Don't miss Christmas


Don’t miss Christmas

That might sound a very strange thing to say when you are at midnight.
But it is very easy to do all the stuff of Christmas, and still miss Christmas

One of our sons is going to miss Christmas.
He started at university in the UK in September and, because his passport expires, his parents kept asking him to get a new passport. And he told us that he was too busy, that he needed his passport as his ID, and that anyway he was independent and could look after his own life and make his own decisions – so we should get off his back.
I’m sure that those of you who are younger are never like that with your parents. Of course, I wasn’t!  And I’m sure that those of you who are parents of older teenagers have never had such experiences…
Well, the result is that he put in for his new passport 10 days ago, and it only came yesterday. So he didn’t have time to get his visa. And he is going to miss Christmas here.

It is not hard to miss Christmas

Most of the people of Jesus’ time missed Christmas.
They were waiting, they were looking for the coming of the King, God’s King, who would bring in God’s reign of right-ness and justice and harmony and abundance and security.
God had told them it would happen.
It was all there in their bible: even the place where it would happen was named.

But when it happened, they missed it.
The most important event in human history: God is wrapped in swaddling clothes and is laid in a manger.

God, the creator of all things, becomes part of his creation.
God empties himself of his power and glory and he becomes a human baby.
God turns our values upside down.
We think it is all about being rich and powerful and famous and gorgeous: just look at the shops round here, the glossy magazines and internet headlines, what we watch on television. We are fascinated by the rich and powerful and famous and gorgeous. We want to be rich and powerful and famous and gorgeous – well, I’ll settle for being rich and powerful and famous.
But the Christmas story tells us that what really matters is love and right-ness and listening to God and generousity and self-giving and emptying ourselves of what we have and of who we pretend to be so that we allow God to fill us, so that we truly become who God made us to be.
It tells us of the dignity of each human person, however rich or however poor – because God became one of us
It tells us of the astonishing freedom that God has given to each one of us: because by making himself vulnerable and coming among us as a baby, God permits each of us to either trample on him or worship him.
It tells us that God is doing something new: a virgin gives birth, a new creation begins with a new – upgraded - humanity, and to each of us is given the possibility of a new start.
It tells us that joy – not just happiness but deep joy - and peace come when we stop pretending to be somebody, get really honest about ourselves and all the muck that is in us, and when we surrender to God all that we like to think of as ‘mine’: our possessions, our ambitions, our hopes and our rights – and we kneel with the wise men before the baby Christ.

And apart from some shepherds and some itinerant foreigners, they missed it.

And it is easy for us to miss Christmas
I don’t mean that we miss the festival.
It is hard to miss that: the lights – how can you miss the lights in the centre of Moscow? And there is Ded Moroz, elki, the gifts, eating and drinking, being with family, even going to church at night.
And in Russia – if you miss one Christmas, there is always the second.

But it is easy to celebrate Christmas, and to still miss Christmas.

Christmas happened in space and time. It was a historic event, a once and for all event when God became man
But Christmas for us happens not out there, but in here – our heart.

Many years ago, when I had just begun preaching, I was speaking at a Christmas midnight service. It was in my home village in England. The church was packed, and I made the fatal mistake of asking a rhetorical question. I said, ‘Do you know this Jesus? I’m not asking if you believe in Christmas, that Jesus the Son of God was born on earth. I’m asking if you have given your life to him, if you know him, if he lives in you.’
It is a good question, and one we each need to ask of ourselves. But that is not a good question to ask on midnight Christmas eve when you have people in church who have had a bit too much to drink. And one young man stood up and said, ‘Yes. I know Jesus’. And as he started to walk to the front he said, ‘I tell you what. You carry on and I’ll give you a bit of help’.

The story is told of a girl called Miriam. She was 2 years old. She was at a service in a church where they had a large nativity scene, with a real little hut and life size figures of Mary and Joseph. Halfway through the service, she escaped from her parents and ran to the front to have a look at the nativity scene. She looked at Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus, and then she went in and sat down and stayed there. What it meant was that for the rest of the service, if someone looked at the nativity scene, they saw Jesus and Mary and Joseph – but they also saw Miriam. She had become part of it.

The invitation this night is not to miss Christmas – not to miss it because we are too busy fussing about becoming rich and powerful and famous and glamorous – or because we are simply trying to survive; not to miss it because in our independence we don’t think we need God. But instead to stop, and listen – to listen to God, speaking through the bible, through the liturgy, through the preacher – speaking to our heart, and to become part of Christmas, to kneel with the wise men and worship God become man.


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