Isaiah 9.1-7 A Son is given to us
Titus 2.11-14 God’s grace has been revealed to the whole human race
Luke 2.1-14 ‘In the town of David a saviour has been born to you’
‘Mary wrapped Jesus in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn’ (Luke 2.7)
There’s an old adage in television and the theatre: ‘don’t work with children and animals’!
We all know why.
Animals can be unpredictable when you want them to perform and, as was famously discovered on Blue Peter once, they can ‘perform’ when you don’t want them to: just Google ‘Blue Peter and Lulu the Elephant.’
And how many children have been rehearsed to deliver one line in a nativity play and then clam up.
Don’t work with children and animals.
And I heard some more advice the other day - from a woman working in the costume team at the pantomime at Fairfield Halls at the moment - ‘don’t work with adults either’.
Adults can be wilful, stubborn, uncooperative and know best.
So don’t work with children or adults or animals.
The nativity of Jesus Christ flies in the face of that advice.
God works with the unlikely.
The nativity of Jesus Christ shows God working with animals and adults and coming to us as a human child.
The advice not to work with children and animals is saying ‘don’t work with those you can’t control’.
And don’t we so want to be in control?
Don’t we so want to order the world to our own preferences and dreams?
The world has become, well always was, about human beings trying to assert control in a world that resists it.
What is revealed at Christmas in the birth of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh - what we call ‘the Incarnation of the Word’ - is that the strategy of the world’s creator is not to control but to love the world into being and life.
The world’s creator is not a controller pulling levers to make things happen but is the One who, out of love, yearns the best for all his creatures.
The way his creatures find full dignity and stature is by becoming his children ‘by adoption and grace’
It is said that the sheep ranchers of Australia do not erect fences to keep their sheep from straying - they can’t, their land is too extensive - rather they sink wells to which the sheep are drawn.
God gives himself to us in the Child of Bethlehem, not as a controller, not as a fence to restrict our lives, but as a wellspring of living water to draw us to himself, so that we may drink deeply of his love.
Tonight we heard of shepherds drawn to the Good Shepherd.
That call signifies people being drawn from their own drama and concerns to entering into the Theodrama, the drama of God, which leads them to worship and adore and contemplate and go tell.
That is the move Christmas invites you and me to make, fellow sinners: move away from self; move to God; go and tell.
Christ was born in the feeding trough of animals: tonight we are called to feed at the altar of the Good Shepherd.
As the choir will sing later:
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the newborn Lord,
lying in a manger!
O blessed virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Consider your life and then like Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, ‘ponder these things’.
Don’t work with children and animals and adults! Well, God chooses to work with, and for, you and me: there is indeed an great mystery and wonder.