Is God with us?
To come to know Christ in our lives is quite a privilege because through Christ we come to know God’s love and direction in our lives. It is also quite a privilege to be able to share the love of Christ with others and the Nativity story and Nativity service is a wonderful time to remind and encourage people of God’s love for them. Christmas becomes a time not of shopping all the time but of sharing God’s love with one another because God is with us!
I have been to several children’s nativities over the years which is a real privilege because as a man and a Father working many hours I never did get to see my own children in their nativities. So to see many nativities now is wonderful!
I have seen animals in the stable including a wise owl, a very loud cockerel and a couple of cows who didn’t like each other and started fighting. I have seen nativity stories with Superman, Batman and Robin. I have seen one nativity story where the prayerful angels came down the aisle and one of them was carrying a bucket because her friend was feeling sick!
Nativity services are often imaginative.
You might have heard of the Nativity play where Mary & Joseph were knocking on doors only to receive the reply ‘No Room’ several times when a little girl came up to them and said ‘Well you should have booked’!.
This year at St David’s we have had our own nativity service with praise and dancing, we have had a nativity service from Warren Hills School where the head teacher had tears in her eyes because she was so proud of what the children had achieved and 3 Carol services from Broom Leys school all of which had a lovely atmosphere of praise and thanksgiving, including the loud and energetic singing of one little boy which could be heard above everyone else’s voices.
There have been nativity stories told in Playgroup and Nurseries by Mary and I have heard of the wonderful ones put on by Sarah and Bec in their pre-schools and we had a lively Carol service with Brigade last week and a totally unrehearsed one at After School Church!.
In all these nativities we meet with God through the delight of children, we come from the stresses and strains of our day or our week to be delighted by children’s performances and emerge feeling that Christmas has started, that we feel a little different, more inclined to wish goodwill to all people than we did before perhaps.
The danger of course is to keep the nativity story with the children, as a children’s story told through children’s eyes and not engage with it as Adults, to not take away that ‘God is with us’ and wants to make his presence known to us.
Matthew writes in his Gospel (Matthew 1:18-25), ‘his Good News account of God coming to be with us’, eye witness accounts and testimonies of those who have witnessed the events of Jesus life. Matthew is one of Jesus followers and a disciple and he writes his eye witness accounts to a mainly Jewish audience. He writes an account of God being with us. But he writes this account with the knowledge that God has always been involved with his people, rescuing them and saving them from the situations they found themselves in. He makes reference to the prophet Isaiah telling King Ahaz, who was presiding over a declining nation; that God would not forsake his people and that a young woman would bear a child who would be God’s witness. This virgin was most likely the one who bore a son to Ahaz called Hezekiah, but Matthew notices that God’s intervention with his people that was once through prophets like Isaiah, becomes something different this time. This time God actually comes to be with us as a baby Jesus, to be with his people, to accompany them, but God doesn’t come in glory, he doesn’t come in triumph, he comes to ordinary people, many who are outcast and in poverty, living lives that are hard.
Mary is a young girl, she is betrothed and would most likely be around 11 to 12 years old, a virgin. Betrothal was a binding contract, almost like a marriage, although the couple would not live together. Mary’s whole life changes when Gabriel tells her that she is to have a child from God, in fact it is God himself. A child to a betrothed unmarried young girl, would bring assumptions and rumours about her worthiness and character, she would be in disgrace and shame, she would become an outcast, her betrothal would be broken and she would never be able to marry. Yet ‘Mary says to Gabriel, here I am a servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word’. How can God put Mary through this, I often think, but she conceives under the power of the Holy Spirit, she gives birth as any normal woman would and in fact goes onto have children with Joseph after Jesus is born. She is an ordinary girl who says yes to God despite the consequences. Joseph the man Mary is betrothed to, is an ordinary working carpenter who wants to mitigate the shame upon Mary, until Gabriel appears to him and Joseph decides not to divorce but to marry her.
It is under these circumstances that God decides to be with us. To faithful young ordinary people who now face disgrace and shame, who face a long journey to Bethlehem, who face a birth in a room where animals are fed, who face poverty and who become persecuted by Herod and become refugees. These are the circumstances of frailty and fragility and need that God decides to be with us and it is under these circumstances that Mary and Joseph know God’s presence and strength with them.
For us, saying yes to God in our lives for the first time or the 101st time, is again saying Emmanuel ‘God be with us’ under all circumstances. It is saying yes to God to come and save us from our sins and the sins of the world and to accompany us on our journey of faith in our lives. We ask him to be our Saviour, to be with us.
This year at St David’s we have celebrated our 50th anniversary of this Church building and God’s people her in Coalville, in Broom Leys. We celebrate not just such a fantastic building but the witness of God being with us as ordinary people have said yes to him. This time last year we celebrated this anniversary and many friends and clergy who had serve here came back to see us or wrote to us.
The only reason these Ministers served here was because God is with us. They didn’t come to buy a house here, or to get a job here, or to retire her. The only reason they came was because God called them, because God is with us. I am so pleased that we invested in a board with their names on that is a witness to God being here with us. In fact the first Vicar here, Joe Edwards, has only recently died after many years of service and witness to God being with us.
I am also so pleased that we have invested in a Paschal candle stand. This holds a candle that is dedicated each year on Easter day and witnesses to the light of Christ here in our lives, that God is with us. We light it to show that significance this morning. God is with us.
I am also so pleased that we are able to use the generous gifts that were contributed in memory of Maurice Eames our former Verger and the generous contributions given in memory of our friend Roger Harris to buy these 2 important symbols to that remind us of God being with us as he is also with both of them.
In the Nativity story, God comes to be with us as his son Jesus Christ, he comes to ordinary people, some of whom live in oppression and poverty, and he comes to strengthen them, to rescue them, to rebuild lives that have been broken and to save them from the sins and evils of the world so that they may not be lost but may know God’s love. This is not a story told through children’s eyes but is one for all adults.
This is the God who comes to be with us this Christmas if we ask him, this is the God who gives us the gift of grace and calls us to obedience and saves us to himself. This is the God who wants to accompany you on your journey of faith. May you know him and know the peace and love of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, this Christmas.