Tag Archives: Christmas

Keep Christ in Christmas (25 December, 2014)


Luke 2.1–20

Often at Christmas time, we hear people talk about how Christ is being kept out of Christmas.

What do they mean?

Often, they are objecting to that common abbreviation, Xmas. Perhaps you’ve seen our church sign, which has ‘Xmas Eve’ and ‘Xmas Day’. Have we taken the Christ out of Christmas?

You know, there are people who say, ’We don’t worship X!’ ‘We worship Christ! It’s Christmas, not Xmas!’

You know what the problem is with that? We did it first. We Christians put the ‘X’ there first.

The first Greek letter of Christ looks to us like an X. It’s actually called ‘Chi’. So the letter Chi—‘X’—is a shortening of Christ. And what we pronounce ‘Xmas’ is just a shortening of Christmas.

Why was Chi, ‘X’, used as an abbreviation for Christ in the early days of Christian faith? It’s simple, really. Paper was a rare commodity in those days, so they shortened words so they could fit more words in. They didn’t even use punctuation!

So we can shorten the word Christmas today, where space is scarce—like on our church sign outside.

Writing ‘Xmas’ doesn’t take Christ out of Christmas. Not one bit.

But there is a very simple way to take Christ out of Christmas, and it is this: forget the poor. Continue reading

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If it’s December, it must be…Advent!—Advent 1, Year C (2 December 2012)

Jeremiah 33.14-16
Luke 21.25-36

Well, it’s December and what does that make you think of? Yes, Christmas. We can’t put off thinking about it any longer.

What do you think of first when you think of Christmas? For most of us, most of the time it’s not the coming of Jesus into the world. Oh yes, we think of that all right, but first we think of

  • buying presents
  • getting presents
  • getting the Christmas meal together
  • decorating the house
  • whose place will Christmas be at this year?
  • will Uncle Fred drink too much Christmas cheer again?
  • will Auntie Madge and Cousin Dot put aside their differences this year?
  • oh, and did I say buying pressies?

Christmas isn’t always a time of perfect bliss. Come to think of it, it’s more often a time of irritation. We tend to have this script inside us that Christmas has to be flawless; when it isn’t, some of us tend to play the blame game, whether we blame ourselves or someone else.

That’s why we really need Advent.

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A good, not perfect, Christmas (Christmas Day, 2011)

A good, not perfect, Christmas

Isaiah 9.1-7
Luke 2.1-20

This year has been a painful experience for people in many parts of the world. For example: Christchurch was wrecked by a terrible earthquake, the folk of Japan were devastated by a tsunami, recently the people of the Philippines were inundated by severe flooding and many asylum seekers drowned when their boat overturned.

And of course, Christchurch has been struck again by earthquakes; and Darwin may be hit by another Christmas cyclone.

It’s not been easy right here either. The floods last January left their mark in many ways. Those directly affected lost precious possessions and even homes. Some people lost their lives. The community rallied, and people showed that they could care. But even now, there are homes as yet unlived in since the floods. There are people scarred by depression. There are people who won’t go away this summer because they prefer to stay around their home. Just in case.

2011 has not been the easiest year.

Now Christmas is here, and we can forget all that. It’s a good thing to have a celebration, and Christmas gives us a celebration that’s as regular as clockwork. It’s always good to see the joy on children’s faces and perhaps recall our own Christmas memories.

Christmas is here, and it’s good. But you know, one of the things we often tell ourselves is that Christmas must not only be ‘good’; it must be perfect. Perfect meal, perfectly behaved kids, perfect gifts for people who—well…aren’t perfect. All this in times that are not perfect.

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Christmas Eve (Year A, 2010)

The human Saviour

Isaiah 9.2-7
Luke 2.1-20

How human was Jesus?

It’s a trick question. We can be certain that Jesus was as human as we are. We can be 100% certain that Jesus was 100% human.

But you know it seems to me that we want to ‘protect’ Jesus from being human. You just have to think of the carols we love, and the words we love to sing. Take Away in a manger, which we’ve just sung:

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

Are we sure about that? Little baby Jesus didn’t cry? I think we have built a kind of ‘fence’ around Jesus so that we protect him from any hint of sin or imperfection. If Jesus is sinless and perfect, he couldn’t have cried when he was a baby, right? Wrong.

Crying is all babies have.

What’s that empty feeling in my tummy?
I’d better cry! I’ll be full again soon.

What’s that sticky feeling in my pants?
I’d better cry! That big person will come and clean me.

Babies cry, and you can be sure Jesus cried when the cattle were ‘lowing’. We don’t have to protect Jesus from being human.

I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to come across a poem called Noel. It was written only last month by a local person. It’s a poem about Jesus’ humanity, and it pulls no punches. The author of this poem has an amazing mind. She is a woman in her late thirties who has a diagnosis of intellectual impairment. Her primary means of expressing herself is through ‘facilitated communication’. Despite having very limited functional speech, she has a startling ‘voice’! I had a ‘conversation’ with her last week. It was only possible because a psychologist used facilitated communication.

The poet is a person of faith. She believes as I do that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, ‘the Word made flesh’, the Son of God become one of us.

She believes this, but she doesn’t have to protect Jesus. She needs Jesus’ humanity to be a full humanity. I’m guessing, but I reckon that she needs the full humanity of Jesus because she has been ignored; rejected; despised; shamed—just like Jesus was. She identifies very closely with him.

Listen to her poem, Noel:


The 1st Noel
The baby did cry
His mother could not quieten him
Christ, the noisy saviour

The 2nd Noel
The baby did crawl
His mother could not stop the falls
Bruised Christ, the bloody saviour

The 3rd Noel
The baby did run
Poor Maria could not catch her son
Running Christ, the quick elusive saviour

The 4th Noel
The baby did tantrum
Maria did cry with embarrassment
Christ, the mad bad saviour

Jesus is fully human, with all that means. He was a boy; he exasperated Mary and Joseph at times. He stayed back at the temple when he was twelve, and frightened them half to death. Another time his mother Mary thought that the adult Jesus was mad and bad, and came to have him taken away. He eluded capture on more than one occasion. And later, Jesus fell on the way to the cross—and bled for us.

It’s crucially important that Jesus is completely human. When we are rejected, misunderstood and alone, there is one who has been there, who knows and cares about us. But more than that, one who is alive today. We’re not remembering the birth of a dead hero today. We’re celebrating the birth of a risen Saviour, the living Lord Jesus. All his suffering has been taken into God and has been transformed and filled with meaning.

That meaning is, of course, that he taught us the way to live. That he lived and died for us to bring us life and healing. That his Spirit lives within us now. Our lives, with their seasons of joy and sadness, also have meaning as we relate to Jesus. Christ is the noisy bloody quick elusive mad bad Saviour. All for us.

The woman who wrote these words has become a three-dimensional person to me. I could easily have ignored her; after all, she can’t speak much at all. I could have assumed that she had nothing to say. But through her poetry and with the aid of facilitated communication, I have found that she is an interesting and highly articulate person.

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember that Jesus is fully human. Let’s allow ourselves and others to be fully human. Let’s look for the humanity of others, especially those who are hard to understand or accept. Let’s walk the way of Jesus. Amen.

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Gabriel’s muse—a meditation for Advent 4

It was a very interesting mission, a very interesting mission indeed. Yes, it was…

I knew I was in for something really important when the Almighty called for me. It was something in the tone, a sense of urgency, yes, but also a sense of excitement. And it takes a lot to get the Almighty excited!

Of course, any job I was called to do would have to be important, I know that. The archangel Gabriel doesn’t get summoned to do menial tasks, no, I’m loooong finished with that sort of thing. No, I am sent to kings and great prophets. I announce great portents and forecast great events. I’d just been to see an important priest, Zechariah, whose wife was to bring the forerunner of the Messiah into the world. He didn’t believe me, so I struck him speechless. Serves him right!

So I unfolded my wings and hurried up, flying across heaven, narrowly missing a group of newcomers unused to dodging an archangel with things to do, places to go, the Person to see…

If it were possible for an angel to be out of breath, I would have been when I finally arrived at the Throne. I brushed some gold dust off my gown, and waited.

I wasn’t kept long, and then I was ushered into the Presence. I was almost intoxicated with anticipation! What could this assignment be?

(Of course, you do know that the word ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’? That’s what I am, a messenger of God. When I am sent, I go with God’s authority to speak God’s message. I just love it!)

Well, I was flummoxed, baffled, bewildered and bemused when I came out of the Presence. I had my message, I had the name of the person I had to see, I had a location. 

I had to see not a king, not even a priest, but some slip of a village girl called Mary. There are lots and lots of Marys. Never heard of this one. And the message was—well—embarrassing. If I could blush, I would!

And the place? Nazareth? Where was that? I was so indignant about this so-called mission that I forgot to ask! And I just knew it was doomed to failure!

I tried to find one of the other archangels to get it off my chest, but Michael and the rest were all out on missions too. Important missions. I on the other hand had to find a one-horse town called Nazareth.

Luckily for me, I knew it was in Israel somewhere. I flew backwards and forwards across the country about a hundred thousand times before I finally located it. Took me three whole nanoseconds! Not one of my better efforts, I must admit.

I entered Nazareth, and there she was. Mary. Just a skinny young girl really, but even I could see there was something about Mary. I quickly looked into my reflection in the village pond, saw that I was presentable, and walked up to her. And I said,

Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.

It always happens. No one expects to see an angel. They’re always scared. So I said,

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.

And I went right on:

And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

I knew she’d say this next bit. I didn’t want her to, but here it came. She said:

How can this be, since I am a virgin?

This was the embarrassing bit, the bit I didn’t want to do. I said (because I’m just the messenger):

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

I don’t know how that was supposed to happen, but that’s the message I had to give.

I expected her to say No thanks, not today thank you very much, I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m washing my hair tonight. But no. She said,

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

I’ll do it, she said. Just like that! Not knowing where it would take her or what would happen, she said Ok. She surely knew the tongues of the village gossips would start clacking, but she went ahead anyway.

From that moment, my admiration for Mary knew no limits.

I’d delivered the message, so I left her then. I knew the Son of God would be in safe hands. Mary’s ‘Yes!’ was going to change the world.

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