Sunday 22 December 2013

Matthew 1 v 18/25

Most people know this story having been to a Nativity play, heard it at Sunday School, or sang at Carol Concerts. Even those who never cross a Church doorstep in the year will attend midnight Mass service. People who do not think of Christ from one end of the year to the end sing about Him.

Overpaid and under talented pop groups will sing about Chris-se-muss, yet the Christian impact is less at Christmas than at any other time. In the United States an atheist organisation is placing posters in New York asking for Christ to be taken out of Christmas, and here in England people have written to papers to say just get rid of religion at Christmas and let us enjoy it.

Why do Churches, contrary to normal services, fill up at Christmas time when their message has so little notice taken of it? Because a baby does not threaten nor make you feel uncomfortable. This story is for ever new and relevant; we put Christ back into Christmas and if you Him out all you have left is M & S. The Bible says ‘He will be called Jesus because He will save His people from their sins’.

This is why people reject Jesus, He makes them feel guilty. He didn’t come to save us from problems or loneliness or hardship, just from our own misdoings. Here in this story you have one of the basic doctrines of the Church, the Virgin Birth. The Bible is clearly unequivocal, ‘this is how the birth of Christ came about’. If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, you have no problem with accepting this.

In Jewish culture of that time there were three stages in a relationship. First there was the announcement of the engagement. Often the parents would choose the partners, and some people think that they made a better job of things. After the announcement the betrothal would take place when the couple entered into a legal contract to marry, which could only be ended by divorce. The woman was viewed as a wife although no physical contact was made. If either party died the other would be deemed a widow(er).

Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant and was told by an angel that this was through the Holy Spirit. I can understand some modern day sceptics will ridicule this, and it may be beyond our understanding, but those who have faith and trust the Bible will not have difficulty in believing.
When we look at all the marvels and wonders of technology and see what we can achieve by man’s endeavour, is it so difficult to believe that the God who made the world could not also perform wonders and miraculous events.

Joseph although shocked accepted what he must have thought wrong, and by doing so allowed Jesus to be born in the line from David, and was rewarded with the direct message from God. Messages and visions have regularly been used by God to communicate His plan to His chosen ones.

God took Mary to give the humanity of Jesus whilst the Holy Spirit provided the divinity. God has often acted in supernatural ways in giving women children when they could not have conceived by normal human ways, such as with Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth.

You will read of Jesus being hungry, thirsty, tired, and sad, reflecting his humanity, but you will also read of His works which could only have been accomplished because of His divinity. If you are only prepared to see Jesus as some sort of exceptional social worker or reformer, you are failing to recognise all He came to do.

I have served with Christians who refuse to accept Mary as a normal Jewish woman. enjoying married life with Joseph in a normal physical relationship, refusing to accept any such normal married life, ignoring also Jesus had brothers and possibly sister. The Bible clarifies this in Matthew’s gospel when it states, Joseph had no union with her’ ‘until she gave birth to a son whom she named Jesus’

Until recent times Christianity in the West was a distinct part of our heritage and culture. We celebrated all the main festivals especially Christmas and Easter. We are in danger of seeing this great faith wiped out of public life by aggressive secular and atheistic forces, which have gained strength way beyond their size in this country, and it appears even more so in the great land of the United States which was once seen as a bastion for the Chistian faith, and in fact still has in some places Churches of such size that we could only dream of this country. So why are these pathetic, ignorant organisations allowed to peddle their venom so freely.

Good Friday, once such a solemn day reflecting the greatest sacrifice made on behalf of men and women is now no more than another shopping opportunity. Sundays have long since been ignored as a holy day. Now even Christmas, which only has credence because of its Christian association, is in danger of being replaced as an orgy of shopping, drinking and immorality.

Once Christmas Day, like Sundays, was a closed day for shops (as I understand it still is in Germany) now even that is being abandoned, and amazingly under a Conservative administration which once was seen as more prone to support the Church

Perhaps the greater condemnation ought to be directed at Church leaders who up to now have not put forth any resistance, in contrast to their devious plotting to ensure the appointment of women as bishops, over- riding normal rules of procedure. If it is desire to appoint women, fair enough, but play by the normal rules and show the integrity demanded from Christians.

Similarly there was no lethargy in the hasty desire to appoint a Committee to enquire how to get around the problem of recognising same sex marriages without appearing duplicitous.

If positive and equally aggressive steps are not taken to defend the Christian faith, using all modern methods of communication, there will be no Christianity to defend.

The birth of our Lord and Saviour should be an apt time to start reclaiming the ground so which has so feebly been surrendered. Other faiths are ever ready to take our place in the spiritual vacuum which will be left.

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