Accept the gift – give your heart
A sermon for Christmas - 2017
John 1: 1-14
As we look for your coming among us this day
Open our eyes to behold your presence
And strengthen our hands to do your will
That the world may rejoice and give you praise
(from the Liturgy of morning prayer for ADVENT)
This advent (2017) I think we are being invited to a new view of things.
• FACT – Jesus is the Son of God (scripture tells us)
• FACT – Jesus is a world changer (history tells us)
• FACT – Jesus is our saviour (our Christian faith tells us)
• FACT – the Son of God was born a tiny baby
• At Christmas we remember that Heaven bridges to earth.
So, let’s open our eyes and look. How can we see Jesus differently?
I have been on sabbatical from All Saints for four months.
I have a new job as Chaplain at the University of Bath.
I have a background in medicine, working as a doctor, in A&E and then a hospice.
Many students, I believe, are exploring faith and meaning.
Many are looking down!
I go out on campus walks. This is to get among the people – students and staff. Not many naturally come to the chaplaincy. I walk out at lecture change-over time. Most of the students walk quickly, face down, looking at their mobile phones. They occasionally look up, and maybe fleetingly make eye contact! I try to walk more slowly, and I have a rule never to have my mobile out. I try and engage this eye contact, and look for a smile. They may see this (pointing to my clerical collar). More now look up and see, sometimes they smile, and it feels as if human contact has been made. I describe this also as a good model of a new faith step – to look up and see.
Other people we know in life are walking along, but “looking backwards”. They are stuck –their gaze trapped by stuff, maybe depressed, or fraught, or unforgiving…….just stuck! These need to turn and look ahead (Philippians 3: 12-14). To be released, by prayer, from the past – as God can – is to go to a new freedom. This is another type of new faith step.
A third step is re-awakening faith. Many people have the seed of faith planted somewhere. In hospice care, I came to see that there are very few atheists when the chips are down. An Army padre told me recently that he finds, in his practice, that there are no atheists on the battle field. This re-awakening of faith is a rediscovery – often looking at once familiar faith in a new way. It can be a move from knowing about Jesus (a “head look”) to knowing him in a relationship way (a “heart look”).
Anna is a staff colleague at the university, working in a PA role. In the Autumn she was prompted to ask me for prayer. Her father was very unwell. So we prayed together. Her dad recovered. I suggested to Anna that maybe God was calling her. I wondered if Jesus was knocking on the door of her life (Revelation 3: 20) …………………
The Christian story is familiar. Luke tells us the details of God’s salvation plan for the world he created, in his carefully researched account compiled for his friend Theophilus (Luke 1: 1-4) so that “you may know….”
• Tells of Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah. That miracle. She would have a baby who would be full of the Holy Spirit before birth
• Tells of Gabriel’s visit to Mary. A virgin birth? Why not? Christians believe that God raised Jesus from the dead……. So certainly this is possible.
• Tells of Mary, pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and the Son of God only “a few cells old”, going to see Elizabeth, to see for herself. As Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting the baby John, now six months in Elizabeth’s womb, leaps with joy.
• Tells of the birth of Jesus
• Tells of the joy of the angels in Heaven, almost overflowing to tell the shepherds
• Tells of the shepherds’ reaction – “let’s go and see”
So what is it all about? Let us go and see. Let us look up, turn and look ahead, reawaken, re-discover….. and make a step of faith tonight…
The start of John’s Gospel that we heard tonight, different to the other three gospels, tells a later and more advanced understanding. “In the beginning was the Word……. and the Word was God”.
This, part of the substance of God, came to be present in the world. Jesus is giving life to all who believe in him - new life, eternal life, and joy now, full of grace and truth.
Anna and I read this booklet (hold up the “why Jesus” booklet by Nicky Gumbel – ref below)
It is an excellent account of the frame work of the Christian faith
Anna looked at it with her heart.
We talked, we read, I explained,
And when we came to the invitation to believe, I waited.
Anna said “yes of course”. It was as if, when she looked at it with her heart, the truth was obvious.
She committed her life to Jesus last week.
• use your “heart eyes”
• Commit. I am certain of this truth. Jesus has come to bring life.
At the end of this evening I would love to give you a copy of this booklet.
We, at All Saints Weston, are running the Alpha course in the New Year. Come. This a good and interactive way of understanding Christianity
I am going to conclude with a prayer of commitment. I first said this prayer in 1986, and have never regretted it. It changed my life. So please hear, maybe pray it with me – take this step.
Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask his forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience). Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know to be wrong.
Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.
Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Spirit. I now receive that gift.
Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me for ever. I ask for your peace, life, grace and truth.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, Amen.
Post script: if reading this has enabled a step of faith, please do:
1. tell someone you trust
2. find a good modern translation of the bible (eg NIV). Start to read it. Maybe start with John’s Gospel. Ask God to speak to you as you read
3. Start to speak (i.e. pray) to God each day
4. Find and join a lively church
1. “Why Jesus?” Nicky Gumbel ISBN: 978 1 904074 57 1
2. “Questions of Life” Nick Gumbel