Sermon for Christmas Day

Text:  Psalm 145:16
You open your hand, and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The hands of God

To begin today I want you all to look at your hands.  What do you see (besides the something that looks like Vegemite from breakfast and perhaps some stray makeup)?  What story do your hands tell?  Of course, you see that you have ten fingers, though I know there are some exceptions to this.  The fact that you may have a finger or part of a finger missing tells a story in itself.  But look at the palm of your hands, look at your fingertips, and what do you see? 
Do you see hands with rough or cracked skin? 
Is there dirt caught in the cracks of your skin? 
Perhaps there are tell-tale bits of paint or grease. 

Are your hands smooth and soft? 
Are your hands large or small? 

What do your hands tell you about the kind of work you do? 

Do you have skilful hands that are very clever at doing things – making things from wood, fixing machinery, sticking together paper, wool, cardboard and whatever to make beautiful pieces of art; hands that knit, sew, carve and sculpt.

Do you wave your hands around when you are talking?  I know I do and I have some pretty weird photos that people have snapped of me preaching and waving my arms around.  Well so what I say, they help us say what we want to say.

It’s amazing what our hands say about us. 
Last night and during today you will reach out with your hands and give a gift to someone, a member of your family or a friend.  You will reach out with your gift laden hands because the person who is receiving your gift is very special to you.  Your hands are extended in love.

We read in the Old Testament about God’s hands.  We hear about God’s hands carefully and lovingly creating the first people.  He doesn’t just say some creative and powerful words like “Let there be” and something is made.  That’s how he created the earth, the sky, the animals and plants.  With the first man and women it was different.  The word to describe how God created Adam and Eve is that he formed them like a potter who moulds clay with his hands until it is just the right shape and perfect in his eyes.  It is shaped with purpose and love.

Again and again the Scriptures remind us how God’s hand leads, guides, protects, holds, strengthens, and keeps his people on the right path.  He leads his people from the land of Egypt “by the hand” we are told (Hebrews 8:9).  It is a loving God who says that he has engraved our names on the palm of his hands (Isaiah 49:15).  Again and again it is stated, “I cling to you, and your hand keeps me safe” (Psalm 63:8).You open your hand and everyone is satisfied (Psalm 104:28).

And likewise, at Christmas we are reminded how God’s hands have reached out and given us a very special gift?  In the manger in Bethlehem’s stable we find that God, who created the whole universe, has become a human like us.  There in the manger we find a baby whose hands are ever so soft and fragile, smelling like a new-born only a few hours old.  Those hands in the manger seem so helpless, so dependent on his parents, Mary and Joseph who can’t resist reaching over and lovingly holding those tiny hands in their seemingly gigantic hands. It almost seems impossible that the hands that formed the universe should become the tiny hands of baby. 

But it’s true.  The child in the manger is a very special and precious gift from God.  This is Jesus, who is Immanuel” which means “God is with us”.  This is the Saviour the angels spoke about to the shepherds the night he was born.  Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”.  God has opened his hand and satisfied the need of every person on this earth.  We are all sinners, we have all done wrong.  God’s hand has reached out given us the special gift of his own Son in order to save us.  The Bible says this, “God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him (1 John 4:9).  Those tiny hands in the manger are a symbol of God’s incredible love for us.

Those tiny hands became the hands of healing and hope as they touched the sick, the dying, the sinner and the outcast.  When Jesus began his ministry his hands brought God’s love into the lives of all those who needed his healing touch in some way.  As Jesus hands touched blind eyes, or leprous skin or deaf ears, or paralysed bodies or a dead child people were never the same afterward.  They experienced the open generous hand of God who satisfied not only their physical needs but went much further – his hands healed them all over; they even healed their relationship with God.

And those hands of the baby of Bethlehem became the crucified hands.  The nail marks on Jesus’ hands tell a story.  His pierced hands tell us that Jesus died for us.  As the angel said, “A Saviour has been born” and to become our Saviour he died on a cross to give us forgiveness for all our sin and wrongdoing.  Those nail pierced hands tells us how much God loves us.  He was prepared to die so that we can have life with him forever in heaven.  Again just as God’s hands gave us the gift of the baby Jesus at Christmas because he loves us, likewise his outstretched nail pierced hands demonstrate how far God’s love was prepared to go for each one of us.

It was those nail pierced hands that the disciples saw and touched that convinced them that Jesus was truly alive and they proclaimed “My Lord and my God”.  Jesus had risen from the grave.  He had defeated death.  He has assured that all who live and believe in him will have life forever. 

Today those hands of Jesus extend in blessing over us as we carry on his work sharing his love with others, telling others that God has come to earth as a tiny baby in Bethlehem and that he has given them forgiveness and eternal life.  As we use our hands to become his hands and to carry on his work
his hands lead us as we share his love and forgiveness and compassion with others,
his hands hold our hands when the going becomes difficult;
his hands steady our hands when we lose courage;
his hands guide us when we lose our way and our following Jesus’ ways gets lost in the busyness of everyday living;
his hands point us in the direction of those whose hands we need to hold at any given moment.

Being the hands of Christ in our world at this time is not an easy thing.  It challenges us and people will question our reasons and intentions but all the time Jesus raises his hands in blessing assuring us that he is truly “Immanuel”, he is with us, walking with us and comforting us as we journey through life with all its ups and downs.

And finally we raise our hands in celebration and thanksgiving.  That’s what Christmas is all about.  As we kneel at the manger again this Christmas and marvel at the hand of God who has satisfied our every need, we raise our hands and voices singing and celebrating what God has done for us. 

There is something that people have done in unison across the centuries to show there appreciation and gratitude - clap their hands.  Let's show our thanks and praise to God for the Saviour born at Bethlehem, for his grace, his favour, his sacrifice and his never-ending love.  Let's put our hands together for our God whose hands have given us everything. (applause)

The psalmist’s words are as true as ever. You open your hand, and satisfy the desires of every living thing”.


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
25th December 2013

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