it may be a bit late (due to laptop dying on Christmas Day but here is the message from Christmas day 2016).
Sometimes it seems like things never change.
Super powers trying to impose their will on the world, I mean that’s why Mary and joseph were going to Bethlehem, right, It was a census, an upheaval imposed from afar, Caesar Augustus called it to gather information to count heads so he could get more taxes and revenue for the Roman empire.
A housing crisis leading to a pregnant mother desperately seeking a place to have her child… finally being offered a stable. I’m sorry there is no room. IT’s not ideal but you can live in the garage, it better than being in your car!
Paranoid dictators concerned about the rise of alternatives, sending death squads to make sure any resistance is stopped, and stamped out. The weeping of mothers as government forces move in with brutal violence and little thought of mercy. Desperate refugees clinging to, holding and shielding their little ones, making the long wearying trek, fleeing carnage, seeking refuge and asylum.
Maybe these things only register on the periphery of history and our consciousness. They go almost unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of our lives, family celebrations, holiday plans and simply keeping things going. In the face of dealing with our own news and our own pain our own grief our own suffering and sorrows.
Sometimes it seems like things never change. The nightly news sounds so much like the Gospel narrative of Jesus birth.
But Christmas tells us that they can and that they do change.
It tells us that in the midst of all the human activity and even inhumane horror, that God is concerned and God cares and chooses to do something to bring change. That in Jesus God stepped into our world, the word became flesh and dwell in our neighbourhood. Not with power and might, or shock and awe as we’ve heard the US military talk of, not by coming to a place of influence and privilege, where he would be listened to by right, able to demand obedience. But by stepping into the everydayness of life:
Born to a young women of faith but not of status, the circumstances of her pregnancy somewhat suspicious, her fiancé caught between loving her and wanting to do the righteous thing and send her away, his dilemma only resolved by an angel appearing in a dream.
Born amidst the upheaval of a census, where displaced peoples mean there is only room in a local stable.
When his special birth is acknowledged by people from far off countries it just about ruins everything, by alerting Herod, that there is one born ‘King of the Jews’, a rival to his only families dynastic claims, and he sends in death squads to kill every male child under two.
Born in to a refugee family, fleeing for his life.
But this child when a man would speak out about a different kind of Kingdom, a different way to live, where all were welcomed in to know God as father, to have a clean start and new life, and be enabled and empowered to love one another, to care for the poor and lost and the least, to overcome evil with good,. He talked of a world order flipped on its head where the least was important to God and the powerful seen as blind to their own need for change and transformation.
Then he would die on a cross, a criminals death, an innocent man killed for political expediency. But a death that the Gospel narratives display as a coronation, a victory over the powers of this world, over sin and death.
But that is not the end of this story. God raised him to life again. Things can change because we can have new life, a fresh start, be invigorated to love and serve and be peacemakers and live generously because of Jesus Christ.
There is great sorrow in the Christmas story it finishes with a lament, the weeping of mothers for their dead children. But it is a source of great Joy. It is Joy that God has kept his promise to step in and bring change.
It is a cause for great Joy, because in this baby born in Bethlehem, there is a light that points us to a way to bring change and transformation, in our own lives as we meet and give ourselves to Him, no longer a baby, but the Lord.
It is cause for great Joy, because in following Jesus example of loving one another, even our enemies and facing down evil and oppression with sacrificial love, and poverty with loving generosity… that it can change.
You see there is great joy because the Kingdom of God, the reign of God, has broken into the realm of man. If we will but embrace it and allow Jesus to bring his light and new life into our lives we can be agents of change.
So rejoice and find great joy this Christmas, In Christ’s presence and grace.