Summary: Christmas is the ultimate family celebration because Jesus’ coming among us is the means by which we’re now able to become part of God’s family. Jesus is born as our saviour, to save us from our sins, to send us his Holy Spirit to renew and cleanse us so
here’s a certain irony in the timing of the failed Copenhagen climate conference isn’t there? Just a week or so before Christmas but there was little in the way of Christmas spirit in evidence with the leaders of the nations involved in the conference wheeling and dealing to get their own country the best possible deal even if it was at the cost of weaker countries who are most endangered by the effects of climate change.
It seems almost surreal to turn from the news of Copenhagen to the Christmas story, to a message of peace, goodwill among men and women.
Or is it? Do we actually notice the contrast? It’s such a familiar story that it would be easy to overlook the amazing, surprising truth contained in those few words: “11to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Or these words: “And on earth peace among those whom he favors!” A Saviour; a Lord, who brings peace.
I wonder was the promise of peace more surprising then than it is today. Here we are 2000 years later and there seems to be no improvement in the peacefulness of our world. In fact it seems to be getting worse. Not only are nations still at war with other nations, ordinary people are at war with one another. The divorce rate is at an all time high; domestic violence is commonplace; alcohol fuelled violence is a scourge on our cities. We’ve even seen clashes between players in the cricket lately! And as I just said we’re obviously failing in the fight to bring peace to the earth. The effects of climate change are destroying communities, possibly even nations, causing droughts and bushfires and abnormal weather events like the sudden cold snaps across Europe and the US this week and we seem to be powerless to do anything about it. Even with an international summit being held we seem to be incapable of coming to a common mind on a solution.
It leads you to ask “Is peace possible in this world?” What is needed to bring about a lasting peace? Do we all need to work harder at it, do you think? Do we need to convince our political leaders that action must be taken? Should we be taking our protests to the streets? On the domestic front, is the answer stronger policing? Or better education? Or greater deterrents so people learn to control themselves?
Unfortunately those approaches are never going to be fully successful are they? Why? Because the problem is with our basic human nature. Our basic human condition is what causes the rifts among us, both at a personal and at an international level. No, what we need is for God to intervene and change how we work on the inside, how we think, how we relate.
In other words, we need a saviour. Here is the news of great joy that the angels brought to the shepherds 2000 years ago. A Saviour has been born who can save us from ourselves.
Listen to how Paul puts it in Titus 3: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Not because of anything we’d done. God knew we couldn’t help ourselves, that we were incapable of changing. So God, in his great mercy, has sent Jesus to save us by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. God has put a piece of himself within us to bring us back to life. To change us back into his image, the way we were originally meant to be. He says God has poured out his Holy Spirit on us richly. It’s like someone has been drilling a well in a parched part of the outback and suddenly they hit the artesian basin and what happens? A stream of water starts pouring out; refreshing and renewing the land around it. There’s a certain generosity or lavishness in the way this is described isn’t there? The Holy Spirit is poured into our lives richly, to fill us and renew us.
And then what happens? What do we read next? Having been justified by God’s grace - that is, having had our sins washed away and ourselves made clean again, what does God do? He makes us heirs; heirs with Jesus Christ. Heirs of what? Heirs of life; heirs of hope; of the hope of eternal life.
You see this peace that Christ brings isn’t just peace between people, or even nations. It’s peace between us and God. Jesus Christ comes to end the hostility that exists between us and God. You may not feel like there’s any hostility between you and God but look around you at the world today. Listen to those people professing to be atheists. Listen to the aggressive way they speak about God and religion. Listen to those people who want to assert their independence, their right to choose their own lifestyle, their own morals and ethical standards. Listen to how they respond if anyone questions their decisions or criticises their lifestyle.