Christmas Sermon - 2020
I realised recently that I haven’t started a sermon with a joke for a while now... well I say realised, I mean it was pointed out to me that it’s about time I shared another joke with you all, and since it is Christmas I thought why not!
Apologies in advance....
A robber breaks into a house while the residents are away one dark night.
Eager to see what he can loot, he quickly starts searching through cupboards and dressers, grabbing valuables with a trained eye.
Suddenly, he hears a voice come out of nowhere. “Jesus is watching you.”
The criminal jumps, scared the residents are back, and freezes.
After a few minutes of silence however, he assumes it was his imagination, and goes back to robbing.
A couple more minutes pass, before once again, the voice returns. “Jesus is watching you.”
Quite confused, the thief searches the house and checks the front door, but nothing stands out as unusual.
He finally decides to move rooms, and finds a parrot, but ignores it.
Before he can begin to do anything, someone speaks again, “Jesus is watching you.”
The robber realized it was the parrot talking!
Going to the parrot, he asks it, “Are you the one who’s been talking to me?”
The parrot responds, “Yes.”
The thief couldn’t believe it.
He takes a close look at the parrot and its cage and notices that there is a name plaque on the cage with the name Moses engraved on it.
The man scoffed. “What type of idiot names a parrot Moses?”
The parrot speaks yet again, “The same type of idiot that named a Rottweiler Jesus.”
(I didn’t promise it was a good one!)
Names and titles are such an important part of the scriptural witness to God’s interactions with humankind.
Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, means Saviour.
Christ, far from being Jesus’ surname as popular culture will occasionally assume, means “anointed” and is the Greek form of messiah.
We hopefully all know the name Emmanuel from Isaiah and associated with Jesus, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, as meaning “God with Us”.
The name, or title, that has stuck out for me this year also comes from Isaiah (11:1) “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
The image can be a strange one, but it could be considered alongside a sight that is perhaps so common in Australia that we take it for granted... the regrowth of areas that have been devastated by bushfire.
None of us has to drive too far to find somewhere that was burnt out and destroyed by the Cuddlee Creek bushfire last year, but it is somewhat incredible, even miraculous, to pause and take in how many of those areas are looking now.
The pops of green against the black backgrounds of charred and apparently dead trees stand out for their vividness and the sheer defiance of life, refusing to give up in the face of utter devastation and adversity...
A couple of Christmases ago I explained some of the deeper reasons why we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, how it is closely connected with the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice and the idea that at the deepest, darkest point in mid-Winter, hope is offered, a light is seen, in the babe lain in a manger in Bethlehem.
This year I offer a suggestion for a uniquely Australian image and perspective on the coming of Jesus, “the green shoot from the charred and blackened root of Jesse” which offers us new life and gives us fresh hope that in the incarnation, God was not only united to human flesh in Jesus, but was...is united to all of humanity, to all of us.
In this realisation we can hopefully leave here with a growing appreciation of the importance of what this means for all of us every day.
That because God not only made this world, but has become inseparably joined to it through the person of Jesus, that we cannot look on the material, physical world as evil or as something less special than ideas of the spiritual or supernatural.
Because it is in the material, natural world that God chose to become flesh, and as such we should value, care for and rejoice in the beauty of this world a lot more than we probably do.
We should also, because of this, appreciate more fully that God can be found in the everyday, the ordinary, even the mundane.
Many of us might be more accustomed to looking for God in special places, in churches, shrines, or temples, but we need to remember that God can be found everywhere and in everything.
From ordinary things we might be used to, like bread and wine, but also in unexpected places, like the sound of waves on a beach, or a babbling brook, a grain of sand on a seashore, the great trees of a vast forest, a majestic mountain, or even in the local cafe, a playground, in line at the bank or queued up at the supermarket.
There is nowhere that God is not present.
This leads to a final realisation that I want to share with you this Christmas based on our understanding of the incarnation. That because God is present in all things and at all times, then it means God is with us not only in the happy and joyous moments of our lives but also the sad, grim, even devastating moments.
In fact, it could even be said that God has already been in those moments long before any of us finally arrived at them, sanctifying them with divine sweat, blood and tears, and helping pave a way to bring us through them when we get there as well.
And so when we think about that image of the green shoot against the blackened and charred tree; when we see creation and natural life fighting against the attempts of chaos and destruction to extinguish it, then we should all be filled with hope.
Because in the end that is what it is all about.
About God reaching out to us to give us hope.
To give us light in the darkness.
To give us life in the midst of death and destruction.
All realised in the cries of a new born baby.
So tonight my prayer for you and for all, is that in the midst of these most uncertain times, through the chaos of Covid and the dramas of everyday life, through all things, you might be filled with hope inspired by a God who loves you dearly.
I pray that this Christmas, and every day that follows, might be filled with peace and joy because of that divine love, which brings about the hope we all can have because of the birth of Jesus.
The same hope we might feel when we see a light in the dark, or when we look upon the green growth of new shoots on a charred and blackened tree.
In the name the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, the green shoot from root of Jesse. Amen.