Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sermon: Small and Mighty

Have you seen the advert on the TV for Persil Small and Mighty? They’re making their washing machine liquids concentrated now, so that something that’s very small is still very powerful. It doesn’t seem like very much, and yet it is powerful, and exceeds expectations.

That reminds me of the Christmas story, as we come once again to Bethlehem to remember that God is with us, to see this thing that has come to pass. Imagine for a moment that you’re one of the shepherds sitting on the hillside outside Bethlehem. It’s a cold night, and you’re watching your sheep, protecting them from the predators and dangers of the night.

Suddenly, the skies part, an angel appears and the glory of the Lord shines in the sky. I don’t know about you, but I would be very afraid! Let’s think about the message of the angel for a moment or two. Fear not - don’t be afraid, because of three reasons.

Good news. ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ (2:10) There’s no need to fear, because the angel is bringing good news. So often when we turn on the news or read a newspaper, or meet up with friends, we only hear bad news. Things going wrong. Sickness and trouble and famine and war. The Christian gospel is different - it is good news - good news that leads to great joy.

The message of Christmas is something to celebrate, and something to share - it is good news for all people. Yet even though it is good news, the message of the angel is also surprising news:

The baby in the manger. ‘This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ (2:12) It’s not quite what the shepherds expected to hear. A king has been born, but he’s not in the royal palace (as the wise men expected). Instead, he’s in a feeding trough in the stable. There’s no fancy designer robes for him, just strips of cloth wrapped round him to keep him warm.

Just a baby, and yet not just any baby. Remember the Persil adverts? This baby is small and mighty - because he is no ordinary child.

The Saviour: ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.’ (2:11) This is no ordinary baby - this is Christ the Lord, the Saviour. That word Christ wasn’t Jesus surname - rather it’s his title - it means king. King Jesus, the one who rules over his people, the one who is God’s Son, our Lord.

Right from the start, Jesus’ life is marked out as the road leading to the cross. Indeed, that’s what his name means - Jesus: God saves. You see, we miss out on the real meaning of Christmas if we just focus on the manger, and leave Jesus as a baby until next year’s Christmas. The whole point of Christmas is that the Saviour has been born, the one who will grow up to die on the cross in our place to save us from our sins.

As we hear this good news once again, we have to decide what to do with it. The shepherds ran into Bethlehem to find the baby and worship him. Once they had found him, they shared the good news with everyone they bumped into, and they returned to their flocks ‘glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.’

Let’s seek to hear again the message of the angels, the good news of great joy, and praise God for Jesus, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

This sermon was preached at the Christmas Communion service in St Elizabeth's Court, Dundonald on Wednesday 9th December 2009. Readings: Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:1-20

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