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December 24th 2018 Christmas Eve (Midnight, 11.30 pm) Ladock
OT: Isaiah 52.7-10 NT: Hebrews 1.1-4[5-12] WREATH Gospel: John 1.1-14
CHRISTMAS seems to highlight the best and the worst of life: we have some wonderful occasions and lots of fun, yet we know there are many sadnesses around us as well that we can’t ignore.
This is one reason why it’s important to focus on the ‘reason for the season’ – we’re not just having a jolly to indulge ourselves – it is a celebration of the most significant event in history – God coming to us in the Baby Lord Jesus: he has come to be with us.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that when we see what the celebration is all about, we should burst into songs – carols - of joy!
I don’t think this means we forget the sad and the suffering; quite the contrary. Jesus had particular regard for them as his miracles showed. He didn’t heal everyone, even in his own country. But the good news is, he showed that sadness and suffering – and even death - don’t have the last word. Jesus points to a world where suffering and death will be no more.
So, is Christmas really a celebration of good news or just a clutching at straws?
I think the Gospel Reading from St John chapter 1 has something to help us here.
Verse 14 says that God’s Word, the first and the last word, became flesh – a human being – and came to dwell with us. This is what we celebrate; this is what keeps us going.
God is with us! He didn’t just come to visit or for the Christmas holidays!
He came to stay with us.
He is not distant – out there somewhere, needing to be coaxed or pleaded with to be with us. He is with us – always has been, always will be.
He understands human life, and he brings the divine to us too.
It’s like asking someone to give you directions for a journey:
God doesn’t shout instructions from the sat nav with a rather superior tone!
He gets in the car and goes with you.
God with us: this is a phrase we read time and time again in the Bible, and here it is, right at the beginning of Jesus’s life, right at the heart of Christmas.
This is the key that gets us through life: having Jesus with us – he is with us through all the ups and downs, sometimes miraculously, always holding us tight.
In fact, this is so important that the Christmas story reminds us of one of Jesus’s other names: Immanuel, which means “God with us”.
Perhaps we should use this name more often! Immanuel.
But the name Jesus is important too – because that means someone who saves people from their sins.
We are saved from the life our sins and selfishness and weaknesses would lead us into because Jesus has taken all that onto himself, and dealt with it on our behalf.
So this is another cause for Christmas celebration!
This Jesus who is with us, is our always-forgiving Saviour.
We can stand tall, feel free, and know we are valued and dearly loved.
God through Jesus is committed to us – long-term, eternally even, bringing us back to himself, to be with us – never to leave us or forsake us, with us to make all the difference in the world.
With Jesus is the very safest place to be; it is the place of life and health and peace.
This is the invitation God holds out to all of us today: to do life together with Jesus. We do not know the route our journey will take, how many bumps or free-wheeling there will be, but we can be confident that life will be with Jesus, all the way home.
Christmas is a celebration of the most significant event in history and it can be a celebration of the most significant event in your life. What better night than this most holy of nights to say yes to doing life with Jesus! Please get in the car!
And if this is something you are already doing, may your celebrations be rich and deep.
May you also have beautiful feet as you share the good news that God is in charge, he reigns – He will have the last word!
This is the God who is with us.