Christmas Day Sermon 2014
Rev Charmaine Braatvedt
Anyone who remembers the 80’s will know that the video we are about to see, entitled Bethlehem Rhapsody is a take -off of the Band Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
It tries to tell the nativity story using puppets which children of today might relate to. It takes the details of the story and works creatively with them while honing into the central truth which is that in Jesus came to fulfill the role of the promised Messiah.
Take a look
Context is important when we look at a story like the nativity and ask the question
What does it mean to me today in the 21st Century?
So let’s look at the details of the story as we find them in Luke’s Gospel.
In reality, where was Jesus born? …..
Bethlehem in a stable is the obvious answer.
I wonder if you are aware that nowhere in the Bible are we told specifically that Jesus was born in a stable.
This doesn’t mean that he wasn’t born in a stable, it simply means that we assume he was, because we are told that once his mother Mary had given birth to Him, she wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.
There are two things about the context of the story of the nativity that you might like to bear in mind this morning.
In Jesus’ time and still in many parts of the majority world, the stable was part of the house.
Under the main part of the house would be the room for the animals.
This made a lot of sense because the heat from the animals would rise and heat up the whole home, consequently making this model an inexpensive and an environmentally friendly heating option.
Also accommodation for travellers in Jesus’ time was fairly primitive on the whole. The eastern khan or inn was like a series of stalls opening off a common courtyard.
Travellers were expected to bring their own food.
All that the innkeeper was expected to provide was fodder for the travellers’ animals and a fire for his guests to cook on.
The town of Bethlehem was very crowded at the time of the nativity on account of the Roman census and clearly, according to the story, there was no regular accommodation for Joseph and Mary.
So it may well have been in the common courtyard that Mary’s child, Jesus, was born.
The word which we translate as manger refers to a place where animals feed and so the Greek word could either have referred to a stable or the animal food trough itself.
All that aside, today I want to talk a little bit about the significance of Jesus being born in a manger or a stable.
- Firstly Isaiah reminds us that one of Jesus’ names was Immanuel. This means God with us.
Now a good question to ask is:
God with whom?
God with the good people, the nice people, the middle class people, the Christian people?
God with people in general?
The fact that Jesus was born in a stable seems to indicate to me that in Jesus, God came to be not only with all humans, but also with all of creation: animals, stars, planets, humans and angels. God with all, all that God has made is redeemed and made whole in Jesus.
We read in Colossians 1
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation —all things have been created through him and for him….For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
It’s important to recognize that Jesus’ closeness with Creation goes hand in hand with his redemption of Creation – just as his closeness with people goes hand in hand with their redemption, too.
The New Testament makes it clear that for Jesus, Creation is a place of closeness to God and of spiritual revelation.
Numerous times, he goes into the wilderness to pray Jesus spends time in Creation. He values it as the place where he goes to commune with God. He chooses it as the place where he reveals the most important things to his closest friends. This closeness with Creation, and this respect for its importance, is the reason Jesus saves and redeems it.
If we follow Jesus we value what he values and our Christian walk must include, in addition to humans, an ethical and redemptive response to the environment and the other creatures of God.
- It is very significant that Jesus was born in a stable and that the very first people to meet him were shepherds. A common image for God was that of a Good Shepherd. See Psalm 23. The prophecies about the Messiah all
affirmed that he would be like a shepherd herding people into the kingdom of God. That was his primary purpose for coming into the world. So being born in a stable references Jesus, the lamb of God and Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Jesus, like the Passover Lamb, humbly came to give us his life for us and Jesus as the Good shepherd, shepherds us with his teaching and example into the kingdom of God.
- Jesus was always very clear that he did not come to save just one particular group of people alone rather Jesus was the messiah who intended to save the world.
And so it is significant that Jesus was born where both the poor and the rich would easily be able to find him. Everyone’s animals need to be stabled rich and poor alike, shepherds and magi.
Jesus didn’t attach much importance to worldly status and wealth. He looked deeply into the hearts and lives of people and offered them healing and salvation.
The word manger means hungry or food.
Manger as a noun means food
and as a verb it means to eat.
Jesus is the bread of life, born into this world to satisfy the spiritual hunger of all human kind.
We too as followers of Jesus must open our hearts to the need of those who are spiritually hungry and offer them the spiritual food of Jesus’ teachings and his salvation.
- Jesus’ birth was messy and chaotic as most births are. He was born into the messiness and ordinariness of every day human life. This means we don’t need to tidy up our lives before we invite Jesus into the stable of our hearts.
Who tidies up when they are having people round?
Why do we all do that?
Does it have something to do with wanting to impress people?
Have you noticed that the closer we are to people, the less we tend to tidy up for them.
Jesus says don’t tidy up for me. Let me into the cut and thrust of your life without any pretence or affectation.
Location is important and the Bible teaches us that Jesus wants to be located in the centre of our messy lives.
- Finally, that there was no room in the inn was symbolic of what was to happen to Jesus throughout his life. His teaching challenged people and made them uncomfortable especially the rich and powerful. Finally, they were so uncomfortable that the only place where there was room for him was on the cross. All his life and ministry, he sought an entry to the over-crowded hearts of humans and his spirit continues to do so today.
I wonder, how full is your life? Is it too full to include Jesus? Have you been too busy to pursue your relationship with him? A baby was born at Christmas, He was a gift to you and me. We all hunger to know God. The Bethlehem Rhapsody reminds us that through Jesus we discover that God is as non- threatening as a vulnerable baby, as pure and gentle as anew born infant, yet like all new borns we have to change our life-style to accommodate them and once we have done that we discover that was one of the best changes we ever made.
Allow this God to find a place in the stable of your heart this Christmas?