Summary: How come we celebrate the birth of a baby born 2000 years ago - who never even came to the UK?
Rotherby /Gaddesby 2007
Doesn’t it strike you as strange?
Today is the time in the Christian year when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in an Inn in a small village called Bethlehem.
But doesn’t it strike you as strange that we celebrate the birth of an obscure Jewish Carpenter who didn’t even live in the UK
And what is more, we have been celebrating his birth for a good 1000 years.
So I’d like to ask the question: Who was this Man and what was so special about him?
Even John the Baptist - that great revival preacher - after years in Herod’s dungeon started to have his doubts too
He was born in an obscure village, Bethlehem.
He was apparently the illegitimate child of a peasant woman, in a society where illegitimacy was a terrible birthright.
He was a member of a defeated race - a second-class citizen in his own country, with next to no rights at all.
He grew up in still another village, Nazareth where he worked with his stepfather in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty.
2. His ministry:
Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He chose twelve men to be his closest associates. He trained them to preach His message. And in the end, they all deserted him.
He never wrote a book.
Yet what he has said - has been preserved over two thousand years in a book, the Bible.
And the Bible has been the best seller for centuries year in and year out. What is it about this book that fascinates?
His moral teaching is phenomenal.
Even those who were non-Christians have acknowledged that.
Mahatma Gandhi, for example rejected formal Christianity, yet found Jesus and his teaching fascinating.
Yet His teaching wasn’t politically palatable to many people
Alistair Campbell, the ultimate in spin doctors - would never have advised preaching a message of repentance of their sins. In fact if he had been Jesus’ press officer – Jesus would have been advised that “We don’t do God”
Jesus had a brilliant, sharp and incisive mind.
Let me give you an example of this brilliance.
One day, one of the finest Jewish lawyers wanted to set him up for a fall and so he asked him:
“Is it right to pay taxes the Caesar?
Jesus was in a no win situation.
If he said yes, the crowds – his main support would turn against him because Caesar was their oppressor.
If, on the other hand he said no he would be up on a charge of sedition before the Roman governor.
However he gave the Pharisees a quite brilliant answer. He asked for them to bring him a coin.
“Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s” they replied
Then he said to them: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. (Mt. 22:21,22)
He never held a public office. If you want to make a name for yourself, you need to get the good and the great on your side.
The good – the religious parties all united against him. The great – the Romans ultimately crucified him.
He never had a family to pass on his family name and, so far as we know he never owned a house.
He never went to University or college.
He never visited the big cities of the Roman Empire, Rome, Alexandria or Athens to peddle his teaching.
In fact the only big city he visited was Jerusalem, which was in a backwoods of the Roman Empire.
Indeed, He never travelled more than 200 miles from the place where he was born.
He did none of the things we associate with greatness.
3. His death
He was only thirty-three years of age when the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends all deserted Him.
He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was crucified, an ignominious and painful death - hanging on a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
4. His movement
When the Prophet Mohamed (Islam) died, he left a powerful empire in place to enforce his teaching.
When the Buddha died - he left behind him a powerful group of followers in the Kingdom of Nepal to propagate his teaching.
When Jesus died, his followers and disciples fled and were scattered. For example Peter, James and John his main disciples returned to fishing in Galilee
Conventional wisdom would dictate that this is not a great way to start a worldwide movement.