Christmas Day 2015 – Martyr Worthy by Revd Alex Pease

The Christmas Holiday can be quite a challenging time, can’t it?

Of course, there is the superhuman effort of getting the feasting all organised and presents purchased and that is huge but, no, what I think is often even more challenging, is spending time with our relations, some of whom we don’t see so often during the rest of the year.

Is it only because our relations know us so well that they can ask just the wrong question, at the wrong time? ‘So when are you going to get married?’ ‘So no patter of tiny feet around yet?’ ‘Surely you aren’t still in that dead end job?’ ‘Doesn’t your boss know that you need to have a life?’ ‘Are you a donkey?’ ‘Then why are you working like one?’

With or without the help of our relations, however well meaning (or malicious) they might be, the Christmas holiday is a time when we take stock on our lives, where we are going, what we are doing.

Perhaps its not surprising that, 40% of wedding proposals in the UK happen over the Christmas Holiday.

But do we know where are we going? What are we aiming for in our lives?

I like the story of the foreign au pair who heard the children  that she was responsible for making a lot of noise and came into the playroom, meaning to say ‘what on earth are you doing?’But actually what she said was ‘What are you doing on Earth?’

‘What are you doing on earth?’ It’s a good question.

In my other job running an Alumni programme for my old law firm, we have been looking at this question this year.

We have invited the 9000 world wide alumni to give us, in a survey, their ideas on what they are aiming for in life, what they are doing on earth.

We framed the question: ‘what is your idea of success?’

It was reassuring to discover that many of them, but, worryingly, by no means all of them…. seemed to think that good close personal relationships were a key criterion of success, but financial considerations and being valued by others figured very highly in the survey also.

We can easily find ourselves being driven by anxiety about both money and relationships.

It was certainly the case for me. Driven for years and years by fear, would I lose my job? If I did would I be able to pay the bills?

For some of us there is a particular worry about retirement. What about my identity? If I am no longer the accountant, solicitor, banker, director,  tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, whatever? Who will I be?

Fear easily turns into stress, stress into anger, and all sorts of other undesirable things.

The trouble is that there can be something open-ended about our aspirations, because, if we have not reflected on, what are we doing on earth, we can easily find ourselves feeling that we never have enough or we have never achieved enough and so our definition of success, what we are striving for, can be constantly beyond the next horizon, can be at the expense of our happiness, and the risk is, in the words of Robert Holden (author of a book called ‘Success Intelligence’) that we can end up ‘Sacrificing what we most value’

But how are we to live? Is it just a matter of choice? Is it just what seems right at the time? What are we doing on earth?

We used to have a saying in our family, when faced with a new piece of equipment, a Christmas present, for example, which was not functioning as it should: ‘If all else fails, then read the instructions!’

Wouldn’t it be great, if there was a set of instructions on how to live a satisfying life, a life which is in tune with the way that we have been made a life which makes sense of what we are doing on earth?

And, of course, there are thousands of self help books, perhaps, we have been given one of them for this Christmas. Maybe:
‘The Little book of Mindfulness’
‘The book of happiness’
‘the Goddess guide’
or even ‘Man up’ ‘367 classic skills for the modern guy’
are all on sale this Christmas

But books are all very well, but its all theory really.

What we need is an example of someone authentically living a life that we can emulate that we can aspire to

Well there is one.

In fact, the model is the person, who designed us in first place, who knows why we were made, who knows what we are for and who can give us the direction and purpose in our lives that we are missing.

Born in a stable,
died on a cross,
resurrected from the dead

You see the thing about Christmas Day is that when God comes to earth as one of us, as Jesus of Nazareth, he provides us with a model of what it is to be human.

He was totally God and yet totally human, not a hybrid – not part God and part Human but 100% God and 100% Human, at the same time.

His humanity is not displaced by his divinity, His divinity is not contaminated by his humanity.

He shows us, by his example, what our humanity is for.

The Creator becomes the creature, to show how best to be creaturely.

The inventor becomes the invention to show how the invention is designed to work.

And what does His example tell us? It tells us how the mechanism that we have been made to be, how that mechanism functions properly.

Born in a stable,
died on a cross,
resurrected from the dead

Born in a Stable – his example tells us something of God’s humility from creator of the universe to being born in poverty, as one of his creations, extraordinary when you think about it!

Our lives need to be characterised by humility, if our lives are dedicated to impressing others, then we are going to be unhappy.

Died on a cross Jesus’ life tells us that our God is totally committed to this world taking on its suffering voluntarily giving up his life for us.

If our lives are just about ourselves, then we don’t understand what we are doing on earth.

God is love is a truism. But that love is always other focused. And He expects us to seek to be as other focused as he is

Resurrected from the dead
We have asked the teenagers in the Parish, to tell us the big questions that they would ask God, if they had 30 minutes with him

We have put their questions on our website – on a page called ‘the Big Questions’ we plan to answer these questions in our Family Services and UTX meetings during 2016.

One of the teenagers asked:‘why do we have to die?’

Golly thats a good one, I thought when she asked it, how are we going to answer that one?

But then I thought the answer is: ‘we don’t have to’ that’s the point, Jesus coming to earth as a baby suffering on the cross and dying for our sins means that we don’t have to die, or at least, when we die, we don’t stay dead,that we, like him, can also be resurrected to a full physical and eternal life on the Last Day, if we choose him to be our saviour.

Born in a stable,
died on a cross,
resurrected from the dead

Is the baby born on Christmas Day, the blueprint for our lives? What we are doing on earth?

Because if He is, we have a lot to celebrate today as we remember his birth and if He isn’t – He can be.  And if we decide to use him as a model He will help us to be like him by sending the Holy Spirit to guide us.

And we will avoid a whole load of problems

And we will start to find those annoying relations really quite fun on Christmas Day


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