Dave spoke tonight from Luke 2:1-20 about the reality of Christmas. If we were to decipher the message of Christmas from our Christmas cards, we might get very mixed messages, believing Christmas to be a winter festival (after all, lots of cards feature snow, holly, berries and robins) or a tree festival (Christmas trees feature heavily) or even a celebration of the past (stagecoaches and Victorian scenes seem to feature a lot!) Even religious Christmas cards seem to focus on idealism, fantasy and nostalgia (the perfect crib scene with the star shining brightly down) rather than portraying the messy, dirty, smelly stable which surely was the case. We tend to have this idealistic view of Christmas (even our carols speak of the baby Jesus not crying, which clearly would not have been the case with any human baby!), but the truth of the Christmas message is focussed on the person of Jesus Christ, who was both fully God and fully man at the same time.
The reality of Christmas was far from glamorous or easy. It involved a dramatic and frankly unbelievable message about a virgin giving birth, an inconvenient journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a frantic trip to Egypt to avoid a king’s murderous plans. Mary and Joseph could be forgiven for having asked why God could not have made it easier for them to do His will and we often feel the same way! But Jesus came into the world as it was, not as we would like it to be. We would all like to live in a perfect world without trouble or war or natural disasters, but this is not how it is. God’s method of changing the world involves us and does not violate our free will. He invites us to participate in His great work of salvation and to accept His invitation. Mary and Joseph both had to say ‘yes’ to what God asked of them; the shepherds and wise men all had to respond to the astonishing news they were told or the sign they saw. Jesus constantly asks for our response, our participation, our cooperation, for love cannot be forced.
The reality of Christmas involves the Incarnation: God becoming flesh and entering our messy world. God wants to come into our lives, however messy they are, but we must listen for HIs voice, respond to that voice and cooperate with Him if we are to receive Christ in our hearts by faith. We choose to follow God, step by step, for Christ is not just for Christmas but for life. We can go into the New Year with confidence, not apprehension, because we do not walk alone. God walks with us, Immanuel.