Monday, December 18, 2017

Bridging the gap: Alone in a dark Universe!...Christmas tells a different story

 This is the message at a local community carols event called Glow in the Park. It's sponsored by the Maungakiekie Tamaki local board (council) and put on by local churches (Mt Wellington Community Church, Tamaki Community Church, St Peter's Presbyterian (that's us), St Matthias Anglican Panmure and Streams Methodist. You can check out the action on our facebook page. We had the gospel Christmas passages read out in five different languages with English translation on our big screen and I had the great privilege of sharing the gospel message... 

I'm not very good at taking selfies but I took one of me on the stage with everyone with their glow sticks in the audience and really managed to miss getting everyone in it... 
Can I show you the world most expensive selfie. In fact it’s the world’s most long distant selfie as well and one of the first. You’d need a real big selfie stick if you were going to use your phone to take this one… If you were born before 14th of February 1990, if you are old like me, you are probably in it.
You see as the Voyager 1 space craft exited the solar system, it preformed one last task it turned round and took a selfie for us, looking back through the solar system it took a photo of the earth from a distance of about 6 billion km’s…. It’s the one on the screen… can you see yourself in it. 
Yeah even with my glasses On I can’t…In fact the earth is less than one tenth of a pixel in this image, and it looks like it is a mote of dust caught in a beam of light. A speck in a cold dark universe. The photo is called the pale blue dot, and a famous astronomer has said that it shows how fragile and alone we are, everyone who has ever lived all we value our whole existence is on that pale blue dot. We are alone in the dark with no expectation of help. It’s a good reminder for us of our fragility and smallness as we tackle how we care for our planet and environment, but its not the whole picture. 
The Christmas story we had read out to us this evening in all those different languages, tells a different story. A story of hope and love for humanity for you and me.  
It tells the Christian belief that the God who made the universe cares about us and in Jesus, the baby in the Christmas narrative, drew near to bring light into our darkness.
It’s a message of hope…That God is not way off and distant… that somehow we simply look at the night sky and wonder if God is even there and if God is does God care. 
This is part of Michael Angelo’s painting of creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and it shows God's hand and Adams human hand almost touching. But there is a gap. And a lot of our religious activity and spiritual practices is humanities attempt to close that gap from our side.
Again Christmas tells a different story. My Wife Kris and I have four children. I remember vividly holding each of them for the first time and putting my figure out to touch their little hands and having them close around mine. That says the gospels is how close God came. God stepped into our world, God closed the gap. I love the very kiwi Christmas holidays way John’s gospel puts it… God pitched his tent at our place.
We often think of that nativity scene of Jesus birth as an idyllic hallmark moment, on the front of a Christmas card from a distant relative. But God chose to step into the midst of the nitty gritty of real life.
He was born in that very rushed trip to the place where Joseph was from. Like a Christmas dash to our family home or to get round all the relies for various meals in one day.
He was born in Bethlehem, as a result of the government wanting people to register so they could be taxed.  You can’t escape the old taxes… or the new ones.
He was born during a housing crisis, the only place available was a stable, and he had a manger as a bed, a manger is an animal’s feeding trough. The modern equivalent would be a garage, maybe some of you can relate to that. Imagine God choosing to enter the world in your garage.
He was born in the midst of political trouble, as his birth, caused the local paranoid dictator, Herod, to plot for his death, and send death squads to Bethlehem to kill all male children under two. How many children in the world today suffer because of conflict and war.
His family had to flee as refugees to another land for safety. Our world is full of similar stories today.
I know leading up to Christmas you are used to the people trying to sell you stuff, putting on the hard sell So I want to simply finish by saying. The Christmas story shows us God’s love for humanity, for you and I.  Jesus steps into the world, his life, his death and being his raised to life again is the way we can come to know God. 
 Jesus Christ can step into your world and your life, amidst all its nitty grittiness and bring hope and love and  a fresh start, if you’d simply ask.
You know as more people come to know Jesus and his love, then the Christmas story can transform this pale blue dot, we live on… in simple overlooked little things…  “like loving our neighbour, showing mercy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and generosity.”
So may Jesus Christ draw close to you and God bless you, this Christmas.

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