25 December 2012

Although the readings are the same for Christmas every year, it is important to allow the particular cycle to speak and give a different “flavour” to the Christmas celebration. Since we have just entered the year of Luke (Year C), we can bring some of Luke’s particular emphases into play in the Christmas celebration. These would include the inclusivity of God’s Reign, the high value Jesus places on women, the role of the Holy Spirit and prayer, and the nature of God’s Reign as an alternative “kingdom” which subverts the human kingdoms of the time.

May our worship this Christmas lead us deeper into the inclusive Reign of Christ.

Isaiah 52:7-10: A song in celebration of those who proclaim the good news of God’s salvation and rulership, for God has redeemed God’s people in the sight of all nations.

Psalm 98: A call to praise God for God’s salvation, faithfulness and love for God’s people, in which musicians, vocalists and all creation are invited to join the song, because God has established justice in the world.

Hebrews 1:1-4(5-12): Although in the past God spoke through prophets, now God has spoken through God’s Son, through whom all things were created. The Son is the light of God’s glory, and sustains all things. He cleansed people from sin and sat at God’s right hand. He is far greater than any of the angels – who worship him – and his throne is eternal.

John 1:1-14: The Word who existed in eternity with God, and through whom all things were made, has become flesh, lived among us, and revealed God’s glory to us. John came as a witness to this light, who was not welcomed by his own people, but who has enabled those who did receive him to become God’s children.

At the heart of the Christmas readings is the proclamation of God’s reign. Isaiah celebrates the Messenger who proclaims the good news of God’s reign. Psalm 98 describes God, and all of creation, announcing God’s victory and the coming of God’s just judgement. In Hebrews, the desire of God to communicate God’s love and grace is described – God spoke through prophets, but now speaks through God’s Son. In the Gospel, God’s Word is embodied, incarnated, bringing life and a relationship with God to all who receive Christ. When we place these readings alongside the particular focus of the year of Luke, we get a unique perspective on the way God’s Reign is proclaimed (even though Luke’s Gospel is not actually used on Christmas Day). Two ideas that stand out in the readings that resonate with Luke’s perspective on the Reign of God are “justice” and “all nations”. For Luke, the Reign of God has particular significance for the outsider – the poor, the powerless, the Gentile, women, and it these people, in particular, who need and long for God’s justice to be revealed. So, the Christmas story is one of hope for those who long for justice, ensuring them that God’s justice is indeed here. It is also one of challenge for those who oppose justice, assuring them that God’s Reign will not be resisted, and ultimately justice will prevail. Finally, this justice is all-inclusive. It is not just for some people but for all people, and it includes all of creation. The Christ Child – the Light who has come into the world (in John’s words) – is not a gentle, meek and mild baby, so much as a dangerous, subversive, revolutionary who, even in the manner of his incarnation, upsets the power, wealth and status systems of our world. May this be the message we proclaim this Christmas!

Global Application:
The challenging call of this year’s Christmas message is to celebrate the incarnate One, while recognising that the life and light that Christ has brought into the world can only really be received and enjoyed when we live in solidarity with the weak, vulnerable, poor and powerless. We are to be those who listen and respond to God’s word spoken in Christ through acts of mercy, kindness, justice and love. But, we are also to be those whose feet are lovely as we bring the Good News of God’s justice to others. It is tragic, then, that Christians are often known more for fighting against the so-called “War on Christmas” (which is really just a refusal to bow to particular theological and cultural norms that certain Christians try to impose on everyone), than we are for our acts of justice and mercy, inclusion and service, at this time. We need to be reminded that within the “weakness” of this Child, amazing strength is manifest. Christ reveals God’s refusal to buy into human political or economic systems or agendas (even Christian ones), revealing their darkness while not being overcome by them. The incarnation, then, must call us to reject “worldly” values of materialism, consumerism, separatism, and judgementalism, while welcoming all people into the just, peaceful, gracious and inclusive Reign of God. If there is anything to celebrate this Christmas, it is not the gifts we give, but the promise of a new reality in which we are called to participate.

Local Application:
The incarnation of Christ calls us to be participants in incarnation. In our communities and churches we can embody the just ways of Christ, opting out of the power struggles and “worldly” use of faith/religion for political or material gains. We can embrace the hidden, agenda-less, self-giving life of Christ. And if we will renew our commitment to incarnation, we will seek and find the places that most need us to serve, heal, and reconcile while also confronting abuses of power, wealth or faith. This is Christmas in the spirit of the Year of Luke, lived with a clear sense of God’s Reign coming among us and within us again. This is truly Good News, which will be welcomed by those around us, who are served, protected, healed and uplifted by our presence and compassion. This is what demonstrates the reality of Christ’s life and the “victory” of God which is celebrated in the Psalm and Isaiah. If we are willing to listen to the message of compassion, inclusivity and justice that God has spoken through Christ, and if we are willing to embody that message in our own lives, families and communities, we will know the true light of Christmas coming into the world, and we will know ourselves as those who have received Christ, who believe in his name, and who are rightly called children of God.

Silent Night
Come Again
The Foolishness Of Faith
The Familiar Story
Great God Of Miracles And Surprises
You Have Come To Us
Good News

Hymn Suggestions:
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Joy To The World
Good Christian Men Rejoice (Can better be sung as “Good Christians all rejoice”)
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Christmas Angels Medley (Chord chart based on selected verses & well-known tunes of popular Carols)Angels From The Realms Of Glory
Do You Hear What I Hear (Link to YouTube video)
What Kind Of Throne
You Bring Peace

A Liturgy for Advent & Christmas

The Word Became Flesh
What Do You Want?
It Is Christmas

Colours & Kings
The Foolishness of Christmas

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