December 25, 2017
Categorised in: Sermons
Preached by Bishop Tim Dakin, using Isaiah 9: 2-7; Luke 2:2-14 at Sung Eucharist on Monday 25th December 2017, Christmas Day.
Have you watched those films that begin with ‘This story is based on actual events’? True-story films like the classic Lawrence of Arabia, or 12 Years a Slave or, most recently, Dunkirk, bring home to us the personal reality of history, and show how key people change history. Now, the Christmas story is not only based on true events, it is also about someone who changed history.
Luke indicates the ultimate significance of the person and story of Jesus by setting the scene: Augustus is Emperor, Quirinius is Governor, but the clue is the mention of David. Luke’s point is this: Jesus’ registered ancestor is David. Emperor and Governor should take note: this story is about a person who makes history like King David. In fact, this person is still changing the world.
The Bible tells us about the ultimate significance of Jesus through his titles. From the Christmas story onwards, these titles are used to indicate who Jesus is. I’ll reflect on three, Son, Saviour & Sovereign, drawing out their significance for us personally and for the Church in this Diocese.
Titles of Jesus
First, Jesus is the Son. Luke calls him Mary’s ‘firstborn son’, yet we also know that Gabriel has already told Mary that Jesus is the Son of God. Mary’s son is the Son of God. The mystery of Christmas is that in Jesus God shares our life completely. Just as Mary loves Jesus so much, God also loves him, but even more. In fact, in Jesus, God show us, by becoming one of us, that we’re all loved. God sent his Son to show us his love. So each of us is loved personally and individually beyond telling. Our dignity and worth are rooted in Jesus’ birth, not in human rights!
Second, Jesus is Saviour. Caesar Augustus claimed that he was a saviour, but the angel says the Saviour is Jesus. Later on Mary is warned what this will cost Jesus. The Christmas mystery includes the cross. Jesus will reconnect us with God by dying for the sin that separates us from God. Our potential to respond to God’s personal love only comes alive as we say Sorry for our sin, and as we turn our whole lives around to God. In Jesus God reaches out in love and draws each of us to himself. In Jesus God says ‘Yes’ to us, ‘No’ to our sin, and ‘Yes’ to all we can be.
Third, Jesus is the ‘Sovereign’. The angels announce Jesus is Messiah, the anointed King, the Sovereign Lord greater than David and Caesar. This too is the good news, the gospel, of the Christmas mystery. In fact, the Gospels were written because of the resurrection when it was realised that everything about Jesus is true. No resurrection, no Christmas, no gospel. But the resurrection made it all real: Jesus is risen as Sovereign Lord. His resurrection transforms the world and shows us that as the Sovereign Lord he’s still at work, bringing purpose and peace.
Implications for Life
Jesus as Son, Saviour and Sovereign may seem a long way off from what we may get caught up in at Christmas. We may have been struggling to buy presents, prepare the food, take part in a nativity play, keep up with the Christmas cards, or work out how to skate with a penguin. This is what we do at Christmas in our busy and consumer society. Is this all there is to Christmas?
The real Jesus of Christmas, the Son, the Saviour and the Sovereign, also asks us to pause, and to receive him anew this Christmas. As the Son he invites us to know God’s love for each of us; as the Saviour he draws us to himself in repentance; and as the Sovereign Lord he offers us a transforming way to live, trusting in him for a new purpose and for hope of a peaceful world.
At Dunkirk the soldiers wondered if anybody really loved them, they desperately wanted to be saved from their enemies, and when they got back they really needed to hear the message from Churchill that England would never surrender and would fight on for a better world. Is Christmas as powerful as that? Yes it is! Jesus has changed the world and calls us to change it with him.
The Diocese of Winchester has just announced we’ve received a grant of over £4m to help us with our mission projects. Our commitment is to grow the church – drawing in a new generation – so we can contribute to the common good. We want to change society in the name of Jesus who is Son of God, Saviour of the world and the Sovereign Lord. I’m 60 next year; I’ve ten more years in this role. I will give my all to the One who through his life changed the world for ever.