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.