One drawback of getting older is that one’s memory starts to fail. Apparently its all downhill from 20 years of age! So as we age, writing lists becomes essential, and reminders that pop up on our mobile phone or computer screen are increasingly welcome!
Christmas is a particularly challenging time of year for those of us who are forgetful. For example:
- We need to remember which Christmas cards to write. Who sent us one last year, and what was their address again?
- And when we buy people presents, we need to remember who likes what, who wants what, who has asked for that. If our memory fails us, we risk causing offence, committing a faux pas or buying something destined for the charity shop!
- And, of course, cooks at Christmas mustn’t forget to put the Turkey in the oven, peel the spuds and do everything else that needs to be done in time for Christmas dinner!
But seriously, there are even more important things to remember this Christmas. Two things not to forget during the festive season. So to jog your memories, let me briefly remind you what they are…
- Don’t forget…Christmas is fact, not fiction!
Firstly, don’t forget that Christmas is fact, not fiction. At this time of year, our minds can easily confuse the Christmas story with the fairy stories we tell our children, or the feature films and soap operas we see on our TV screens over the festive season. In fact the bare essentials of the nativity story are like an EastEnders script – a teenage pregnancy, a family in crisis, it seems to have all the essential plot lines! But the crucial difference is that the Christmas story is true – we really need to remember its fact not fiction.
As you listened to our Bible readings this evening, I hope you noticed that they were full of dates and details. Details that enable us to be confident about the historical circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Details that enable us to identify a specific time and place, with almost scientific precision.
You see, the events of the first Christmas didn’t take place in Never-neverland. They didn’t occur “once upon a time”, and the people involved weren’t simply made up. We are talking about Bethlehem in Judea, 2000 years ago. And about living, breathing people – people living under Roman occupation and longing for a Saviour, a Messiah.
Mary, Joseph and those shepherds were real people in a real place. People longing for God’s long-promised king to come and establish his kingdom. A kingdom of justice and peace. A kingdom in which God and his people would no longer be separated by sin. And with the birth of Jesus, these historic hopes began to be fulfilled.
So please don’t confuse Jesus, Mary and Joseph with the cast of EastEnders, or equate the shepherds and wise men with Disney characters in films like Frozen. Christmas is fact not fiction – the birth of God’s Son gives us a real reason to celebrate!
- Don’t forget…Jesus is not a baby, but a king!
Secondly, we mustn’t forget that Jesus is no longer a baby, but a king. So many people listen attentively to the Christmas story, but forget what happened next. Because, like all of us, Jesus grew up. He fulfilled his vocation – he became a king. Not a king over a country – with a crown, a palace and an army – but the king of God’s kingdom. The ruler God wants us all to rally around.
At Christmas-time we can so easily forget this. We become so focused on baby Jesus in the manger that we forget the man that he became:
- For example, babies don’t speak – the most they can manage is a gurgle or a cry. But Jesus grew to be a man who spoke with power and authority. With great courage and confidence he called people to turn and follow him. He said his words could be trusted completely, as a sure guide to life, and as a reliable revelation of what God is really like.
- Babies are also weak and vulnerable, and need careful looking after. But Jesus became a compassionate healer himself and a man who performed powerful miracles. He healed the sick, calmed a storm and even raised the dead. These were ‘signs’, he said, of what his kingdom will be like when it comes in full. Sickness and sadness, he promised, will become things of the past when he comes again in glory.
- And lastly, babies are all about the beginning of life, but the most significant moment in Jesus’ life was his death. A moment that came three whole decades after his birth in Bethlehem. A death which he described as ‘a ransom for many’. A death on a Cross inwhich he carried the sins of the world on his shoulders. A death that can take away the guilt of anyone who puts their faith in him. A death that can put us permanently right with God.
And of course we know Jesus’ death achieved its objective, because God the Father raised him to life again. This Christmas, in 2016, remember that Jesus is risen and ascended. He is a reigning king, rather than a baby in Bethlehem. He is no longer surrounded by shepherds, but a heavenly ruler getting ready to return in glory and establish his kingdom once and for all.
So, this Christmas, is Jesus your king? Does he set the agenda for your time, your money and your talents? Rather than just a baby to gaze at, is he the ruler you rely on – your sure guide to life and the one person who trust for forgiveness and friendship with God. I certainly hope so. But perhaps this is new to you, or perhaps you’ve forgotten what Christianity is really all about? If that’s you then please do refresh your memory in one way or another:
- Why not take fresh look at the life of Jesus, as its described in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
- Or join us for a ‘Christianity Explored’ course here at St.Michael’s in the New Year.
- Or simply come along here on Sundays, where we discover together what it means to follow Jesus in our daily lives.
Because Christmas and Christianity is about fact not fiction. And because Jesus is no longer a baby, but a king!
Let me pray: Heavenly Father, this Christmas, help us to remember that we are dealing with history not make-believe, and to recognise that Jesus is no longer a baby, but our rightful king. In his name we pray, Amen.