Christmas Day Sermon 2014
As most of you will know, my name is Alex Pease. But there is another Alex Pease.
She is a young basketball player in New Jersey. When people talk about ‘Alex Pease’, its best to know which one you are talking about.
Are you talking abt the fit young college athlete or the er…balding unfit rather weedy former lawyer standing before you in 16th century dress?
No doubt we have not only different physical characteristics, but also different characters.
We are totally different people.
So why is this issue of identity relevant to Christmas?
Many people bandy around the word ‘God’ and say that ‘God is like this or like that’ or ‘God wants this for our lives, but not that’, or ‘God likes this but not that’.
But how does anyone actually know what God is like or what God thinks about anything?
Christians have unique insight into God’s character. Christianity is the only belief system which maintains that God has come to Earth in human form at a historically verifiable period and whose words and actions were recorded by actual witnesses.
This is the importance of Christmas Day.
In the wrapping and feasting of our Christmases we can overlook the colossal significance of whose birth we are celebrating.
The day that God took on our form and, as Jesus of Nazareth, showed us how to be fully human in the way that he as Creator intended.
However wise therefore insights of other religions and philosophies may be (and Christianity certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on wisdom), nothing can compare with our encounter with God in the form that he came to Earth.
So when people who are not Christians say ‘God is this or that’ we simply need to look at Jesus and see whether what is being said is true of him.
That is the acid test.
If it is not true of him– then they are talking about a totally different person a creature of their own imagination.
So what does the incarnation – which is what theologians call God becoming man say about God’s character?
His character is not what you would expect at all. He is not the unapproachable majestic mythical figure which we might invent or inherit from our traditions, on which to project our fears and pin our hopes.
God is this baby born in an unimportant little village in poverty, not like Zeus or Thor at all. A child born to an unmarried mother in strange circumstances..
So the Creator of the universe was born as a human baby into the lowest of circumstances.
This says so much about his humility.
The theologian David Instone-Brewer uses this example: Have you ever gazed into an ants nest? Imagine being able to go and live in an ants nest, as an ant. Christmas Article by David Instone Brewer in Christianity Magazine
Imagine being something smaller than a grub inside a cell at the honeycomb centre of the colony. Imagine being fed by a worker ant who regurgitates food for you from out of his gut.
Not very appealing just before a large lunch.
But humanity and the physical processes of being human would surely be every bit as unappealing for God to take on board as it would be for us to consider becoming an ant.
So firstly his humility, but what else do we discover about God’s character by looking at Jesus?
If there were one word to describe the whole of his ministry everything that he taught and did it would be ‘love’.
But love in a very specific sense.
Not a sense of infatuation that we might have as we walk down the aisle at our weddings; not the affection that we might have for a really good old friend or the love that a faithful dog might have for his master,but ‘agape’ love – self sacrificial love.
A love which puts the other person first. A love which necessarily entails suffering. And it is this sort of love that he asks us to show to others.
So today, Christmas Day, when we return home after the service; remember the self-sacrificial love that Jesus showed in being born in a stable and ultimately dying on a cross for us.
So when it comes to Uncle Jerome’s political tirade after too much sloe gin or Aunt Agatha’s personal hygiene and her extraordinary taste in presents, we need to remember that Christmas in particular but life in general is always about the other person and not about us.
It’s that way because the Creator of the Universe made it that way and he knows how we can flourish.
He made us.
If the Creator of the Universe can be born into a stable in poverty and allow himself to be nailed to a cross, the least we can do is to smile at our strange relations and laugh at their terrible jokes and celebrate that this year they are with us and the fact that there is a God in the universe whose character is love and that he loves us despite everything….