A love that enfolds the world

Mary Copping, 25 December 2018

Isaiah 9: 2–7; Luke 2: 1–14

Today we celebrate the wonderful news that God sent his son Jesus as a baby, to show his love for the world and to bring salvation.

I was talking recently with some pre-school children about Christingles and trying to explain the red band around the orange, signifying Christ’s death on the cross for us. For these three- and four-year-olds I gave a simpler explanation, saying that the band shows Jesus putting his arms around the whole world, because he came to bring his love to everyone. A little voice piped up, ‘He must have very long arms then!’

But this is what Christmas is about: God’s love in Jesus, born to Mary in a simple, pungent stable, with animals around – the Son of God coming in vulnerability and weakness and quietness.

Our Christmas blessing, which we’ll hear later, says, ‘May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary and the peace of the Christ-child be yours this Christmas’.

The joy of the angels – as they came to tell the shepherds about the birth of the saviour, they brought ‘good news of great joy’. As we celebrate Christmas, let’s ask God to fill us with his deep, deep joy for all that he has given us in his Son, and all the blessings that he gives us each day – the deep joy we feel when we see a newborn baby, or a beautiful sunset, or a puppy. The joy that only God can give.

Let’s ask God to fill us with his deep, deep joy for all that he has given us in his Son.

Then the eagerness of the shepherds – in those days shepherds were generally looked down on, despised as dishonest, grazing their flocks on other people’s fields. Yet God wanted them to be the first to hear the good news of his Son. And the shepherds went eagerly to see the baby. So let’s ask God for eagerness, enthusiasm, wholeheartedness in our faith as we receive his gift to us and as we seek to share this gift with others.

The perseverance of the wise men who followed that star on a difficult journey – sometimes our faith needs perseverance as we look around at the world today, as we see all the things going wrong. And as people say to us, ‘Where is God in all this?’ we need his help to persevere in faithfully following and trusting him. Sometimes the way of a Christian is not easy, but as Peter said to Jesus before Jesus went to the cross, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ For us here today, Christ is the one to follow.

And then in our blessing, the wonderful obedience of Mary and Joseph – Mary’s reply to the angel Gabriel was, ‘Let it be with me according to your word’. This Christmastime and beyond, let’s ask God to help us to be obedient to him in all that he asks us to do – large things, smaller things – to do and say all in his way of love.

In our introductory prayer in the Order of Service, it says, ‘May my mind and my heart be open to the touch of your love’. Jesus, God’s Son, came as a baby, then left God’s loving presence – his Holy Spirit – with us after his death on the cross, so that we can feel his love and his presence with us now. The birth of Jesus brought love, hope and light to our sometimes dark world.

The birth of this child is about God coming to us in our everyday lives and saying to us, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news’.

It’s about God being with us in our pain and loneliness.

It’s about God being with us in our frustrations.

It’s about God wanting to be a part of our lives every day.

On this day, there is much joy – but also sadness, perhaps, because there are people missing from our families, who are with us no more; sadness for those who are lonely, those with broken families; perhaps sadness for each of us in some way.

As we go into this day rejoicing at the gift of Jesus, let us ask God to enable us by his Holy Spirit to know the peace of the Christ-child, the peace in the stable with the wonder of the birth, the peace that passes all understanding. And let us pray for his love to enfold the world (with his long arms!) and for his peace to spread throughout the world. Amen.