Tuesday, November 24, 2015
An extraordinary gift for ordinary people
 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12 ESV)
I'm preaching in a couple of weeks time... here's a few scribbles, your interactions welcome.
Glen Scrivener notes (in a sermon on this passage which I think is excellent) that the film Prometheus is a photo-negative of the Christmas story. I'm no great fan of the Alien films (unlike my wife who loves them) but I found Ridley Scott's 2012 film to be an intriguing exploration of what it means to interact with our makers and to explore more of the human condition.
The genre gives a great canvas to explore grand themes. In this case, the intrepid and courageous crew head off to find our makers, and find only that they hate us... a theme reflecting in the other parental relationships in the film. An exploration of the story of progress that seeks to throw of those who went before and assert ourselves in this world.
Quite a contrast to the events of the Christmas story.
Angels, regularly on stage in the early chapters of Luke, do what Luke repeatedly records them doing: shining with good news. They are evangelists from the courts of heaven. Far from reporting heaven's hatred for it's offspring (Acts 17), they record that God is not far from us - indeed he is to be found in the nearby town.
There is here an extraordinary gift for ordinary people.
The audience here are very ordinary.
A group of labourers on a night shift. Not the courageous. Not the great and the good. Some of us think very highly of ourselves, especially in our youth, but we are for the most part: ordinary. Life is mundane. Life is ordinary. And the subject of the angel's good news is "for all the peoples". His claims will carry a exclusivity but it is utterly inclusive.
The good news delivered is of a gift.
"Unto you is born." My two year old can't quite sing happy birthday to you properly yet, so he sings "Happy to you", which is the sentiment of the angels. Good news to you. A gift to you. A Saviour. Managers and Leaders are brought in to turn company's and football teams around. The language of salvation is used in those situations - but where managers make demands, Saviour's save. All is gift here. Exclusively inclusive because it doesn't depend on us but upon the giver and the gift.
Who is this gift to the ordinary? An extrordinary one.
Firstly, the Christ. Great David's Greater Son, God's anointed one - the Spirit anointed one as Luke-Acts will make abundantly clear. The one abundantly overflowing with the loving Spirit of the Father steps into the world.
Secondly, the Lord. God come close is God made small. God in a manger.
Christmas doesn't tell the tale of a God who hates us, who keeps distant, despising and demanding of us. Nor of a God for the intrepid, courageous, bold and able. Rather, an extrordinary gift, God himself for the ordinary. The story Luke tells - which you could read for yourself - is the story of the self-giving God. God in a manger who grew up to be God on a Roman Cross... for our salvation is one that is very great - rescue not from relegation or disappointment but from death and corruption. Gift, to us and for us.
Steve Jobs is portrayed by Aaron Sorkin as describing the problem of his (our) human condition as being "poorly made." Sin, in a phrase, acknowledged and yet with the blame deftly shifted. If we are poorly made we can blame our maker for our failings. Luke would tell us, we are God's offspring - fearfully and wonderfully made and yet thoroughly and deeply corrupted. Yet all is not lost. And that's the point at Christmas. Far more can be mended than we know (Spufford). The sad things can come untrue (Tolkien). We can be saved from the darkness within ourselves and the divine judgement under which we stand. How? Because heaven sends the Spirit-anointed Son into this world. God's gift: Himself.
Image - Creative Commons - FutUndBeldl