types of features that pass as part of the Christmas celebrations of many in the Western World:
“gifts under a tree – which is often made of plastic, for goodness’ sake!; there’s a big meal, with a hot fruit pudding – and often much over-indulgence;”
My own family was no different for many years except we did not indulge in expense gifts, choosing instead to guarantee those less well off than ourselves were able to enjoy a pleasant Christmas Day.
Not all my family, then (or now), saw Christmas as the day when we celebrate the hope that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth brought to the world.
However, ironically, as my children grew into adults, without any religious profession, they rejected the over-indulgence in food and gift-giving. So, for many years now, our Christmas Day has been a day for our family to meet and affirm our love and support for each other.
It is quite a simple meal of food which is chosen to see that each of us has something we like and perhaps wouldn’t eat every week. Then a gift for each adult and some little things for the granddaughters . We all take leave of each other still feeling healthy and knowing we are still “glued” together by the love and goodwill shown throughout the day. And all the money saved goes to those who are doing it “tough”.
This year, my husband and I sent a cheque to a country town where people are in deep debt because of the drought and the cheque is being split between the pharmacist and the dentist to help pay for treatment of people who have no means of paying for medical treatment anymore. The thought that a burden is lifted from someone who can’t pay for some essential treatment is the best Christmas present I can think off. And gives hope to those who perhaps thought they been forgotten. I think Jesus would see that as obeying the commandment he gave us to love one another.
I have told the details of our Christmas Day to make the point that most of my family do not profess to be even religious, much less, Christian. But they live in a society which has been influenced and was initially built on Christian principles. They also read and watch the media where Christian ideas are sometimes spread and they have been raised to think of others.
So if a Christian, now or at some other time hadn’t let their light shine, perhaps the society we live in would not have influenced my family to think the way they do. Perhaps the parents of my granddaughters wouldn’t know that to raise children, parents almost without exception need to sacrifice some or many of their own needs, thereby setting the template for the thinking of those little girls in relation to other people. The words of Jesus of Nazareth is still alive in unexpected places.
Alan went on:
“Amidst it all, as Christians, most of us find time to go to church, either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning, or even both. Worship reminds us, in a way that the plastic nativity scene just doesn’t, that Christmas is actually about Jesus. It’s actually about the coming into the world of the saviour, Jesus Christ...Some Christian families seek to remind themselves that the festival is all about Jesus, by setting an empty place at their table. The empty chair is for Jesus...But who is the Jesus we invite to join us at our table... are we ready to meet the real Jesus? Are we ready to welcome him at our table.
...We have all had times of doubt and uncertainty. Perhaps those times too were occasioned by dashed expectations and disappointment.” Jesus’s reply (to John the Baptist) is interesting.
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
(Alan went on to develop his sermon further, but I cannot follow that in the space of this small blog.)
Jesus is not walking around the earth as he was at that time. But all of us who profess to be obeying his commandment are doing the work of his word in some way. The result of obeying Jesus commandments may not be miracles in the conventional sense. However, the changes that have been wrought in us so that we obey, and as a result people that we have never met are freed from burdens that we know nothing about, are indeed miracles.
Whether Jesus is able to reach out to his children during the Christmas season largely depends on those of us who know of his enlivening power; those of us who have already responded in whatever human way we can, to the amazingly generous and totally incomprehensible invitation given to us. The thing is, do we recognize miracles when they are happening before our eyes. Do we recognize Jesus acting through his children ....or anyone or anything he chooses?