Wednesday, December 10, 2008

VIPs: Luke 2: 1-7

I wonder if you’ve ever met a VIP, a Very Important Person? I don’t think I’ve ever met a really important person up close and personal. Yet the world is almost obsessed with VIPs and celebrities.

In our passage this morning, probably a very familiar one, as we approach Christmas, we find the names of some VIPs. If there had been the glossy magazines, or the internet, or 24-hour tv news, then these people would have featured heavily.

First up, there’s Caesar Augustus. The Caesar was the leader of the Roman Empire – the chief of the whole world. When he spoke, then people listened, and obeyed.

Second, there’s the guy with the name that’s slightly difficult to pronounce – Quirinius. While not as important as Caesar, Quirinius was governor of Syria. He was down the line of command in the empire, but was governor of a sizeable area.

Yet, I want to suggest that the VIPs in God’s eyes are actually the people who weren’t on the world’s radar. They weren’t famous or rich or powerful. Do you see them, travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the lady pregnant and all? And then, when they reach Bethlehem, they can’t even find a room for the night.

Yet there’s a hint here of their importance. Joseph is described as being ‘of the house and lineage of David’ (4). And in chapter 1, we’ve seen the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to announce that, although she’s not yet married, she will have a baby, who ‘shall be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ (1:32-33)

The baby born in the stable or cave, wrapped in cloths and laid in a feeding trough, is none other than the Son of God, the Saviour of the World, the true king. Born in backwater Bethlehem to poor parents, missed by the most of the world, apart from a few shepherds and a few wise men. The invasion of love happened in a quiet, unnoticed kind of way.

Caesar and Quirinius knew nothing about the birth. While they seemed to be the VIPs of the time, it turns out that the real VIPs were Mary and Joseph – the couple who had said ‘yes’ to God and stepped out in faith.

We too may not be big or important in the world’s eyes, yet we are also VIPs in God’s eyes as we trust him, and live for him. Small things, unseen by most, can be powerful in the kingdom. Perhaps you have lots of free time – take a copy of the new Prayer Diary and use it to pray for people and situations every day. Unseen, yet vital – when I was going through college, there was a group of four ladies who prayed for me every week in Dromore, and I am convinced that they helped get me through.

Small things, unseen by most, are powerful in the kingdom. As Jesus says in Matthew 13: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ (Matt 13:31-32).

The world is obsessed by VIPs. Yet to become a true VIP, let’s strive to hear those words of the Master when he comes in his glory: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Master.’ (Matt 25:21, 23).

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Morning Prayer service in St Elizabeth's Dundonald on Wednesday 10th December 2008.

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