Christmas is amazing.
In fact it’s 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 God’s 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 creation.
God has taken a people made in God’s image, who through sin had made themselves in-valid, and has, in God’s son, born of a virgin, dead on a cross, risen into glory, given us back the value we first had. God 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
General Secretary, Uniting Church WA