Sermon, Christmas Day, 2016.
Hebrews 1:1-4 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Isaiah 62:6-12 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, 7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.8 The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: ‘Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, and never again will foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled; 9 but those who harvest it will eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather the grapes will drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.’ 10 Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.11 The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: ‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your Saviour comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.”’12 They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord;and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/20161225_message.mp3
It is a difficult thing to live in a place from where you cannot actually get home. Like a refugee on Manus Island, a prisoner in a cell, a tourist with a cancelled visa, a frog when the water hole dries up, you feel on edge, a bit desperate about something going wrong with no backup plan of family and friends to help you through. You are alone and you know it. You feel disconnected and angry that it has got to this.
Our family when first called into ministry were assigned to Auckland, NZ. With four young kids and one and a bit incomes, and being in recovery mode after 5 years of low income student life, for the four years we were there we actually did not have the funds to get the family back home to Australia let alone all the way West to our home territory of WA.
Even though the people were fabulous and the ministry was challenging and interesting – and even though we would not change a thing now because of who we met and what we learnt, it was hard. We felt out on the rim of some universe with no way to actually find home other than by telephone.
And we felt a tad angry. It was the church who put us in this predicament! Or, was it God?
God’s people in the time of Isaiah the prophet were a long way from home – so far away and in such a state that they could not return either. Unlike us in New Zealand though, they were in a homeless place because of their many sins against the Lord. They were very clear that it was the Lord that put them in this homeless place. He told them so. He had to deliver on his promises and be account for their injustice.
But there was light in their darkness, if they would both admit their darkness and receive the light. The admitting and the receiving are both needed for light to win.
The light in the darkness of aloneness, guilt, hopelessness and fear was in these Words from God’s messenger, Isaiah.
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.10 Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people.Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones.Raise a banner for the nations.‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your Saviour comes!
The watchmen of God call out to you this Christmas Day.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things….. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-4)
The watchmen of the Lord call out to you today;
Admit and receive.
The world can be dark and so can I.
I often cannot find rest and feel very much “unestablished”, all at sea, on shaky ground.
God may as well be silent because I struggle to hear him.
The world seems to have stopped listening to his promises.
I feel like those people in exile – paying for my many sins. What have I done to deserve this?”, I catch myself saying.
I feel forgotten at times – on the bench, of no great value or use to my spouse, my kids, my colleagues and workmates, my mates at school – even God.
If someone painted a picture of how I sometimes feel about who and what I am they might paint a ghost town – little life, little spark, a lot of worry, a lot of emptiness, a lot of aloneness.
Sometimes I am angry at myself, others, the church and God.
And now the receiving….
‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your Saviour comes!
Here’s what he says. Here’s what he sends.
A new name, a new place a new way a new hope a new year, a new you!
12 They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord;and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.
You are not named “unholy, unacceptable, unclean, but “Holy, acceptable, clean, set apart for holy things and holy work”.
You are not cursed, not paying for your many sins in your suffering or pain but you are named “Redeemed of God” – paid for in blood, set free by his imprisonment to darkness and bursting out of it – all with your face before him.
You are not forgotten, on the scrap heap, no longer required by anyone for much, but now called “Sought After”, wanted, valued, someone the God of all creation notices and seeks for company, for a relationship, for partnership in life. You are still his daughter, still his Son according to him.
And that painting is not of a deserted main street but of colour, people, life, feasting, laughter, joy, learning, hope and possibility.
It all began in the Son of the Lord in this cow shed of the Lord on this day of the Lord announced by these messengers of the Lord.
I hear the Spirit of God calling us to Christmas.
Admit and Receive:
Darkness to Light
You to him
Anger to rest
Alone and proud to connected and humble in joy – just like that famous manger scene.
You are home.