24 December 2017 Midnight – Beyond the Wrapping

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

Ever since the human race messed it up (and I mean royally messed up) God
has taken the initiative in trying to restore us to what we were designed and
created to be: people made in God’s image, reflecting God’s personality and
character and being nothing but good to one another.

God reached out to Abraham many, many years ago and initiated a friendship
that was designed to result in great blessing for all humankind.
Abraham’s descendants dropped the ball and ended up enslaved to the
Egyptians, whereupon God rescued them and provided them with the Law of
Moses: a code by which they were to give expression to God’s goodness to one

The Israelites fluffed it once again and God said, “Right. This time I’m coming in
person.” It was no surprise that when Jesus came, few recognised him for who
or what he was. He’s still by and large, not recognised for who or what he is. If
he were, things would be very different. Instead, only a few people (a simple band
of Galilean fishermen) responded to God’s initiative and took the vision forward.
The initiative has had mixed results.

For this reason God promised to return and put it all to rights. But we live in
the dispensation before that. Jesus has not returned yet. We live in the period
of the church, a period of time in which we both celebrate Jesus’ birth in
Bethlehem (and of course his life, death and resurrection) and live in
expectancy of his next arrival when he has promised to be a little less
compromising in his approach to how we have done.

The brief second reading this evening encapsulates just this. Paul writes to
Titus saying, For the grace of God has appeared (that’s Jesus), bringing
salvation to all,  training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in
the present age (that’s the age we live in – between the two comings of Jesus)
to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.

So there’s an expectation that we are going to respond to Jesus’ arrival here
and have our characters influenced by his presence with us here. In other
words, his saving of us, is going to change us.

But there’s something else we do. Paul says to Titus,
while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of
our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We live in expectation of Jesus’
return, which is the big deal; but it hasn’t happened yet.
What has happened is the birth of Jesus, and it is that which we celebrate at
Christmas time. It’s how we respond to Jesus’ first coming that will determine
what happens to us when he returns. So our focus is on the Jesus who was:

 born a baby in Bethlehem,
 grew up in Nazareth,
 preached in Galilee and Judea ,
 was crucified outside Jerusalem
 and three days later rose from the dead.

As Paul says to Titus,  He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem
us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are
zealous for good deeds.
The thing we need to ask ourselves at Christmas is this: God has given me
Jesus, the best Christmas present anyone could give. What am I doing about
Jesus? How am I responding to this present? Have I had a quick look and then
left it surrounded by its wrapping paper on the lounge carpet? Or have I
opened it up, had a very good look, and decided that I am going to use this
present to the best of my ability?

Only then will we not be dropping the ball as so many did in the past. Only
then will we be ready to enjoy the full benefits of what happens when the
really big one comes: Jesus’ return.

A very merry and responsive Christmas to you!

Don’t drop the ball!
Let the light of Christ open your eyes and heart to all that he intends for you,
and grab hold of it with everything you have.