Hearing the Christmas story again

Hearing the Christmas story again

It is Christmas. Again. There are some that love tradition, doing the same things in the same ways every year. Even if you don’t love this kind of thing, you cannot avoid it. The supermarkets are full of the same music, the decorations are dusted off and put up, and various meals are organised for family and friends.

Oh, and Christians go to church to hear about the birth of Jesus.

I have been to many Christmas services. I have preached many Christmas sermons. It’s probably the most preached theme in a lot of churches, even though Jesus’ birth narratives can only be found in two of the gospels. There will be many sermons preached on the prophecies in Isaiah about the virgin birth and Immanuel, and many connections to the promises made to Adam and to Abraham so long ago.

It can be a little like going to watch the Titanic movie when we go to church at Christmas time. We already know what’s going to happen. We are not expecting any surprises. On the other hand, with so many other things usually on our minds, it is easy to come not expecting to learn anything, and just to tick the box in our minds that we have been to church at Christmas.

This Christmas, I’m not going to promise that you will learn anything new in the Christmas sermon. Maybe you will pick up an odd fact here or there about Herod or what first-century Palestine was like, but most Christians will know what the message is. God sent his Son to save us from our sins, to make us from his enemies into his friends, and he did this through keeping his promises and sending a son born in the line of David who would rule forever.

We have heard it before. And we need to hear it again. Like in the song “Tell me the old, old story”, we need to hear the same message. We forget and start to think that getting to God is all about our morality or our religion. We start to think too highly of ourselves. We start to drop our prayer and our wonder at a God who loved us enough to die for us. We don’t need novelty; we don’t need clever preachers making this day about the environment or refugees; we need to hear of the birth of Jesus, the one who would save his people from their sins, as the angel proclaimed.

You may not learn anything new at church this Christmas. But you need to hear what you already know. You need to sing songs of God’s love and grace and fulfilled promises. As you do, your faith will be strengthened. Your appreciation for God’s work will increase. And you will be more thankful for the ultimate thing you should always be thankful for: Jesus.