Isaiah 11:1-9 & Matthew 1:18-25

Oh Come All Ye, Get Full

I wonder if anybody here has seen the advertising billboard on the station car park? Can anybody remember what it says? It is an advert for a KFC “Colonel’s Christmas Banquet and it says this, “Oh Come All Ye, Get Full.” See what they’ve done there, “Oh Come All Ye, Get Full.” Now, I like a good pun as much as the next person, and I admire the creativity of the copy writer who came up with this, but my first reaction when I saw it was not very positive. I was a bit Scrooge about it all, the commercialisation of Christmas, the focus on food, grump, grump. But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that actually, however unintentionally, the designers of that advert had not missed the point of Christmas, they had summed it up pretty much perfectly.

Bear with me a moment as I explain what I mean. In our reading from Matthew’s eye-witness account of the life of Jesus, we hear some of how he came to be born to Mary and Joseph. In the middle of that account are two names. The first is Jesus and the second is Emmanuel. The word Jesus means “God saves” and he was to be named Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. The word “Immanuel” means God with us – and Jesus is called that because he is God, come to be with humanity at the very first Christmas.
It seems to me, though, that these two names beg two questions. What do we need saving from and why is it important that God comes to be with us? Jesus himself answered these two questions in a variety of ways, using different parables and metaphors. Some of these involved food and hunger.

There were times when he was teaching and he talked about hunger for righteousness. That desire in people’s hearts to do the right thing, to live good lives, to see good being done in society. The fact that people hunger for it recognises the fact that it doesn’t always go that way. There is evil in the world, a tendency for us to make the wrong choice, to hurt each other. Jesus taught that those people who hungered after the right way of living would be satisfied, because Jesus saves us from that tendency. Jesus saves people from moral hunger by his presence with us. Oh come all ye, get full.

There were the times when he was speaking to crowds of people and they were physically hungry and he provided for them miraculously. By doing this he showed that he had the power and authority to save people from physical hunger. Oh come all ye, get full.

The next day Jesus was talking to the religious leaders about what had happened and he said, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’” Jesus saves us from spiritual hunger and death, so that we can live with him forever. When we celebrate communion, with bread, we do so because it reminds us that in the end it took Jesus, God come to be with us at Christmas, to die on a cross, and to be raised to life, to overcome our spiritual hunger. Oh come all ye, get full.

At Christmas we see Jesus, born in a manger, newly named, but those names remind us that it all happened so that we could hear Jesus’ invitation to those who are hungry, physically, morally, spiritually, to come and get full.

But it doesn’t stop there. In the reading from the book of God’s messenger, Isaiah, we heard some beautiful prophetic poetry describing what it will be like when God’s kingdom, Jesus’ rule and reign is rolled out across the earth. One particular sentence struck me, “with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”

You see, Jesus didn’t just come to offer bread to the hungry, but to challenge those who have bread to share it.

When Jesus fed the crowd, he started with the five loaves and two fishes brought by a small boy. Since I’ve come to live in Wellington, I’ve been impressed with the generosity of people here, and the organisations that work to feed the hungry, from KIP to Christmas Shoe Boxes. From Street Pastors to the TACT team. From the CAP Debt advice centre to the Christmas lunches organised for those who would otherwise be on their own. As a community I would encourage us to look for more opportunities over Christmas and in the coming year to rise to the challenge that Jesus gives us to say to others, “Oh come all ye, get full”

Jesus also challenges us to encourage each other to recognise our own moral and spiritual hunger.
This is not about people who think that they’ve got it sorted sitting on judgement on the failings of others. Jesus was often scathing about those who thought that they had already achieved moral perfection and were all finger pointy at other people. He was equally dismissive of those who thought that they were spiritually sorted but were actually just following religious conventions. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it is about one hungry person telling another about where they’ve been given bread.

I am a sinner. I get things wrong. I stuff things up. I am hungry to be a better person, to live a better life. I am hungry for more spiritual depth in my life. I am hungry to know God with me more fully. I am so grateful to Jesus for coming to earth at Christmas, living and dying, overcoming sin and death so that these hungers of mine could be satisfied. Because of this I am committed to sharing that good news with others, and working so that no-one goes hungry: physically, morally, or spiritually. Oh come all ye, get full.

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