God with us
Sermon by Rev Allister Lane on 25 December 2017 (Christmas Day)
Readings were John 1:1-14 and Hebrews 1:1-4
This morning is all about a baby born into the world. This is the day we celebrate the arrival of baby Jesus.
I have four children. Two boys and two girls. And I was there for the birth of all of them. And I’m so thankful I could be there for the birth of all my kids.
But it’s also difficult, because I felt such fraud. I didn’t know what was going on with the whole process. I’m thinking to myself… I know very little about what’s happening here; this is not my ‘department’…
And then during the birth of my girls (both of them), just as they are about to arrive – the midwife freaks out and yells at me to hit the big red ‘panic button’ on the wall! Even in my ignorance, I know that having to hit the panic button can’t be a good thing! Each girl had a complication during birth. Both girls were fine and received terrific care from the medical staff.
Being there for their births was amazing and such a special moment. But I don’t mind going on the record in saying that it would be a more magical and wondrous experience for all if (when push came to shove) I hadn’t been screamed at to hit the ‘panic button’!
Our experience of life can be brutal from the get go. Do you have times when you feel like hitting the ‘panic button’? What experiences cause an intense response, when you feel way out of your depth?
To be human is to have intense experiences, some of which are unwelcome. On the Radio New Zealand news report this morning, they had data about just how dangerous Christmas in New Zealand is. Last year ACC (the Accident Compensation Corporation) received 3,500 Christmas-related claims.
THE most dangerous Christmas tradition is right behind me! Christmas trees are the cause of most ACC claims. They can be surprisingly hazardous, with many accidents caused by insecure trees falling, forcing pets and children ‘to run for their lives’.
Cork injuries were also common, as were dog bites, nips and scratches. Cutting cheese, getting the hang of riding a new bike (both the children and the parent trying to hold them balanced!) and injuries from jumping on beds, mattresses and couches.
This news report about the dangers of Christmas concluded with a remarkably brilliant theological statement:
Christmas celebrates that God loves everyone, in our human messiness and vulnerability.
What today is all about is the fact that God understands our experiences of being human. Today is all about a baby born into the world. Into messiness and vulnerability. That’s our human experience.
And at Christmas this becomes God’s experience, as God (in supreme love) takes on this experience of messiness and vulnerability. Right from the start, God was.
In the beginning…
And this same One comes into our world as one of us. This baby born in a very unspectacular and dusty part of the world is ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us.
This baby is God’s Christmas PRESENCE. Or, described another way… God has moved into the neighbourhood.
In trying to explain the meaning of the arrival of this baby, Christians have for centuries used the ancient Latin word incarnation – which literally means ‘in flesh’. Jesus is the presence of God in the flesh.
This is God who lived as you and I, into a world of parties and pain, joy and death, friends and foes, laughter and tears. Messiness and vulnerability.
In the baby Jesus God showed up – in the flesh. These are the words from the Gospel according to John…
the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (v14)
To think about the ‘panic button’ again… What do we hope will happen when we hit the panic button? To get a response? That someone will come and help us, right…?
Today we celebrate the fact that God is here for us; here to rescue us. The greatest commitment ever made to us looks like this baby in a manger.
‘Emmanuel’: God with us.
‘God with us’ means that, in Christ, God gives us proximity and solidarity.
God knows and understands us.
His incarnate presence is now where we are.
God is with us.
This is proximity and solidarity.
And what happens when we bring when we bring together proximity and solidarity, in our lives? Then we can be Christ for others.
You may feel overwhelmed by all the problems of the world, but what about starting with what’s in front of us? To recognise those in our proximity and express solidarity with them, despite our differences, is to incarnate ourselves in the name of the Incarnate One. What a privilege and joy!
We love because God first loved us.
Today, this Christmas, we celebrate that God immerses himself into all our ‘stuff’. Into messiness and vulnerability. The Word becomes flesh – our flesh.God is with us.
And we are able to respond with thanks, because he is hope incarnate, love incarnate, joy incarnate and peace incarnate.
He is Emmanuel – ‘God with us.’