Reading Luke 2.1-20
Preacher Canon Robert Titley
Who has brought a present to open? Show us what you got… Now,
If Jesus was born today, what present would you give him? [Congregational answers included gold, frankincense and myrrh] This is a question from a Christmas survey commissioned by the Bible Society. Of the possibilities they suggested, most votes went to ‘A chocolate orange’, with ‘Socks’ second.
Other questions were:
Where would Jesus be born today? Top came the Yorkshire Dales, followed by London. Bottom, with under three per cent, was Swindon (which would make it a good candidate, as Bethlehem was not a glamorous place).
Who would you pick to be a wise man today? [Congregational answers included Nelson Mandela, if he were still alive, and David Attenborough] First in the survey came Brian Cox, media physicist – and atheist, followed by our local resident Trevor McDonald and Richard Branson. (Actually, second highest was ‘None of the above’.)
There was no room at the inn for Jesus – in what kind of place would he be born today? In the survey, a third went for ‘A garden shed’; next came ‘A Premier Inn or Travelodge’.
If you could be any character in a Nativity play who/what would it be? ‘An angel’ came top, with a very high female vote (though all the named angels in the Bible are male).
A bit of festive fun, the survey still prompts some serious questions.
What do I regard as precious things too give or receive?
What does it mean to be ‘wise’ in our world?
Where would I go now if I were homeless?
Questions like these can help us make connections between the world of the Christmas stories and our own, to say, ‘This is about us,‘ and the Nativity play question invites you to place yourself in the story, which may prompt you to say, ‘Perhaps this is about me.’
It’s about God too, this story – God coming among us in birth of Jesus, God coming close to us, as close as a baby’s hand closing on his mother’s finger. If God is that close to me – if God really has inhabited my flesh and blood – then everything changes. Life will never be so amazing or so awful that I am beyond the reach of God, and the strength and love and wisdom and forgiveness that God gives.
Our task, then, this morning is to make this story our own – notice how some of the carols get us singing the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ – and our Christmas motto can be the words of the German mystic Angelus Silesius,
Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem
– but all in vain until he is born in me.
Have a joyful Christmas.