Nine lessons and carols: a safe service to come to. Familiar fare wrapped in pleasant carols and ministry from the choir. Annual visit ticked off my Christmas list: now let’s get on with the real festivities!
Before the lessons began, we heard new dad Keith ask how far is it to Bethlehem: Bethlehem means House of Bread. In the time of Ruth and Naomi there was a famine in Bethlehem: no bread, then the famine broke and there was fresh bread in the House of Bread. A foretaste of the nativity of Jesus. This gives you the flavour of our lessons, for they tell of the Big Story that begins with the tale of a garden and ends with the city of Gold. These none lessons were not the result of some kind of ecclesiastical bingo: these are the lessons that create the Jesus DNA and call us to follow.
Lesson 1 reminded us of the fall, the breaking of relationship between humanity and God and why we need a saviour to restore our intimacy with our Father God. Messed Up! Lesson 2 is just after Abraham has offered up his son Isaac to God but it focuses on the crucial reaffirmation of God’s covenant with Abraham and us: God would provide a lamb! All nations would be blessed through Abraham. So from being messed up we have the promise of being blessed up. Blessed up!Lesson .
Lesson 3 has Isaiah telling us the difference Jesus will make: feeling estranged from God, then darkness is a good description. But darkness is merely an absence of light. Jesus Light of the World will light up your relationship with the Father. Lit up! Lesson 4 has Micah telling us, like Keith, of the importance of Bethlehem in the story: no God doesn’t play our religious games and dance to our tune. He surprises us by His son being born in a cowshed in an obscure Middle Eastern town. Woken up!
Lesson 5 starts to call from us a response. Mary, a young teenager, surrenders her whole life and future into the Fathers Hands gladly, and echoes the words that disturb and challenge each one of us: may it be to me according to your word. Will my surrender be as complete? Life given!
Lesson 6 is Luke’s telling of the birth: God’s timing is perfect. At the perfect time, in the perfect place, with a couple Mary and Joseph perfectly surrendered to the Father Jesus is born: O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee? Or is there? Room given!
Lesson 7 continues Luke’s telling of the response of men. No macho posturing here: humble unclean shepherds get the visit the new family. The connection: they looked after the flock of unblemished lambs, which were provided for temple sacrifice. God would indeed provide a lamb! Gifts can be given but they have no effect till they are received, unwrapped and used. The Good Shephered wants to take you to Bethlehem this Christmas. Time given: let’s go to Bethlehem!
Lesson 8 tells of Matthew’s postscript, which almost certainly happened months later: the visit of wealthy influential magi from the east. They follow the seekers star, they choose to worship, they choose to offer their gifts and wise men and women still seek Him! Gifts given
And the consequence: glory experienced!!
Finally lesson 9: as the message paraphrases it: the word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like father, like son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish. Can you affirm John’s words? Have you learnt the lessons, have you allowed the Holy Spirit to create the Jesus DNA in you? Are you now part of the continuing Big Story of the Living God, I hope so!
If not, the Bethlehem carol we are most familiar with tells you how to access the Fresh Bread of Jesus on offer to all when it invites you and me to say: O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us todau. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings sing, O come to us abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel.
Now that will make for a Christmas like no other!
Pastor David 18th December 2011