The one thing that all would agree on is that Christmas is a time of celebration. Celebrate the end of another year at work, another year at school, another year at study. Christmas parties are happening everywhere. And Christians agree. We may celebrate for different reasons and we may celebrate in a different way but celebration is part and parcel of what we do as the people of God. This year is a special one for us. It is the Bicentenary of the first Christian sermon preached in New Zealand.
Samuel Marsden’s text shows the reason we celebrate. “I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Once again we stand in awe of the wonder of that Good News. God has become one of us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. How do you get your head around that? The greatest Christian minds have grappled with the question. Some have come up with answers that are still with us today and still shape our thinking. But in the end it is not through the intellect alone that we come to grips with the wonder of Christmas. The only fully appropriate response is worship. It will include our minds but will also transform them as we gaze once again at the Babe in the manger. Our hearts will be moved at the grace of God who stooped so low to pick us up from the mess we have made of His world and our own lives. God gave despite who we are. God continues to give to those who do not deserve it. God gives so that we, by receiving the gift He has given, may be lifted up to be more and more like Him. We are made in His image. Our sin mars that image at times almost beyond recognition. Yet the wonder of Christmas is that He continues to move towards us inviting us to respond to the grace He is extending.
No wonder then that we worship. But even this is not enough unless it results in changed lives. The prophets thunder against worship that does not lead to obedience. (Isaiah 1) Obedience is not a popular word today but it is central to our Christian discipleship. St John puts it this way, “And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He has commanded us.” (1 John 3: 23) Love for God that shows in worship that leads to obedience and results in a change life. That is the message of Christmas.
So let’s celebrate. Let’s enjoy Christmas to the full, knowing that we are enjoying the benefits of the great gift of the God of grace. Let’s show it in our lives as well as in our worship and celebrations.