December 20, 2015
In case you hadn’t noticed – it’s Christmas. The shop have been at it for months, but even the most Scrooge-like (or for our young viewers, Grinch-like) person cannot have missed the fact that The Big Day is nearly here.
Some people have had the decorations up for weeks and will be sad when they eventually have to come down. For others, Christmas is a bit of a chore and they’ll be glad when the fuss is all over and they can get back to normal.
I don’t know which of those people you are, but have you ever wondered … which one God is?
Hmmn, that’s an intriguing question. What does God think of Christmas?
Now, I don’t mean the tinsel and turkey commercial type stuff. But I’m not talking about the carol-singing and Nativity play family stuff either. I don’t even mean the Midnight Mass and Advent Candles religious stuff. I’m thinking more of the plans in heaven that led up to that Silent Night, In the Bleak Mid-Winter, Once in Royal David’s City. Ummmnnn …
Silent Night? Hmmn I don’t think so. They didn’t have Gas-and-Air back then so I expect there was a far bit of yelling.
In the Bleak Mid-Winter? Ummn, nope. The shepherds would not have been minding sheep in the fields in December. It was probably more September-ish, but no matter.
Once in Royal David’s City? Ah yes, Bethlehem – King David’s home town. Finally we have a carol that’s right (at least in the title, I’m not so sure about the cattle shed, but that’s for another time.)
So yes, what were the heavenly plans that led up to The Big Day in Bethlehem? Was it like the last-minute present rush? “Oh my goodness! What am I going to get for Humans this year? I can never think what to give them. They are so hard to buy for!
“I gave them Creation one year and a Promised Land the next. Year after that it was the Book of the Law, but they didn’t seem to like that very much. Then I gave them prophets (which are really difficult to wrap, I can tell you!), but I don’t think they even took them out of the packaging.
“Last year they wanted kings, so I got a whole load of those but they just stopped working after a while. Humans really are so difficult to buy for, and I’m running out of time. I really don’t know what to give them. Any ideas, son?”
Or was it more like the well-planned, perfectly timed, domestic goddess Christmas that smiles in perfectly-coiffured elegance from the cover of the glossy magazine – every (hand-tied) bow perfectly aligned, every (home-made) mince pie perfectly placed, every … I’m sorry I can’t continue. Life is not really like that.
Life is messy and crumbly round the edges and occasionally burnt or undercooked or a funny shape – just like the mince pies I make. And God knows that. And God has known that – for always.
God knew it right back in Genesis. I mean, it takes less than four chapters of the Bible to get to a pretty messed-up family, even by the standards of Eastenders (or insert popular drama of your country). And God knew it all the way through the Old Testament. “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Ps 103:14 Yep. Sometimes I look at my life and it looks pretty dusty. I guess you too, unless you’re the picture on the glossy magazine. And so it continues right to this day.
What’s the solution? What can fix our less-than-perfect? What was God thinking of when he decided to invent Christmas?
To answer all of those questions, let’s look at who it is that is being born in the City of David on that not-so-Silent Night. Is it a last-minute impulse? An after-thought? A quick fix for a just-noticed problem?
No. It is one “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” God knew, from before the start of time, that we would mess up. And God planned, from before the start of time, that Jesus would be the solution. He always had in mind to have divine Jesus be born as a human baby, live as a human child, suffer and die and rise again. This was not God panicking over what to do about sin. This always was Plan A.
And it always was the plan that all peoples of all places would be part of the kingdom. God saw, from before the start of time, that “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth”. Not just for first century Jews, but all people of all places and all times.
And so we celebrate to coming of the one whom the prophets foretold, the real Time (and Space) Lord, who, unlike Dr Who, doesn’t need a TARDIS to be with us.
You will need a napkin, a mince pie, a jelly baby and a length of ribbon.
Carefully prise the lid off the mince pie. Don’t worry too much if it breaks, life is like that sometimes. Put the jelly baby in the pie, with his head lying on the crust and put the lid back, like a blanket.
Wrap the pie in the napkin and tie up the parcel with the ribbon.
Then hand the gift to someone else with the words, “Planned for you from before the start of time”.
From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him … The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Ps 103)
From before the start of time you knew me.
From everlasting to everlasting your love is with me.
Your throne is in heaven and you rule over all.
Lord of space and time, I praise you.
You are the Mighty One and you have done great things for me.
Holy is your name!
Micah 5:2-5a New International Version UK
‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace.
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.