Christmas Day Message, 2020

Who was the Angel Gabriel? Few creatures are as misunderstood as angels. But I love the role they play in bringing about God’s plans and purposes.  The Bible tells us that these heavenly messengers are supernatural beings, – not human beings who have “earned” wings in the next life by being good in this one. The Bible also tells us that when people encounter an angel, they tend not to say “Aww, how cute” like we do when we see the artist Raphael’s chubby baby cherubs. On the contrary, angel seers are filled with awe. ,They fall to the ground, and if they could, they would reach for the nearest defibrillator!

The Angels were certainly busy for a while as they played their part in ushering in God’s purposes.  Gabriel is one of only two angels whose names are mentioned in Scripture (the other is Michael). Whatever epic assignments Gabriel had previously undertaken for the Lord, this one surely topped them all. He was sent “to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26–27).

Only heaven knows how long Gabriel hovered unseen above the girl before he made his presence known.

Mary was so . . . young! She didn’t seem old enough to have a child, much less this child. Nevertheless, Gabriel spoke and delivered his message:

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

Gabriel answered a few of Mary’s questions, then added, “For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).

Mary seem to willingly accept this mission, however impossible it might appear to be.

A few weeks later Gabriel visited Mary’s shocked fiancé Joseph to explain the reason for this situation and this particular name: “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)

Perhaps, when thinking about this later, Joseph wondered if he’d really heard correctly.  Had an angel really spoken to him?  Things can look so different in the cold light of day.

But how do you picture angels?  Do you think about what they thought as they winged themselves back to heaven after playing their part in God’s plans and purposes to save humanity?

I wonder if Gabriel puzzled over the meaning of his visitations. As he winged himself back to heaven, did he ponder a thousand inscrutable questions:

Really, the Eternal One entering into time?

The Almighty becoming a helpless, tiny baby in the womb of an unmarried girl?

Deity in nappies?

The One who built the universe from scratch becoming the adopted son of a common carpenter?

Why not break into history in a more spectacular way?

Perhaps you can see Gabriel shaking, or even scratching, his big golden angel head.

Maybe it didn’t work that way. Maybe God’s heavenly servants aren’t given to such musings. But we earthly servants should be.

are we musing over the events of Christ’s birth today? Or are we caught up too much with Covid 19?

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus may we allow God to leave us staggered with speechless wonder by the story of God coming amongst us.


An invitation…

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

We’re continuing to look at the theme of invitation, with the question; what does Jesus invite us to do? 

Jesus invites us to get ourselves right with Him first.

This needs to be our priority every day.  It is not a once and for all thing.  But it’s too easy to busy our lives with “good things”.  Jesus doesn’t want us to do this.  He doesn’t want us to busy ourselves with “good things”.

The account of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is about doing the right thing at the right time.  But it is more than this.  This event in Jesus’ life encourages us to take action only after spending time in Jesus presence, getting ourselves right with God our Father.

Getting right with God involves asking myself:

  • What do I need to deal with in my life before I can go on and do the right thing?
  • What is God asking me to sort out?

You may consider yourself a “do-er” and think that that is good enough.  But it is essential to get right with God, through Jesus, first.

Getting right is about confessing sins, letting God show us what sins we need to confess, revealing to us which areas of our life are not in line with His truth.

Mary hung on to every word Jesus was saying.  Is that our attitude?

But why was Jesus in their home in the first instance?  Jesus was passing by and Martha opened up her home to Him.

Martha takes the initiative, and without hesitation Jesus willingly accepted Martha’s invitation.  Then Jesus “took over” and took the initiative.  No doubt He was speaking about God, the Kingdom of Heaven, His mission.

Mary was soaking it up, like a sponge in water!

We need to welcome Jesus in to talk to us – chat with us.  Our response is to listen and respond – chat back. It is a two-way conversation.

Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening and catching what He was saying, was getting herself right with Him.

On the other hand, Martha, having invited Jesus in, got in a muddle, and busied herself with the wrong things.

But notice what Jesus says, He said “you are worried and upset about many things”

The words “many things” struck me!  It appears that Martha wasn’t just distracted by doing things to welcome their visitor, there were other things that were also distracting her from spending time in God’s presence and chatting and listening to Him in a two-way conversation

Martha was acting in a natural way – preparing the house for Jesus’ presence.  I’m sure she wanted it to be just right.

There is no harm in wanting to offer your best to Jesus, but I think that Jesus picked something up supernaturally that Martha was concerned with more than just household chores.

She was “worried and upset about many things”.

Sometimes it is possible for us to allow our “doing”, our service of Christ, to degenerate into mere busy work that is no longer full of devotion to God.  We can be so busy for Jesus that we forget to spend time with Him.  If we’re not careful and don’t listen and chat to Jesus, our service can become self-serving.

So how do we learn to recognise and know God’s voice?  How do we respond to the invitation to sit at Jesus’ feet and catch what He is doing and saying to us?  How do we know what God is calling us to do?

We listen, and catch what God is doing, and respond accordingly.  As we listen and catch, we begin the life-long process of getting ourselves right with God.

Based on a sermon delivered on Sunday 2nd February 2020.