The angel said to the shepherds, "Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David's town your Saviour was bornóChrist the Lord!"
During the last week I watched a talk given by Don Richardson (http://vimeo.com/10776108 well worth viewing) and even though you may have heard or read of his experience, it makes a good introduction to this Christmas Day sermon.
In 1962 Canadians Don and Carol Richardson and their baby son went to Irian Jaya, the western part of New Guinea, as missionaries to the primitive cannibalistic Sawi tribe. This tribe had some very unusual beliefs. They held deceit as the highest virtue. A person gained the greatest honour by making friends with an enemy, inviting them to their home for a meal or maybe several meals, being very good friends to them and when the visitor least expected it, his new friend would run him through with a spear. When Don Richardson told them the story of Jesusí arrest and trial the Sawi clapped and cheered. Judas Ė not Jesus Ė was their hero. They admired his shrewd penetration of Jesusí inner circle and his cunning in betraying his leader. Jesus was a sucker who fell into Judasí trap.
The missionary searched for every possible means to explain the greatness of God's amazing love to a people whose values were based on deceit but every attempt failed. Bloody and violent battles were fought right in front of the Richardsonís home between the Sawi and a neighbouring tribe. The missionaries finally decided that they needed to move away because it was their presence that brought the warring tribes into contact with each other.
Then just before they were about to leave they witnessed a solemn ceremony between the Sawi and their enemy in front of their home. The entire village gathered to watch the event. Everyone was silent, a man who had only one child, took his six-month old son from his wifeís arms and held him high in the air. He took his child to the enemy chief and handed him over. One by one each member of the tribe touched this small boy. They were clearly moved that a father should make such a painful sacrifice to bring about peace between the two tribes. This sacrifice would be honoured and there would be no more war between the two tribes. The child was known as the "peace-child".
This small child, the peace-child, did what was thought to be impossible in a culture where violence, treachery and bloodshed were everyday occurrences. The sacrifice of this father to give up his only son and the recognition of how great was this sacrifice, brought enemies together. Things were never the same again.
This one event in amongst all the bloody battles and treachery and cannibalism gave the Richardsons the one example they needed to explain how God's love caused him to give up his own Son to make peace with all of humanity. When Don Richardson explained to the Sawi that Jesus is the peace-child they were able to understand that Jesus wasnít the sucker who had been tricked by Judas, in fact, the popularity of Judas suddenly took a dive. Jesus is the one whose Father made the ultimate sacrifice and brought peace between God and humanity and peace between one person and the next. Finally, the Sawi were able to appreciate how much God loved them and gave his Son for them as they reflected on the pain that must have filled that Sawi fatherís heart to give away his only son to bring about peace.
A child who will bring peace -
isnít that what the angel had said to Joseph when he explained that he should go
ahead and marry Mary because the child she is carrying is the Son of God and his
name will be Jesus Ė the one who will bring forgiveness and peace into the lives
of his people?
Isnít that what the angels said to the shepherds in the hills around Bethlehem as they watched over their sheep, "Today in Bethlehem your saviour was born Ė Christ the Lord" and they burst into a glorious song of praise proclaiming God's glory and "peace on earth to those with when he is pleased"?
Isnít that what Simeon said when he saw the baby Jesus and his parents in the temple and praised God that here in his own arms lay the salvation Ė meaning the peace, love, hope and forgiveness - that God had promised through the prophets?
Jesus is introduced to us in the Gospel stories of his birth as the Saviour, the one who will free all people from sin, from the power of wickedness and evil and the power of death. Jesus, our peace-child from our heavenly Father, is our liberator. He is the one who brings freedom and peace into our lives.
Culturally the people Don and Carol Richardson met in New Guinea are nothing like the people here in our country but really are Australians so different? Australians may not be cannibals but we still take pleasure in cutting down anyone who doesnít fall into line or putting down those who, in our opinion, think of themselves more highly than they ought or just donít fit into the mould. Treachery and trickery was a part of the world into which Jesus was born (think of Herod who was supposed to protect the innocent instead he takes the lives of helpless babies). Treachery and trickery are part of our society today.
God's peace-child, his only Son,
Jesus, came to cancel our sin Ė to erase our sin Ė to bring forgiveness and free
us from guilt.
To be our Saviour, this baby of Bethlehem had to die on a cross.
He came to die in our place and to bring us forgiveness for all of our sin, and the hope of life forever in heaven.
He came to change the world.
We are told that God loved the world so much the he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him would not die but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The Christmas story of a baby born
in a stable amongst the cattle and donkeys; about angels announcing to shepherds
where to find the baby;
about shepherds singing in the streets as they went back to their sheep after seeing the baby Jesus.
The Christmas story is a beautiful story that captures the hearts of adults and children alike.
Itís kind of cute to picture a baby surrounded by hay and all kinds of farm animals.
But this story is not told in the
Bible because of its fairy-tale like quality and to make us all warm inside.
This is a story about God getting serious about sin and its fatal consequences.
This is a story about the aching heart of God for his people.
This is a story about love that was prepared to sacrifice even that which is most precious for the sake of those who didnít deserve such a sacrifice.
This is a story about God rolling up his sleeves, and getting down amongst all the problems of our world and doing something about.
This is a story about a baby who was born to bring salvation and freedom and rescue.
Our peace-child, Jesus comes to us at Christmas to free us from our selfishness when we feel, "I need to be the centre of all that happens and I want others to wait on me and care for me, the most important person in my world". Jesus comes to free us from the selfishness that enslaves us to our own whims and appetites and egos.
Jesus, our peace-child, comes to free us from our painful pasts, to set us free from all the mistakes we have made years and years ago and as recent as this morning. Mistakes with the kids, with our spouse, with the job or with the neighbours that make us feel guilty and sad. Jesus comes to actually set us free from our uncountable blunders.
Jesus, our peace-child, comes to free us from our fears, the fear of disease, the fear of death, the fear of failure, the fear of growing old, the fear that our kids wonít turn out. Jesus comes to free us from fear and fill our hearts with the peace that comes from knowing that he is always "God with us".
Jesus, our peace-child, comes to actually free us from our love of money and wealth, from silently believing that money and material things will bring us happiness, from believing that people with money are somehow more successful. He comes to free us from all of our addictions and to create changes in our lifestyle.
Jesus, our peace-child, comes to free us from our anger, our sharp tongues and sharp comments, our sarcasm, our putting others down, our need for revenge and the dreams of inflicting revenge on someone who has hurt us. Christ comes to free us from all that. He comes to forgive us, to free us from our old hang-ups and make positive change in us.
God's peace-child came into this world to bring joy and peace to the world. As we sing the carols and reflect once more on the birth of our Saviour, let the love of God bring about a change in you. Let it change you in such a way that everything you do will be directed by the love of God. You are set free from the burden of the past! You become clean on the inside. New desires, aspirations and hope motivate your actions!
Let's celebrate the birth of Jesus, the baby who changes hearts, the Saviour who died on the cross, the Lord who lives!
© Pastor Vince
25th December 2010