The exchange – all we are, for all God is: Jonathan on the meaning of Christmas.


Here’s Jonathan’s talk at this morning’s nativity service.

We’ve spent most of this morning dispelling some of the myths around Christmas – Christ-myths, if you like.

The cosy, warm, nostalgic idea of Mary and Joseph on a donkey (that’s never mentioned in the Bible) travelling to Bethlehem only to find that there’s no room, but who are rescued by a friendly inn-keeper (who’s never mentioned in the Bible) who puts them up in his stable (that’s never mentioned in the Bible) in which Jesus is born.

And in our minds, we paint this lovely nativity scene that is cosy and warm and nostalgic, with perfectly dressed shepherds and sumptuously dressed wise men (who didn’t arrive for another couple of years) and it’s all just lovely…all, very….well – nice!

But as I’ve said, part of what we’ve explored today in trying to debunk that image of the first Christmas. You see, there was nothing nostalgic or nice about that first Christmas.

Mary is a teenage mum. Pregnant outside of marriage, she is almost abandoned and then wonderfully supported by her husband-to-be. When she is about to give birth, they travel great distances in order to conform to the tax regulations of an occupying foreign power. There is nowhere for the child to be born, so Mary ends up giving birth in a cowshed at the back of a pub. There was no midwife. No gas and air. No clean sheets. No epidural.

But so what? What has the birth of a baby, 2000 years ago, 2000 miles away got to do with you and me in Inverness in the 21st century? What’s the point of Christmas? What does it all mean? And is it any way relevant to my life?

Well, as the Bible sees it, we were created by God, to be in relationship with him – to be his children – but we chose our own way and we continue to do so. That’s what the Bible calls sin. It’s an unfashionable word, but it’s also inescapable, not just when we read the Bible, but when we examine our lives.  And sin creates a distance – a separation – between ourselves and God. God, in his holiness and justice, must enforce the consequences of sin, which is that separation – spiritual death.

But God, in his limitless mercy amazing grace and unending love couldn’t give up on us, his creatures, the objects of his affection.

And so he sent his Son, Jesus, into the world, into our mess, into our brokenness, into our darkness to demonstrate in no uncertain terms – that he loves us just the way we are, with all our mess, all our brokenness, all our darkness. But also to demonstrate in no uncertain terms  that he loves us too much to leave us as we are, lost in our sin and wandering in darkness and cut off from him, our Father.

He came to show us that we are loved.  Do you know that you are loved?

He came to show us that we are cared for. Do you know that you are cared for?

He came to show us that we matter to God. Do you know that you matter to God – that you’re worth him giving his only Son for?

And he came to change us. As the Bible puts it, to bring us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light, to bring us back into that relationship with God that our sin destroyed by taking our sin upon himself and bearing it all the way to the cross of Calvary, and paying for it with his death, and defeating it once and for all as he rose again and continues to live today.

You could think of it all like an exchange that takes place when we put our faith in Jesus. He becomes a frail son of a teenage mum and a carpenter and, by so doing, he makes it possible for us to become sons and daughters of the God of the universe. Our humanity for his godliness; our mortality for his eternal life; our weakness for his strength; our poverty for his wealth; our wickedness and sinfulness for his righteousness and holiness.

In a nutshell, Christmas shows us that if we give all we are to God, God gives all he is to us. That’s what being a Christian is all about, if you’ve ever wondered, all of me for all of him. And if you know anything about Jesus, that’s a pretty amazing deal.

And if you wonder whether God is going to follow through on his side of the deal ….well, he already has. That’s the point of Christmas …. That God has given us all that he is – that God who flung the stars into space, formed the mountains and set the oceans in place – is there lying in the manger, the perfect demonstration of love for lost people like you and me.

In Jesus, God became a human being and, in meeting him and putting our life in his hands, we become who we were created to be: children of God who exist for the glory of God.

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