Summary: Carol Service sermon (centred on the lyrics of a Graham kendrick song) asking how much difference Christmas makes in reality.
Most of us will break the law this Christmas !
The list of activities that are illegal to do on Christmas Day is fascinating & ridiculous. These laws have never been repealed and are still officially on the Statute Books:
It is illegal to ride or drive to church, and illegal not to attend. Edward VI’s law of 1551 states that you must go to church but you could only walk there and back.
It is illegal to park your vehicle near a church. A George III Act of 1780 stated that police can confiscate and sell any vehicle parked close to a church, the money being distributed to the poor and needy.
Moving from cars to food, William IV’s People’s Charter of 1836 says it is illegal to eat more than three courses of Christmas dinner at a restaurant or hotel.
Most worrying of all, thanks to another law by Henry VIII in 1536, it is illegal to make mince pies, or eat Christmas puddings.
I guess most of us would normally say that we are law-abiding citizens. But you’d probably agree with me that these laws are quite obsolete. And I suspect that in practice we’ll ignore these laws - break them even! In practice they won’t make any difference to our life!
I wonder if the same is true about Jesus Christ. We celebrate his birth but, in practice, does he make any difference to your life?
His life has been summarised like this...
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He did not go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to 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.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he remains the central figure of the human race, and the leader of mankind’s progress.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this planet so such as that one solitary Life.
...that night changes everything; nothing will ever be the same again.
Jesus’ life is so significant that...
Every event of our lives dates from his birth - calendars, cheques, birthdays refer back to him. The computers industry’s Millennium Bug is dedicated to his 2000th anniversary. He divides history in two - BC & AD.
Individual people have been transformed by allowing this child, who was born to be King, actually to reign as King in their lives.
The story is told of a South Sea Islander who proudly displayed his Bible to a GI during World War II. Rather disdainfully, the soldier commented, "We’ve grown out of that sort of thing." The Islander smiled and said, "It’s a good thing we haven’t. If it weren’t for this book, you’d have been a meal by now!"
Internationally, and throughout history, his teachings have made a radical difference. They have been the starting point for nations’ laws (even if they do later end up drifting away from those teachings.)
His impact on history & humanity is undeniable. But what personal impact does he make?
Those laws I mentioned... in practice they make no difference to our lives. But as a serious question: what about Jesus... does he make any difference to your life?
Mary was told that her child would be called "Immanuel" - it’s a Hebrew name, and quite literally it means, "God with us." Jesus himself said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." Because of Jesus, because of this child in a manger and the life he went on to live, things have changed. We no longer need to speculate about what God is like, or even whether there is a God at all. Because of Jesus, God has revealed - has shown - Himself to us. Immanuel. God with us. Jesus. We cannot say we are ignorant...