|Lectionary||1st Reading||Psalm||2nd Reading||Gospel|
NOTES TO THE READINGS
Psalm 97 is called ‘A song of praise to the Sovereign Lord”- a fitting song of praise to the newly born baby Jesus Christ we celebrate at Christmas. The first verse sets the scene as we read that ‘the Lord Jesus reigns’ and that the earth will rejoice exuberantly!’ In the second line we read how the multitude of islands will be glad’. Here the psalmist shows that the ‘Lord’s reign’ is not just over Israel but that it reaches to the far corners of the earth. verses 2-7 tell us how his enemies will tremble with fear as he rules with righteousness and judgement. Verses 8-12, however, speak comfort and reassurance to those who love and serve him. He cares for his people and provides for them.
But not just those who love him. Vs. 1 says, ‘The Lord reigns, Let the Earth rejoice even to the most distant places – the multitude of the isles. Verses 2-6 describe how the ‘whole earth’ give praise and worship to the Lord. ‘All the peoples see His glory’ – a view into the future? Revelation 1:7
Note the expression in vs. 11 ‘Light is SOWN for the righteous’ – the picture of God sowing light implies that it increases more and more over time. Some commentators say that it implies that we will have enough light from God for each step of our pilgrimage. This reflects Ps. 119:105 where we read that the light comes from his Word, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.(sowing a recurrent theme in the Gospels!)
Comments on Titus 3:4-7
Letter written by Paul to Titus, a young Greek convert. Titus served as apostolic negotiator at Corinth and on Crete. The word ‘regeneration’ in vs. 5 means ‘becoming again’. The concept here is of personal regeneration. When someone repents and confesses faith in Jesus Christ they are born again. The Holy Spirit makes them a new creation. But interestingly for today’s theme vs. 7 also tells us that ‘God saved us , through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, that having been justified by His grace we should become HEIRS according to the hope of eternal life.’
Comments on Luke 2:1-20:
‘And she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (A traditional reading at Christmas!)
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
WHY DID JESUS COME AS BABY?
Why did God in Jesus, come to earth as a baby?
It is often said that Jesus came to die on the cross for us and so to save us. That is true (although also to save the whole of God’s creation) but did he need to come as a baby? Could God not just have introduced him as an adult. After all the first Adam appeared as a fully grown adult!
God did come to save us. But in his way. By being born a baby into a normal family and living life as one of us, Jesus knew, firsthand, what it was like to be human with all its ups and downs, sorrows, worries and joys. But he came to show us a different way, a way which would bring us back to what he had planned in the beginning – before we went off on our own ‘way’!
Jesus lived life on earth in an ordinary family and understands through his own experience what it is like. But also, through his own life he shows us a better way, God’s way of living. In other words, he came to live as one of us, so that we could learn to live like him. God’s way.
Only so could we become a ‘new creation’ learning to live God’s way. But also through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, God made it possible for us to be ‘adopted’ by him. Adoption in those days was rather different from today. Men only had one wife and children from that marriage, but they often had many children through slave women. The children from the marriage did not necessarily become the Father’s heir. A complicated situation in our eyes but then quite acceptable. It was possible and often the case that the Father adopted a ‘son’ and heir. Made him legally one of the family and legally his heir. In those days only sons could inherit.
That is what God has made possible through Jesus, that all (male and female) who believe in and follow Jesus will become ‘heirs’ – ‘sons’ (sons and daughters!). (which is why it is not always a good idea to make changes in biblical gender language. We are all, male and female, in this sense ‘sons’ of God.
Jesus as God’s only ‘begotten’ son, that means in Greek, unique, was God’s son in the sense that only Jesus is like God in nature. But Jesus by his birth and life on earth was also the firstborn of many adopted brothers and sisters – us!
Knowing that Jesus went through life like us is also a comfort. We know that he can identify with our pain and sorrows and help us in difficult times. ‘ Casting all your care upon God, for he cares for you’.(1.Peter 5:7)
Jesus is our pattern – as the well-loved hymn says – the one we learn to love and follow by the transforming of our minds and lives. He showed us how to live on earth.
Growing up in an ordinary family, learning his earthly ‘father’s’ trade, he would have lived close to his heavenly Father’s creation. Son of Man was the only title that Jesus himself took for himself. Man coming from Adam – meaning Earth.
Jesus repeatedly used examples from nature to make his point. In Matthew’s Gospel alone Jesus introduces us on 27 separate occasions to all sorts of animals and birds.. Jesus even explained how birds can be evangelists! (Matt. 6. 26-7 ‘The birds of heaven are the evangelists to the earth who sing the good news of God’s providence: ‘If he feeds us he will feed you.’ God is the source of sustainable sufficiency and humanity the obstacle to it and the doubter of it. The birds by their very being challenge our doubts and kindle our faith in the generosity of his provision.” (Jesus and the Earth by James Jones Bishop of Liverpool)
In 2 Corinthians 5 we read that God has given us the ‘ministry’ of reconciliation and that we are committed to the word of reconciliation. I believe that as we face more and more devastation of creation, this ministry of reconciliation is a ministry between God, humans and creation and that we desperately need, not only to ask God’s forgiveness but also commit ourselves to a new way of living, such as Jesus demonstrated, a way which in our day integrates environmental, economic and social justice
Getting to know Jesus more and more, learning from him will show us how to walk gently on this earth, how to relate to our fellow humans and to nature – always seeking the best for both.
Why did God send his son Jesus to be born in Bethlehem?
A. God came to live among us so that we could learn to live like him.
Prayers: * all found in Candles & Conifers Resources for All Saints’ and Advent by Ruth Burgess – A Wild Goose Publication Iona Community www.ionabooks.com
Christmas Prayer by Carol Dixon
You came as a baby, Lord, as a little helpless child who relied on a human family to care for him.
You cried because you were hungry, because you were homeless, because you were a stranger far away from home.
You still cry with hunger, Lord, in the voices of the many starving; your tears still flow; for the homeless, the lonely and the forgotten; you still rely on human families to care for you.
And so, this Christmas, Lord, we pray: help us to be the kind of people who look for you in the world,
and joyfully discover you as we care for one another (and Creation!!)
You are deeply, deeply loved by John Harvey
On this night of the year, a voice is speaking – can we hear it?
“I know the cares and the anxious thoughts of your hearts. I know the hard time you often give yourselves. I know the hopes and ambitions that you have for yourselves and for others. I know your doubts, too – even while you seek to express your belief.
On this night, I want to find a way of saying to you:
You are deeply, deeply loved, just as you are,
Forgiven, loved and challenged to be the very best you can be. I’m speaking to you in the only way I know how – born in a stable, in a child born into poverty, soon to grow to maturity, born to show you, in a human life, the love of God”
Blessing – Come, Light of Life by John Harvey
Lord, in the beginning when all was very dark, you said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light and life throughout the universe.
And when the human race was exhausted, tired and weary, in the darkness of anxiety, confusion and sin, into that darkness you came as light in Jesus Christ. God became a human being among us all.
Once again it is dark. Not just dark at midnight but dark in ourselves: dark with fear and uncertainty, dark with confusing and conflicting voices in our ears.
Come, Light of life, lighten the darkness in our lives with your mighty word of love. Lighten our hearts with the joy of your promised coming. Lighten our world with the hope that faith in you still brings.
We go out into Christmas Day in the peace of Jesus Christ. May his peace, that lightens the soul with faith, lifts the spirit with hope and leavens the world with love, be yours tonight and always.
And the blessing of God, the Creator, the Son and the Spirit, go with you, and remain with you now and always. Amen.
Hymns & Songs : Once in royal David’s city! (Tune)
For he is our childhood’s pattern: day by day like us He grew; He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us He knew; And he feels for all our sadness, And he shares in all our gladness.
Revd Elizabeth Bussmann
A priest in the Diocese in Europe, I have recently retired, after 6 years, from my role as Diocesan Environment Officer for the Diocese in Europe. During that time, I helped to build up the original ‘Sustainable Preaching’ website. The “Preaching for God’s World” website has now been launched in the world-wide Anglican Communion context and hopes to be a vehicle by which we can share our diversity, our experiences and our fears but above all our hope in God’s Word and goodness to us. My motivation to care for creation (all of it – humans and nature!) is based on the fact that God gave humans the mandate to care for his creation from the beginning, to care for it as He would. My prayer and vision is that all Christians may come to know that ‘Caring for Creation’ is not an optional ‘add on’ but the pivotal point of discipleship.