It's Christmas Day but listening to the Isaiah text my thoughts are drawn to 2 house renovation programmes on TV. "The Block", with its confected human dramas, and my preference, the BBC show about people with a dream transforming derelict barns and farms in England into homes of light and warmth. What engages me is their inspired dream and vision, of restoring, making new, completing and perfecting.
What has this to do with Christmas? The Isaiah reading is in that same sense though I doubt Isaiah would appreciate being likened to a house renovator! Renewal, setting to right, better times to come, sets the mood and expectation for the story of Jesus birth in Bethlehem. The sense that better times are coming, through the intervention of God in human history.
Christmas is more than a celebration of the birth of a significant baby >2000 years ago. It acknowledges the fulfilling of God's promises to begin a process of renewal, expressed in the imagery of a land freed from an occupying army, of rights restored, of roads symbolically cleared of obstacles. The Christ child, to whom the shepherds hurry, is one in whom all these expectations are invested.
So we gather on Christmas Day 2010. Interesting report in the Sun on Tuesday last that only an average 20% of 800 respondents in a survey named Christmas as Christ's birthday. 75% of respondents understand Christmas is about good times with family and friends. There is nothing wrong with associating Christmas with good times with family and friendsdidn't the angel speak of peace and good will among men with whom God is pleased? If the religious aspects of Christmas were more widely understood, we would all approve, and the church has hard work ahead to extend the community's understanding of one of our greatest festivals. But think about it when the shepherds went to the stable Luke does not say that they worshipped the new born child, or fully understood what they were seeing they came, they told Joseph about the angels, and they went back again deliriously happy, disturbing the sleep of the town like rowdy partygoers returning from the pub in the wee hours. What will we say to a less than comprehending community?
All these are woven into the meaning of the child born in Bethlehem. Each element of the story bears witness to the extraordinary nature of Jesus, and of the work of renewing, changing and making better, the world and its people.
Christmas is truly a story of Good News of God engaging the world in an as yet unfinished story. There is a standing joke that no renovation or rebuilding is ever truly finished God's transformation of the world began in Jesus. liked all renovations, we are not sure when it will end but we work on in the meantime, rejoicing in the Lord who works beside us, inspiring, laughing and weeping with us whose story began at Christmas, but whose end is also our end.
Rejoice that Jesus is born in Bethlehem! Amen.