Micah 5:2-5 The LORD says, "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." (3) So the LORD will abandon his people to their enemies until the woman who is to give birth has her son. Then those Israelites who are in exile will be reunited with their own people. (4) When he comes, he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the LORD and with the majesty of the LORD God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness, (5) and he will bring peace.
Luke 2:1-7 At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to betaken throughout the Roman Empire. (2) When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. (3) Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown. (4) Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. (5) He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, (6) and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. (7) She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
Next week is the first Sunday of Advent
advent being the birth of Jesus.
So maybe over the next weeks
we can allow ourselves to be invited into this birth
that it can somehow be different.
And that maybe
Christ can be born anew in our hearts
that in our world
where the things we have considered stable
this past year
the governments we have considered stable
have proven to be
and in some ways
sand beneath our feet,
there may be a new and living hope in our lives
a sustaining hope
a foundation for our lives
this coming year.
There was a time before Christmas was commercialised.
Of such a time,
Shakespeare give us one description
on the frozen battlements of Elsinore in his play, Hamlet:
“Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.”
So may this be our prayer as we journey through advent
to the day of all days
this hallowed and gracious time.
So does our story begin with
the mist of a hope
an ancient word that would lift us from
the valley of despair
a word – a forthtelling:
Mic 5:2-3 The LORD says, "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." (3) So the LORD will abandon his people to their enemies until the woman who is to give birth has her son. Then those …who are in exile will be reunited with their own people.
And so tin the mystic words of the prophet the stage is set.
And then through the generations
through an odd retinue
of glorious and inglorious
men and women
there comes this story
a story that will be told and retold
acted out by countless
men and women and children
to this very day:
Luke 2:1-6 At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire….. (3) Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown. (4) Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. (5) He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, (6) and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby.
when everything will change
a night that will change the world and the hearts of men and women
wherever the story is told
and lives will be softened
and the great will gaze at this story and wonder
and Kings and Queens
will pay homage to this one
born in a peasant home
and great artists will seek to replicate this moment.
This moment of all moments
this night of all nights.
A night that will draw those near to God
and far from God
to the retelling of the story
a story retold
in churches and cathedrals all around the world
to this mid-night hour
drenched in candle light to sing carols celebrating this birth.
So who is this child born
this seeming peasant child,
that the poorest and the mighty
would do Him homage?
What spell has He cast upon the world
softening if only for a moment
the selfishness and enmity of human nature.
Who is this child
who can in the evil of futile war,
bring to a stop the fighting,
and ordinary men cross into no-mans land
to talk of home
and better, softer times
and for a time forget they are enemies.
Who is this child?
That would call forth the softness of heart of
the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow while his son fought in the American civil war.
The poet’s wife tragically killed
a few years earlier.
As he heard of the battles his son was engaged in
he wrote the Christmas hymn, “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
that spoke of his despair and
in the light of this child’s birth, his hope as
the last two stanzas of the hymn read:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
Who is this child
who sets bells pealing in such hearts
with so strongly a message of hope
in the midst of tragedy
and the horror of war, that says –
bells that remind us, this tragedy,
this wrong shall not prevail
for this child
has spoken another, greater word into our living and dying
a word that speaks and says:
‘death where is your sting
grave where your victory.’
This hallowed and gracious time will in a few weeks
invite us to stop
and listen if we may for the singing
of angels and the breath
of God that would say to us who have found this past year
those who have suffered
those who look forward to an uncertain future,
these things will pass
and these things will pass
for there will be a new heaven and a new earth
for the old will pass away
I make all things new.
This birth, this child in whose light we may be caused to say:
Who then can separate us from the love of God?
Can hardship or danger, or death?
No in all things we have complete victory
through this child
for nothing can separate us from this Love we know in Jesus.
So over these weeks of advent, may we prepare to come to Christmas,
to hear again the words of hope and peace
and may we believe
and may we set aside all things that
would divide that the birth of this child may break anew into our lives
and for us, all things be made new.
Old wounds healed
old grudges dispensed with
and love and friendship be rekindled.
And so we may say:
Good news of great joy,
and, don’t be afraid.
And know that in the light of the manger
and the Christ child
the best is yet to be.
Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and glory, world without end. Amen
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