Sermon: Christmas Day
“Breaking our Silence”
Hebrews 1:1-2 1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 1:3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 1:4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 1:6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 1:7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 1:10 And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 1:11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; 1:12 like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.”
Listening to silence; seems a contradiction. How can you listen to silence? There nothing to listen to is there?
Silence: the sworn enemy of our consumer and media culture. Adds, TV programs, movies…all filling up the silence…Why? So we don’t get bored and switch off? So we keep interested and focused? So we don’t have any time to actually think about what we are hearing/consuming/receiving – like a person playing the Pokies in a room with no windows and no clock – all to shut out reality and keep the coins going in……
Silence: a heavy word that covers us like a black sheet and muffles the outside world, muffles our senses. Who puts the sheet there? Us or God?
For 400 years, God stayed silent. That is what the Jewish rabbis taught. It came from generations of experience – experience of being the bottom of the heap in terms of money, wealth, power and status as a small provincial tribal group at the mercy of the superpowers.
Surely God is silent then – when we are at the bottom of the heap. Is God’s silence punishment? Is God’s silence pay back for sins committed? Is God’s silence hanging us out to dry in this challenging and taxing life we are living?
Was it God being silent on purpose or people not listening? Was it people placing their own heavy sheet on themselves and each other that muffled God’s voice for all that time?
In the 400 years between the last of the prophets, Malachi, to the birth of the new prophet and forerunner to the greatest prophet, priest and king promised from the time of creation, there was only silence from God, so it was taught. The faithful few waited. They had an agonisingly long wait for God to do something decisive that we could hear and see.
And the silence was not only God’s problem. It was ours. It is our wrong, our chasing after other gods, trusting in human power and schemes and understanding that also created the silence. This was also taught by the Rabbis. So the silence was both ways. God not speaking and we not listening…. a no-win situation of heavy silence and quiet despair with no end in sight. The world carrying on its merry way with more and more noise filling more and more of our attention drowning God’s hopeful voice out….until….
A bolt of light out of the blue and heavenly sounding song bursting into the black…. and somebody heard it and saw it and told us about it. That’s the end of God’s silence and the offer of new ears to hear for us. That’s Christmas. The end of our silence and he beginning of new tunes, new words, new ears to hear God speaking to me and new eyes to see God’s signs of life in me.. the world most valuable iTunes voucher!
The astrologers, mathematicians and alchemists said it…..
“Behind those doors was a new king – God was finished being silent”.
What will do today when God speaks and the silence is ended? What will we do today when the sheet is lifted, our ears unstopped and God’s speaking becomes clearer?
The camel riding Arabic star gazers show us the only response to the end of God’s silence…
“We knelt; we bowed down and laid gifts at his feet. We had to. We couldn’t help it. 400 years of silence broken by the signs of the Son of God”.
They knelt: They were seeing and experiencing
“the exact imprint of God’s very being”, right there in that cave with the workers and the Jewish couple. They sensed they were in the presence of the One who “sustains all things by his powerful word” – including them and their life’s journey. They sensed that they were in the holy presence of the One who “made sins pure”, and they knew they had many to be made pure by this One. They knew this was a Divine moment – a divine interruption to their journey and their listening. Like a UHF radio suddenly bursting into full voice in the car and interrupting your conversation of thought, God was blasting across the airwaves. He’s here. I am here. I am speaking. I am speaking in BIG terms. There is a new way now. It is not old way of punishment, silence after a fight, pay-back, being very, very good or finding your own voices to listen to beside me to live your life. Heaven has shifted sideways. Tectonic shifts have occurred in the relationship between a holy Creator God and a sinning, idol making world.
What if this was true? What if God was actually speaking to you by his son – this infant holy who is the holy man who does his holy work of forgiving the sins of an unholy you on that holy cross and out of that holy tomb?
What if Jesus is the Word of God – now? And what if Jesus is alive and speaking and inviting you into this holy moment where wise men and shepherds and a man and a woman are lost in the good news of God speaking good news again?
How long has it been since you heard God speaking to you? Yesterday, a decade ago, a life-time ago? What’s been the heavy curtain muffling his voice from your end?
Better options to follow?
Better and more immediate results for now?
Too many sins?
Not enough good in the church?
Too much suffering?
Not enough winning and too much losing?
Or too much winning so why listen out for God anyway?
God has been speaking a lot lately. For these last 2000 years he has been speaking to reason, science, spiritual seekers, deaf ears, shut eyes, closed off hearts and he promises to go on speaking a lot – loud and clear – in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
He will keep speaking despite us blocking our ears. He will continue to speak of welcome, of love, of hope, of good news in the bad news. As we “wear out like clothing” he will speak to us of his love for us, his commitment to us, his longing to have us with him in all his grace and wonder.
When our loss is great, our pride is too much, our doubt is present, our illness overwhelming, our joy inexpressible, our fear scary, our hope gone, our heart distracted, our peace shattered, our life dead, he will speak. His voice will be the last word that will giver us something to say again.
This baby announced by angles’ singing and seen by the few but spoken of to us will crack the silence and his voice will carry us through.
His voice is breaking the silence today. With deep thanks and raucous joy we can kneel, bow and receive his gifts of life and hope for now and then give him our gift – our open ears.
God has broken the silence. His words are good. His words are true and right and good. His Son is your creator of hope, your giver of life, your Saviour from the noise and the silence you feel.
He is speaking to you by his Son. Amen.