Carol Service 2019

Themes: Christmas

Annette James

It is advent and we have heard from the shepherds and Mary and Joseph looking for shelter.

Wasn’t that drama great? It focused on two stories within a bigger story of Christmas. We will each have our own Christmas story – and every year we will have some traditions and some things that are new.

Let’s give our actors and musicians another clap xx

I wanted to tell the story of Jesus as told by the donkey but do you know what – there is no donkey in the bible stories – maybe the donkey appeared because he is a beast that carries burdens, or maybe because as an adult Jesus chose a donkey to carry him into Jerusalem. There is a book of James which includes the donkey but that book didn’t make it into the bible.

So I brought Eeyore – who says “Oh well, don’t mind me, I don’t exist in the story”, he is a reminder to me that many people find this time of year very hard.

This morning we heard read a third story – from Micah which I think is apt in this post-election world…

Micah’s story – Micah lived outside the governmental centres of power in his nation, leading to his strong concern for the lowly and less fortunate of society—the lame, the outcasts, and the afflicted. Therefore, Micah directed much of his prophecy toward the powerful leaders of Samaria and Jerusalem, the capital cities of Israel and Judah, respectively (1:1).

Micah provides us with one of the most significant prophecies of Jesus Christ’s birth in the Old Testament, pointing some seven hundred years before Christ’s birth to His birthplace of Bethlehem and to His eternal nature, and he predicts the how Jesus will come…

Much of Micah’s indictment/complaint against Israel and Judah involves these nations’ injustice toward the lowly—unjust business dealings, robbery, mistreatment of women and children, and a government that lived in luxury off the hard work of its nation’s people. – sound familiar.

I want this morning to consider the stories that each of us live in and by…your story in this week in which our lovely friend Rita has died. I was so glad that I had spent time with her the afternoon before her death in friendship and prayer to let her know how much she was loved and what she meant to us. We have weathered a general election – which was shocking and surprising and sad and joyful; this is what life is about isn’t it. I want to share with you a poem by Pema Chodron about how things never really get sorted…

The truth is that things don’t really get solved

They come together and fall apart.

They come together again

It is just like that,

The healing comes

from letting there be room

for all of this to happen,

room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy,

For me this rings true, recognizing this we bring our story and join in with the story of life, for Christmas is all about sharing stories – think of Mary’s story – starting with being visited by an Angel which must have been a shock - offering her the evidence of her cousin Elizabeth who is getting on in years but is also pregnant…

The Christmas story is an awakening… a renewed story – a story of God with us – it is an impossible story …. in which God intrudes on the normal life of a young woman, shepherds working on the hillside through God’s messengers, angels who tell them not to be afraid, that something impossible has happened. Something impossible in the normal routine of life, the birth of a baby – normal and not normal.

Who has read Alice through the looking glass, at one point Alice says – “why I’ve sometimes believed 100 impossible things before breakfast”

Shepherds were looking after their sheep in the fields – and an angel appeared to them –

And experiences and stories change us - Alice says - “It’s no good going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then”

God made the impossible, possible. At this time of year people focus on the immediate – what is ‘possible’ - the tree, the decorations, cards, presents, the shopping, the cooking, giving and receiving. Is the real message of Christmas hidden?

How can we get Christmas right should we take away all the decorations, the presents, the extra food, the tree, the baubles, the traditional Christmas dinner.

Would that help us focus on baby Jesus…what do you think – we do need some celebration as the winter days are cold and dark - maybe not so let’s look at this another way…

How about we see Jesus is in everything – as we think of caring for our earth maybe we will do things in a slightly different way but we can see the message of Christmas in all that we do at this time of year – being creative with our decorations – bright and beautiful – reminding us we are co - creators with God, in the shopping – thinking ethically and also thinking of those who are most needy. In the tree, reminding us we are part of nature and what we do matters, in sharing our food with family and friends and being thankful for our daily bread, and the boundless generosity of God. In giving and receiving of gifts, and the greatest gift of all the baby Jesus, in the cards the relationships that we all share, knowing God comes to be close to us…

The question for us this Christmas I think is – which story/whose story do we want to live by – rejection and oppression or resurrection and hope? Earlier this year we shared a prayer.

When we make a wall you build a bridge

When we draw a line you step across

When we shut the door you stand in our midst

When we fear, you say, ‘Do not be afraid’.

The message from the angels was first – Do not be afraid - what gives me hope this Christmas is knowing that God is all and is in all – not part of any political system and not swayed by opinion or power or wealth.

Julian of Norwich – took a small sphere the size of a hazelnut or walnut and she said – that this is the world and it exists because God loves it – and because of that all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.