Summary: A challenge to every listener to want to meet with Jesus, even on Christmas Day! (Especially with ’not-yet christians’ in mind)
[Aim: For the congregation to want to meet Jesus, who came into the world in poverty.]
The births column of the Bethlehem post reads: "FUTURE KING IN BED & BREAKFAST ACCOMMODATION - At 1pm this morning BMT - (that’s Bethlehem Mean Time) - the future King of the Jewish Nation was born in the garden of a local Bed & Breakfast establishment. The Queen was aided in her momentous delivery by her fiancee, who incidentally is not the child’s natural father. The family spent the night in the shelter of one of the garages behind the B & B as all of the rooms were taken. Several local gang members were seen visiting the family under cover of darkness - it is said that when they left the garage they were all singing a variety of "Songs Of Praise". Mother, fiancee, and baby are said to be doing very well. The weight of the baby - which as always is the most important for you ladies out there - is unknown - The Queen has not received any medical attention." - Jesus, The King of the Jews. Born in a Cave behind a guest house in Bethlehem, sleeping in a manger - an animal feeding trough - Born to an unmarried mother, and visited by shepherds.
In good Anglican tradition, I would like to make three points this morning - three fairly brief points!
Point One is this: - When He entered the world, Jesus Came In Poverty. Some of us will look at Church buildings and see riches and splendour. Some of us will be aware of too many ’preachers’ who appear on the Television asking for money. Not many of us will know what it means to live ....... or to be born ....... into poverty.
Our Gospel passage is clear - Jesus Came In Poverty.
The birth of Jesus, in very basic conditions, is now far removed from the tinsel decorated, reason to eat too much chocolate which we know ...... and love! ....... as Christmas.
At the birth of Jesus, Mary his mother, and her fiancee Joseph were over eighty miles from their home in Nazareth. How would you feel, eighty miles from home, no family with you, no car, no hospital, no room, no electricity, 39 weeks pregnant? - Well, this was Mary, travelling to Bethlehem for a census which has been ordered by the Roman authorities. For my wife Moira, it would be the equivalent of getting onto the M4 at Reading, and slowly trudging to Bristol on the back of my donkey, as the pains of labour set in.
Our 21st century ears may be shocked to hear that Mary, engaged, not married to Joseph, was probably quite a young girl - It was Jewish custom in those days for girls to be engaged by the time they were 14 years old.
Mary does not fit the picture of the confident, holy mother - the maiden, dressed in blue which we often see in pictures of The Nativity - and the birth of Jesus does not fit the picture of the warm stable, flooded with heavenly light. The stark reality of St. Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus Came In Poverty.
Nowhere in Luke’s account do we find wise men; and if we are to be faithful to Luke’s Gospel we must not go on a search for wise men, even though I can spot one or two very very wise men in the congregation this morning! Over the years the church has not been able to resist the temptation to run next door to Matthew’s Gospel and borrow his Royal visitors with their gold, frankincense and myrrh; place a soft light in the manger straw, and fill the air with angels. But Luke is clear. Mary gave birth to her Son. She wrapped him in cloths - the equivalent of a modern-day ’babygro’ - and she placed Jesus in the manger, the animals’ feeding trough, as she could not be accommodated in the house. Jesus Came In Poverty.
As we open our presents and sit round the dinner table today, will we recognise that Jesus Came In Poverty?
The second point I want to make is that Jesus’ birth was announced to the working people!.
William Barclay once wrote about a European Monarch who used to worry his body guards by often disappearing, and walking amongst his people in disguise. One day a senior body guard asked the king to put an end to this outrageous practice, for the sake of his safety. The king answered, "I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live."
It is a fantastic belief of the Christian faith that we have a God who knows about this life that we lead because he too lived it. When someone of royalty is born, etiquette, and doing the right thing, will control who gets to hear about it first.