(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Coxy’s Christmas Message 2006
21st December 2006
Well, I thought I ought to do something seasonal. It's expected isn't it? So, here goes:
Change – don’t you just hate it?
Many of us wish for a peaceful life, with no surprises, no upheaval. None of us get one. We’re all touched by bereavement, redundancy, moving house, relationship break-up, illness, a new job, children leaving home, children coming back, a new church, a new church leader, new neighbours. Fill in the space for yourself...
Some of us even manage to get stressed when the worship team want us to learn a new song!
But some changes are wonderful. Meeting a new friend, getting a promotion, finding faith in Jesus, having a new baby...
Do you yearn for no change? Or do you yearn for change?
Is your life so wonderful right now that all you want is for it to stay the same? Or perhaps life is difficult, but you feel like the next change is likely to be a change for the worse? Or are you looking for a change that will make live worth living?
The Christmas story is full of changes. What about the change announced to Mary – You’re going to get pregnant? A single woman – probably not more than 16 years old – in a conservative, family-oriented society. Pregnant. And not by her fiancée, either! God Himself is going to get you pregnant. Try telling that to Joseph’s mum! Although the angel had said:
it’s not surprising that her initial reaction was:
And wasn’t she right to be concerned? But then the angel said:
Well, yes. But it wasn’t easy and stress-free. But God did know what He was doing. And when the angel explained it to her, she embraced change:
And Joseph wasn’t going to find it too easy, either! Here’s a change very few young men want to hear about: “Your girlfriend is pregnant. No, it’s not yours”. But God graciously revealed to Joseph that things were OK:
God graciously confirmed to Joseph that the situation was all right. But Joseph wouldn’t have found it immediately easy to believe that God was the father. But he embraced change and decided to remain faithful to Mary, when it would have been easier to walk away.
But what about the change that Jesus was facing? Jesus Christ – the eternal Son of God – the second person of the Trinity, who had lived in heaven since before the world was made, was coming to Earth. And He was becoming human! How could God the creator become a part of humanity – part of creation? These things are too wonderful for me. But what a change! What a sacrifice!
2 Corinthians 8:9
He was becoming a human baby. And the change didn't stop there. He would grow to adulthood, become a famous religious leader, be betrayed by his followers and friends and be crucified. What a change! From eternal God to dead human!
And we know – as Paul continues – that’s not the end of the story:
So here’s a change voluntarily accepted, at great cost, but for a purpose. Jesus came so we could be put into right relationship with God. It cost Him everything, but He won for Himself a nation of followers. He knew that embracing change was worth it:
When Jesus came into the world, it wasn't only a huge change for Him; it was a huge and permanent change for the whole world. Remember what Isaiah prophesied some 800 years before:
When Jesus came, He brought His Kingdom with Him. And "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end". His Kingdom will grow in this world. There will be no end to its increase.
Rumours of the death of Christianity have been greatly exaggerated!
Jesus came for ordinary people like you and me.
James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Maybe that's why He was born in a stable, to a girl who was unmarried when she conceived, in an occupied country, and raised by a carpenter in an unfashionable town.
And change was the last thing that group of shepherds were expecting. They were out in the fields at night – as usual. Tending their flocks – as usual. It was dark and cold – as usual. And they were poor – as they always had been. And they probably expected more of the same until they got too old and sick to work – and then death.
You know the story:
Like a lot of changes, this one started out scary. The first thing the angel needed to say was “don’t be afraid”.
Are you going through changes at the moment? Or are you anticipating changes in the near future? Don’t be afraid! God knows what He’s doing.
And the “great company of the heavenly host” announced the greatest change of all – Jesus Christ was coming into the world! And, as a result, there would be “Glory to God” and “peace to men”.
The shepherds responded like this:
The shepherds responded positively to change. They didn't want their lives to go on just the same, night after night, year after year. But the Kingdom of God was breaking in to their lives - and they were going to go for it!
They went from being social outcasts (shepherds were considered very lowly and untrustworthy types in Bible times) to finding faith in Jesus Christ, and finding that "peace to men" that Jesus came to give. They became evangelists - spreading the Good News that Jesus had come into the world! They had a purpose in life now. They had something - or rather, Someone - to believe in: Jesus Christ, Emmanuel - God with us!
Jesus came to revolutionise the lives of everyone who believes in Him:
Just like those shepherds. Ordinary people, but people who believed in Jesus Christ!
Whatever changes you lived through in 2006, and whatever changes - expected and unexpected - you're going to live through in 2007, may God give you grace to see His hand in all that happens.