CHRISTMAS DAY 2019 MESSAGE - Warrnambool Uniting - by Rev Malcolm Frazer
Isaiah 52:7-10 Luke 2:1-14
“….and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” - Isaiah 52:10
Hope is born at Christmas.
Throughout this year the question of HOPE has been at the forefront for many of us.And it has been a hope often hard to find.
Especially when our leaders fiddle while the earth burns.
And more and more people are feeling a sense of hopelessness in our world.
But sometimes we have to lose hope before we find ‘real hope’.
Which is where we are at this Christmas.
Old hopes are dying.
For centuries we have looked to THE ECONOMY to save us;
where we produce more and more stuff…
and where the Governments want us to buy more and more stuff……
to keep the sacred economy ticking over and expanding.
Cause getting more is what it’s all about.
But, after 170 years since the Industrial revolution began,
now we are beginning to see that we’ve stuffed it.
We can only keep exploiting this planet for so long before something breaks.
And now we are teetering on the brink.
Many of us don’t want to know it. Many don’t want to see it.
We want to hold onto our old hope. Because that is all we’ve ever known.
And if that hope goes, it seems there is no hope …….
Throughout the scriptures we read of empires and worlds crashing down. It’s a common theme throughout the Bible & in the history of civilisation.
Earths proud empires fade away. (Rule Brittania)
And as those worlds crumble it is THE END OF THE WORLD……. AS WE KNOW IT.
It looks like complete devastation. (Hopelessness).
Yet, …..the Good News is that in that darkest night,
“just when we thought all would be lost”,
we are drawn to the light of God.
Because it is into this situation that we open our eyes again
to see God’s light breaking through.
As we lose hope in all our false hopes,
in our desperation we reach in the dark for real hope.
So hope is born.
In the most unexpected place.
In the One in whom our true hope is found.
That is the message of Christmas.
God birthing hope in a time of hopelessness.
God’s hope. “If” we are able to let go of our old hopes….
and live again in the life that is real.
It’s the same message as Easter.
Where through that cross,
the cross of death and desolation and despair,
God brings a new hope, in Jesus………
………… raised from the dead.
That unexpected intervention of God.
Right out of left field. From our God who has not given up on His world and His people.
Though we’ve been stupid, destructive, evil, and so self centred.
Though we’ve brought it all down on ourselves, and others and the planet.
God still reaches out ……to us to draw us into His salvation.
So there is hope for us all.
And hope for our planet.
While all other hopes are fading……
our one true hope is always in the God who made us and who stands by us,
to such an extent that He would even be born among us,
and die for us,
and raise us again with Him…..to new life.
In Jesus our hope is born. AMEN.
Jesus, as our old hopes come crumbling down
Help us to find our true hope in you.
No matter what happens in our personal lives
and our corporate world,
You are the rock that is our real hope
for ourselves and for all generations.
And in this hope help us to work with you for real change in our world.
In the name of Jesus, Saviour of the world. Amen.
Looks like Geoff and I are on a roll with the message of Hope this season.
Here is our Christmas Eve Meditation from the 10pm service.
Christmas Eve 2019 - Rev Malcom Frazer
This advent, this Christmas, and throughout this year
the THEME OF HOPE has been the focus of many of my thoughts and meditations,
particularly in a world where old hopes seem to be disappearing.
So it is appropriate that we come
in the night,
in the darkness,
to look for and turn to the light.
Where is the light?
Where is our hope in these threatening days,
as fires rage and droughts and other weather extremes, (floods and cyclones) grow more intense, more frequent, more threatening ?
As we confront that question and as we wait, as we cry out and as we look to God for hope,
there are many images in the Bible that speak to us of God’s hope,
a hope that arises out of the most apparently hopeless situations.
- A shoot from the stump of Jesse….(Isaiah 11:1…)
- A people saved through the waters…..and the chariots pursuing them destroyed… (Exodus chapters 14 &15)
- And when they were thirsty and hungry and felt they would die……
water in the desert…(Ex 15:22-27) …and manna to satisfy their hunger….. (Ex 16)
- A valley of dry bones, bones brought rattling together as the word of God is the spoken to them by Ezekial the prophet…then… God’s breath breathed into them…. giving these old dried bones, life again…(Ezekial 37)
- The barren women, too old to hope to bare children - Sarah (Genesis 18:13,14) ,
Hannah (1 Samuel 1), Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25).
- The promise of the return of the exiles…… and the restoration of the city…..when everything was looking so hopeless…so desolate….and the people so demoralised. (Isaiah 51:11….etc) (also the book of Nehemiah and rebuilding of the destroyed Jerusalem and it’s walls)
- Then God’s people again in a time of occupation under the Romans,
and weighed down by taxes and poverty and subjugation,
A sign of hope is given……of a young woman with child…..whose child will be called IMMANUEL, “God with us”. (Isaiah 7:14; Matt 1:23)
- The fear filled maiden then finds a new courage and leaps for joy and breaks out into song…'.TELL OUT MY SOUL, the greatness of the Lord'. “My soul glorifies the Lord ...for He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty”. (Luke 1:46-55)
So it is that the light enters the darkness.
The image that we hold to tonight and which we read about in John’s Gospel -
“The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not understood it”. (John 1:5)
- Then this child grows to be a man,
and a teacher, and a prophet, and more. As he speaks His Words this ‘Living Word’ sparks the imagination and the hope and the life in people.
And not only through words,
but in actions - healing, casting out evil spirits, restoring, forgiving, even raising the dead.
But then, the loss of hope again.
The dark clouds of despair of suffering and pain and death on the cross.
The death of the Messiah.
The death of God.
Until, with the light of the third day.
A new sign,
An empty tomb…..Pointing to what? A stolen corpse?
Then to Mary…….a Gardener appears….Or was He the Lord?
And to others disciples, miserable, aimless, on the road to nowhere,
a stranger comes walking beside and talking with them about the scriptures and a new hope. Then, at the end of the day, the signs of BREAD & WINE. (Luke 23:13-35) ———————————————--
So where are the signs of hope for us today?
They are all around us….and within.
The God who reaches into our darkness and our despair,
and who opens our eyes to a whole new way of seeing, and being, and living,
IN Jesus. AMEN.
A prayer by Michael LEUNIG -
Love is born,
with a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead
And in the most unlikely place
Love is born;
Love is always born.
This was my Christmas Day service message, delivered at Port Fairy Uniting Church
So we’ve made it to Christmas- the season of peace and goodwill. And yet that vision seems further and further away this year- with terrible drought, climate change, bushfires, corruption, the economy more important than people and the future of life on earth- and yet it’s so wobbly.
Jesus has shown us the way to peace- for us to live in a spirit of gratitude and love. If only we followed him.
For Christians we know that’s a struggle- and if we do pretty well at it, it’s easy to overbalance into pride and being judgmental.
For many people it just looks too hard too really try. There’s a fear of missing out on fun. It might cost us too much. It’s too much effort.
So given that’s how it is, is Jesus just a missed opportunity to get the world right?
Jesus’ coming was hidden away- a remote place away from power and influence. His work in the world today is pretty much hidden away too- but his Spirit is there in any human response of kindness, forgiveness, hospitality and open-mindedness. And it’s there in the light being shone on bad things- and their beginning to change.
It’s there in the royal commissions into child abuse and aged care. They show up terrible things happening, but they are prompting change. The terrible fires and NSW and Queensland this year have caused great suffering- but they will shake us into being serious about climate change, caring for the planet, and rooting out corruption in water use. The #MeToo movement is part of a momentum now towards respect and equality for women in all aspects of life. There’s a hidden, small but growing movement that we need a new economic model that puts sustainability and people ahead of the concentration of wealth and power with just a few. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection show the movement towards true and lasting peace doesn’t come straight-forwardly but through commitment and suffering, but the long view is heading in that direction. God looks on us with goodwill. Peace on earth is coming.
The image that’s come to me about all this- and Jesus used this image himself in John 16: 21- is that of childbirth. The world has become enlarged like a pregnant belly, and like through the pain and struggle of childbirth, the trouble we’re seeing in the world will result in the Way of God that Jesus called the Kingdom of God being born in the world.
I've been reflecting on overseas travel lately- prompted by the readings we've had in church about the Sabbath- which made me think of holidays- and the number of people from church away overseas these days- plus times of feeling uneasy with people telling their overseas holiday stories in front of people who could never afford it, unease about the behaviour of Australians in places like Bali, and the whole environmental thing of flying and pumping all that carbon straight into the atmosphere.
I was also prompted by our holiday to Sri Lanka earlier this year- that it does us good to read the scriptures from a third world perspective. How would they see us Western Christians? Mark Twain said: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness. Yet it seems many travellers fly in, look around and leave with photos and are not changed at all.
I wondered if there’s a godly way to do holidays?
Travel and spirituality have a long association
- Travel is a constant in the bible- from Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden, to Abraham and Sarah called to move to a new land God would show them, to the journeys of the people of Israel, to Jesus' ministry to the apostles' journeys
- Christianity and other religions have a long history of people going on Pilgrimages
- The church has a long history of people travelling to different countries on Mission work
- Many Christians and people of other faiths have had to leave their country fleeing from persecution
I recently read a book 'Faith on the Road: a short theology of Travel and Justice' by Joerg Rieger which I’ve enjoyed reading. The main thing I hadn’t thought of much before was the place of power. Locals have to adapt to tourists expectations and ideals which tourists hardly notice. Tourism may support a third world economy but it reinforces the power imbalance between rich and poor nations, and spreads Western capitalist consumerist culture, undermining local culture.
So should we not travel? I believe we can make travel a good thing if we do it thoughtfully. Here are things to consider carefully for guilt free travel:
In the 'Window' on Koroit St at the church we've recently had a series of messages entitled Spiritual Tone-Up.
People go to the gym to get physically toned up through a series of exercises. The messages in the 'Window' are Spiritual Exercises that get you spiritually toned up- expressed in non-religious language. Because you can fit a maximum of 15 letters on only 4 rows (it's like half a tweet), it's had to be made very concise. Here's the original document I wrote.
In the 'Window' I divided no 3 into two separate messages. I believe if you give these a try regularly and you'll be fit to cope with whatever life throws at you with equanimity to remain positive. 10 Point Spiritual Health Tone Up
1 Take a moment to name things you are grateful for.
(this sets your spirit in the right frame)
2 Reaffirm your important beliefs and values.
(this brings you back to your true self)
3 Name things that have hurt you and silently speak forgiveness.
Name things that you regret and allow yourself to be forgiven.
(these are like dropping your baggage)
4 Name the strengths you need and ask for them.
(this is like picking up your luggage)
5 Spend some time just being in nature.
(connect with the universe)
6 Spend some time just playing, non-competitively.
(connect with your innocence)
7 Spend some time being creative without judging what you do.
(connect with God’s gifts to you)
8 Give something freely- time or money or some thing you have.
(connect with others’ needs)
9 Send love, goodwill, peace, joy, hope to others.
(connect with others’ spirits)
10 Spend some time seeking silence and the stilling of the mind.
(connect with the Universal Spirit)
Australia Day should be like a funeral.
Wait. Let me explain.
There are four things at a funeral- There’s a degree of grief and a degree of celebration of the person’s life. How much of each depends on the person’s life. There’s more celebration and less grief if it’s an elderly person who’s lived a good life, and a lot more grief for someone who’s died young and tragically, and the celebration of the life they have had is there but overwhelmed. The degrees of grief and celebration will vary too, depending on how close the person who died was to you.
So, with Australia Day- there needs to be both grief and celebration. Grief at the dispossession, traumas and injustices our Indigenous people have experienced. And celebration of the great things about our country- its natural beauty and wonders, and our human community, our prosperity and freedoms. We won’t all feel the grief the same. It will be much stronger for our First Peoples; and for them it may be so strong the celebration is overwhelmed. But all of us, and especially us Second Peoples, we need to acknowledge both.
The other elements of a funeral are looking back on the person’s life and looking forward into the future. The eulogy and tributes look back over the past, and there will be something of the future- whether it is the Christian hope of life after life, or a non-religious comfort that the person will live on in the hearts and memories of their family and friends.
So with Australia Day, we need to look back and acknowledge the full history, making a point of including our First Peoples’ history; and looking forward with a commitment to reconciliation and a fair future together.
As Christians I believe an important part of our call is to work towards reconciliation, doing our best to bring our polarised nation together.
here to edit.
What’s with the name free_key.com?
The ‘.com’ is meant to represent that we are a community – not a family. We’re too big and diverse to be a family. Members of a family share a common heritage and background – but we have many heritages and this fact makes us all very different. A family lives together by circumstances of birth; we live together by choice. A community is a bunch of people all trying to live together – and it’s not always easy. To do it we’ve got to get right with each other.
What about the ‘free_key’ bit?
What we’re about here is getting right with God and getting not too bad with each other. As Romans 5: 7-11 tells us Christ has made it okay, made us all right with God. More than just all right – we are friends with God through Christ. Paul goes on to say in verse 18 ‘the one righteous act sets all humankind free’ – we are free through Christ. Through Christ we have life, peace and hope We are free through the grace of God. Grace = the free, unearned, unconditional love and forgiveness of God. Grace is the ‘key’ – we are ‘free_key’ people.
We are also ‘freaky’ people – don’t panic, it just means unique, rare or unusual, remarkable, an ‘only one of’. Each of us is unique and therefore unusual, remarkable, and . . . well, freaky. We each have our individual weirdness, it’s all weird – there is no normal. We are the beauty of the world- all the freaky people make the beauty of the world (Michael Franti). All the freaky, free_key people make the beauty of the world.
free_key.com mission statement
-welcome everyone into the family of God
-share the good news
-listen to each other, kids and adults
-discover our gifts, we’ve all got some
-worship together, praise God and Jesus
-participate as we feel comfortable
-enjoy ourselves, have fun
-relax, be ourselves, make misteaks, misstakes, mistakes, mistaykes . . . errors.
Yesterday we found a thank you card in the letterbox at the front of the church (which doesn't get used very much). And in it was a very generous donation. The anonymous donor was thanking us for our support, and hoped to help with replacing our front window which was smashed late last year. If you're that person- thank you for your thanks and donation and we are delighted that we've been able to support you.