Christmas Morning ~ God’s Love Story! - Jackie Fish
I read recently that the great theologian, Karl Barth, was once asked to be a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School; and at the end of a captivating closing lecture, the president of the seminary announced that Dr. Barth was not well and was quite tired, and though he thought that Dr Barth would like to be open for questions, he shouldn’t be expected to handle the strain. The President then said, “Therefore, I will ask just one question on behalf of us all.” He turned to the renowned theologian and asked, “Of all the theological insights you have ever had, which of them, do you consider to be the greatest of them all?” It was a great question for a man who had written literally tens of thousands of papers on some of the most sophisticated theology ever put into print. The students were poised at the ready to take down notes from the greatest theologian of their time…Karl Barth closed his tired eyes, and he thought for a minute, and then he half smiled, opened his eyes, and said to those young students. “The greatest theological insight that I have ever had is this: “Jesus Loves, me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!” (Even great theologians who want to get home early can have a great sense of humour!)
My dear friends in Christ: I put it to you on this Christmas morning that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that we have been preparing ourselves to meet again, during the four weeks of Advent: When we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath for the Patriarchs; which kindled the second candle for the Prophets of old; which kindled the third flame for John the Baptist; thus kindling the flame for Mary; which finally kindled the middle white Christmas candle for the birth of Jesus. And so the kindling of God’s Love through Jesus Christ caught on, like wild fire, and was handed on to the Disciples, and on to others, and still others, until finally it kindles the flame in each one us here today…and now it’s our turn in our time to kindle that flame of Love in others…to be Ambassadors for Christ!
Tell others of the greatest Love story ever written! Tell of the Divine Love that crossed our path…the birth of Jesus – Emmanuel God with us! Christmas is the beginning of the classic Love story with all the right ingredients: Infatuation, pursuit, risk and relationship; but in all relationships there has to be that first meeting, doesn’t there?
When I was a child I remember asking myself, “What if I had been born to another set of parents?” I would never have known the Love of the parents I knew and loved. My husband and I met by chance soon after I left school; while we were both on our way to work; I happened to leave school a year earlier than the other children in my class, because I wanted to begin a five year apprenticeship…I still find myself asking those curious “What if?” questions. Do you ever find yourself asking those kinds of questions? What if I had stayed on at school another year? Our lives might never have crossed paths…Les and I might never have known the Love we had for each other.
Christmas is the crossing of paths…the birth of the Christ child is where we first find God intersecting with humanity! Christmas is our first meeting with God who desired us from the very beginning…If it wasn’t for Christmas we might never have known the intensity of the Love that God has for us.
Mary and Joseph were far from home because of the imperial rule of the Census; Mary gave birth to her first born son in the most unsanitary of conditions, alongside the animals… There was no fanfare, no royal delegation…
Mary wrapped her new born son in bands of cloth; and laid him in an animal feeding trough; gazing no doubt, into his tiny little face, listening for his breathing, just like every new parent does. No, this couldn’t be anything but true Love! True Love accepts the beloved for who they really are; God chooses to Love us precisely because we are subjects of the human condition, not because of a favourable bottom line on a social and moral profit and loss statement. Mary and Joseph had nothing to commend them except their humanity.
God had waited patiently to send his Son into the world. Speaking in and through the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and Mary. God waited patiently to send Jesus who embodied God’s Divine Love for us all…not just some of the time, not when it happened to be convenient, but in every waking, breathing minute of every single day…and it’s the birth of that Divine Love into the world, that we celebrate today!
Who would have ever guessed that this crossing of paths, the intersection of the Divine and the human, would take place so long ago in a remote dusty village called Bethlehem of Judea, to a Virgin whose name was Mary who was betrothed to a man called Joseph?
Who would have guessed that in that time and place one would be born into our world who would one day fill his life so much with the experience of God, so much with the Love of God, that in him thousands upon thousands would be moved to make the incredible claim that they had actually met their God in person; the person of Jesus Christ, the babe born in Bethlehem. The babe of the Incarnation (God with us - God revealed to us)
This is the day when God sent out a Love letter, or better worded perhaps, a letter of Love of cosmic proportions…This is the day in the little town of Bethlehem when God and humanity were joined as a bride and groom on their wedding day; and as Jesus grew and went out into the world, so our understanding of just how much God Loves us also grew. We find in Jesus, that God’s Love doesn’t demand perfection, that forgiveness isn’t given away sparingly but unconditionally, and that God’s Love is completely and thoroughly inclusive…We find that even the likes of us gathered here today fall within the embrace of that Love, and that, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all God’s creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s Love in Jesus can bring us an inner peace. Peace begins with the knowledge that God’s Love accepts us, just as we are…But having said all this, I know that Christmas can also be a time of sentiment and emotions, and as such, can cause a measure of sorrow to come into focus. The Christmas season can give rise to some painful memories for a good number of people…people often think about the failures they have suffered or about loved ones they have lost…
I myself can resonate with some of those feelings…particularly this year!
But I know this…without Christmas, without Christ in my life; it would be positively empty and void!
My dear friends that baby in the manger is the Light of the World, even when our world is in shambles…for in that baby the Divine and the human cross paths.
The infant Jesus is our living, breathing sign of the immeasurable Love that God has had for us all, right from the very beginning, from the first words written in the Bible from the Book of Genesis: ‘In the beginning…when God created the World’; right through to John’s Gospel…when John quotes:
‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God!…
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it’.
Christmas is the living promise that we are never alone. No matter where we are in life, no matter in what condition we find ourselves, no matter how far we might stray away, or how unfaithful we’ve been in the past, or how sad we may feel today…
God’s Love in Jesus Christ, is like the star at Bethlehem,
that never stops shining for us, in the darkness!
God the supreme Lover of our souls will pursue us in Love for all eternity!
And this is what I really believe, Karl Barth meant, when he summed it all up in one sentence: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
May God Bless you, and all those whom you Love this Christmas!
The Rev’d Jackie Fish 25/12/2016