It is sometimes said “where there is a will there is a way”. May I rephrase it slightly and say “where there is good will there is a good way forward”. One of my favourite films is Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon and the late Robin Williams. I love the story-line because it emphasizes what we can so easily forget, that seeking the good will of another can lead to really good outcomes all round. It is a theme that is picked up in the Christmas story. The angel’s announcement of the birth of Christ includes the declaration of intent “Peace on Earth and good will to all people” (Luke 2:14 KJV). It is hard to imagine peace without goodwill. Yet as Christmas draws closer there seems in some sections of our local and international community a distinct lack of good will.
Yesterday we had the government’s financial report. As a nation we are continuing to live beyond our means. Our debt is huge and something must be down. But as I listened to both sides of the political spectrum there was little good will on display. Both major parties blamed each other for the problem and neither side seemed prepared to give ground in order to help solve our economic problems. Remember the fruit picker’s tax? It took months and months of bitter haggling and point scoring before a last minute solution was brokered. Fruit farmers were beside themselves; so much for good will. I was also deeply saddened by recent events in Jakarta where the Christian Governor Purnama is on trial for blasphemy. Hundreds of thousands have protested on the streets for several days against him when it appears he has not been intentionally offensive. Not much tolerance. Not much good will hunting.
My heart also goes out to the refugees stuck in Aleppo, Syria. Once again as men, women and children live on the edge of starvation the evacuation of the city has been painfully slow. There is an urgent need for good will to prevail to halt the horrendous suffering of innocent people. There was simply insufficient good will.
The birth of Jesus reminds us afresh that good will or seeking the good of others is fundamental to human community functioning well. God acts for our good in sending God’s Son, Jesus, to our self-absorbed world. Jesus role models the good life with special attention to those who were so easily forgotten and forsaken. Like peacemaking, good will hunting is a beatitude that needs daily practice. Part of the good news involving doing good. I love the description of Dorcas, “she went around doing good” (Acts 9:36), in other words she was good at good will hunting. And what about you and I? Are we good will hunters or do we just hope that good will will come to us? Over this festive season it would be valuable to spend a few moments thinking about someone who we need to express a special dose of good will to. It could make the world of difference. Happy hunting.
CHRISTMAS IS AMAZING
In fact its utterly beyond comprehension, which is probably why we do all the crazy things we do at this time of the year.
We eat too much, we put up lights everywhere, we bring trees into our houses, we buy things for people we see everyday, and wrap them in beautiful paper which we will just throw away anyway – whole forests disappear in December which is a real headache for concerned conservationists. All of this is just our feeble attempt to somehow celebrate something which is incredibly amazing, so big, so vast, so utterly unbelievable that we do these things to mark the occasion.
How do you get to grips with “Emmanuel” – God with us? Can you actually get your mind around it? God coming to us – the Creator within His creation. Its really hard to get the picture, isn’t it?
I was reading about the Rev Robert Evans this week in Bill Bryson’s “A short history of nearly everything.” Rev Evans is (was) a retired minister in the Uniting Church in New South Wales, a writer on modern evangelical revivals and a part time astronomer. His claim to fame is that he has discovered more Super Novas than anybody else, even more than the great scientists in their huge observatories.
Now listen to this …
A Supernova is an exploding star whose light can outshine an entire galaxy for about a month. How it explodes is an interesting phenomenon. Over time, millions of years, its inner gravitational pull becomes so strong that initially it implodes, drawing everything into itself. Its gravitational pull is so strong that it sucks in everything, including light – it becomes a black hole in the universe.
And its core becomes incredibly heavy. Imagine a million cannonballs squeezed into the size of a marble. As Rev Evans says, just a teaspoon full of this imploded star could weigh 90 billion kgs … And then suddenly it explodes outwards sending all kinds of matter into space. It’s a nuclear explosion of such gigantic proportions that it makes Hiroshima look like a Christmas cracker. It would be the equivalent of a trillion hydrogen bombs all going off at once.
But you don’t need to worry about it. The nearest likely candidate to be a Supernova is a star called Betelguesewhich is a mere 50 thousand light years away. To put that in perspective, to get there you would have to travel at the speed of light for 50 thousand years. In contrast, travelling at the speed of light, it would take you a mere 1.3 seconds to get to the moon, or 8.3 minutes to get to the sun.
Its hard to fathom God’s creation – its mind boggling.
We see pictures in books of our own solar system but they can never be to scale. If the earth were the size of a pea, Jupiter would be 3 lengths of a rugby field away,and Pluto, the furthest “planet” from earth would be 21/2 kilometers away. The nearest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri, would, on this scale, be 16000 kms away. There is absolutely no prospect whatsoever that any human being will ever travel to the edge of our solar system and our solar system is just a dot in the universe.
Amazing isn’t it…
And the God who made all this came right inside His creation. RIGHT INSIDE!
He who flung stars into space by speaking them into being, who spoke the separation of sky and earth, who announced light, and life.
This God came as a baby born of a virgin mother. The Lord of all creation, the master of the universe – God, made himself utterly dependent on man. Formed in the womb of a virgin girl, He came to us. It’s so hard to believe but it’s the real reason for the season.
This amazingly, fantastically big God became a child, a baby in a virgin’s womb – following his own rule for a nine month gestation period, and the years needed to be lived in order to grow to be a man – so that he could lay down the life He took up in order to change our destiny. To turn around everything that we had messed up in our life and history and to give us a new beginning.
Its no wonder that we do crazy things like coming to church in the middle of the week, and eating a roast lunch just a few days after the summer solstice.
I grew up on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. I haven’t yet seen the deserts of Australia but let me tell you, the Kalahari Desert is not a glad place. It’s dry and parched. In places its just moving sand, in other places, its hot sheets of stone, in still other places, the pebbles are the size of golf balls, black as the night and always shiny and hot and hard.
It does not rejoice. It drains the energy from you like a supernova. Despite everything it never quite has life – what life there is hides away, survives on little and blooms very seldom.
BUT, in God, the prophet Isaiah (Ch 35) tells us, the desert will be glad!
The wilderness will rejoice! It will burst into bloom and shout for joy! It is a metamorphosis! And its coming, says the prophet…so strengthen your hands, steady your knees, be strong, do not fear…
GOD IS COMING TO SAVE YOU!
Get up! Get ready! Get going! The eyes of the blind will be opened. The ears of the deaf unstopped. The lame will leap like a deer. The mute tongue will shout for joy. It’s a transformation! Deserts are blooming, invalid people are being restored. Have you thought about that… invalid people, in-valid people. Same word, different pronunciation, same meaning. People without worth, or value. The nothings of creation are becoming the somethings.
In Peter’s first letter, he says this, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Once you were not a people – you were in-valid, but now you are a chosen people, a people belonging to God. We easily miss the reference to the names of the unfaithful children of Hosea. God spoke through that prophet of starting all over again. The unloved became the loved and those without mercy received mercy – it’s the Message of Christmas!
God has transformed His creation.
He has taken a people made in His image, who through sin had made themselves in-valid, and He has, in His Son, born of a virgin, dead on a Cross, risen into glory, given us back the value we first had in Him. He started again.
Once you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy.
Christmas is the season of Emmanuel.
It is God with us and there can never, ever, be a better cause for celebration.
When John the Baptizer was becoming uncertain of his own future, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask the question, “Are you the One, or should we wait for another?”
Christ’s answer was simple – He quoted from Isaiah 35 – “Tell him what you see, the eyes of the blind are opened, the ears of the deaf are unstopped, the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shouts for joy.”
In more words than were necessary He was saying, I AM THE ONE!
Observe the fulfillment of prophecy! Look at broken, in-valid people being restored! My friends, water is gushing forth in the wilderness, there are streams in the desert, the burning sand has become a delightful pool, the land which at first sucked in the moisture is now a bubbling spring.
Its turnaround time. Its Christmas!
This celebration today says, “I believe this!”
We believe this promise is for everyone. This is the celebration of the greatest event which has ever, ever taken place. The Almighty entered into his creation to take sadness and sighing away from us and to overwhelm us with his gladness and joy.
Listen to the voices of those who discovered this in the beginning, when Christ was born amongst us:
Mary, the virgin mother. God chose to enter the world through her womb…
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
Zechariah, the father of John:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.
Simeon, the old priest in the Temple
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Because Christ has come, everything is different now!
God is with us!
Merry Christmas and God bless you all.
Rev David de Kock
- Sunday 11 December, 8.00am and 10.00am. Advent Services at St Aidan’s Uniting Church, cnr Princess and Chester Roads, Claremont
- Sunday 11 December, 8.00am and 10.00am. Advent Service with Nativity Play, carols and tea at St Aidan’s Uniting Church, cnr Princess and Chester Roads, Claremont
- Sunday 11 December, 9.30am. Carols Service at Ross Memorial, cnr Hay and Colin Streets, Perth
- Sunday 11 December, 9.30am. All Age Nativity Service at Trinity North Uniting Church, Greenwood Worship Centre, 89 Marlock Dve, Greenwood
- Sunday 11 December, 7.30pm. Fremantle Wesley Carol Service, Fremantle Wesley Uniting Church, Fremantle
- Sunday 18 December, 8.00am and 10.00am. Advent Services at St Aidan’s Uniting Church, cnr Princess and Chester Roads, Claremont
- Sunday 18 December, 9.30am. Spearwood Carol Service, Spearwood Uniting Church, Spearwood
- Sunday 18 December, 10.00am. A Celebration of Nine Lessons and Carols at Wesley Uniting Church, cnr William and Hay Streets, Perth
- Sunday 18 December, 10.00am. A Festival of Lessons and Carols at Trinity Uniting Church, 72 St George’s Terrace, Perth
- Saturday 24 December, 5.00pm. Condingup Uniting Church’s Christmas Eve Service at Recreation Reserve Hall
- Saturday 24 December, 5.00pm. Christmas Eve Service at Manjimup Uniting Church, Manjimup
- Saturday 24 December, 6.30pm. Christmas Eve Service at Trinity North Uniting Church, Greenwood Worship Centre, 89 Marlock Dve, Greenwood
- Saturday 24 December, 7.30pm. Service of Lessons and Carols at Scarborough Uniting Church, cnr Moorland and Northstead Streets, Scarborough
- Saturday 24 December, 7.30pm. Christmas Eve Service at Trinity North Uniting Church, Duncraig Worship Centre, 29 Wandoo Road,
- Saturday 24 December, 11.15pm. Christmas Eve Service at Wesley Uniting Church, cnr William and Hay Streets, Perth
- Saturday 24 December, 12 midnight. Midnight Service at Manjimup Uniting Church, Manjimup
- Sunday 25 December, 8.00am. Christmas Day Service at Watermans Bay Uniting Church, Watermans Bay
- Sunday 25 December, 8.00am and 9.30am. Christmas Day Services at St Aidan’s Uniting Church, cnr Princess and Chester Roads, Claremont
- Sunday 25 December, 8.30am Afrikaans Christmas Service at Trinity Uniting Church, 72 St George’s Tce, Perth
- Sunday 25 December, 8.30am. Christmas Day Service at Lockyer Uniting Church, Townsend St, Albany
- Sunday 25 December, 8.30am. Christmas Day Service at Trinity North Uniting Church, Greenwood Worship Centre, 89 Marlock Dve, Greenwood
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Scarborough Uniting Church, Scarborough
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Fremantle Wesley Uniting Church, Fremantle
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Spearwood Uniting Church, Spearwood
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Esperance Uniting Church, Windich St, Esperance
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Maylands-Mt Lawley Uniting Church, Railway Parade, Mount Lawley
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Mundaring Uniting Church, Mundaring
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Trinity North Uniting Church, Duncraig Worship Centre, 29 Wandoo Rd, Duncraig
- Sunday 25 December, 9.00am. Christmas Day Service at Trinity North Uniting Church, Cousin’s Hall, St Stephen’s School, Doveridge Drive, Duncraig
- Sunday 25 December, 9.30am Christmas Celebration at Ross Memorial Church, cnr Hay and Colin Streets, West Perth
- Sunday 25 December, 9.30am. Christmas Day Service at Albany Uniting Church, Duke St, Albany
- Sunday 25 December, 10.00am. Christmas Day Celebration at Trinity Uniting Church, 72 St George’s Tce, Perth
- Sunday 25 December, 10.00am. A Christmas Celebration at Wesley Uniting Church, cnr William and Hay Streets, Perth
For the full edition of Presbytery News and Notes click the link below.