Together at Christmas

Who knows what this is? It’s a toasting fork. On Friday my Dad and I went to the British Ironwork centre just outside Oswestry and spent a couple of hours in the forge there having a blacksmithing lesson. My Dad made a poker for the stove on his canal boat, and I made a toasting fork. Now this wasn’t strictly speaking a Christmas present, it was actually a late birthday present for my Dad, but I think the same thing holds true for Christmas presents. Sometimes the best presents are ones which mean you get to do things with people.

Who has put the Christmas decorations up at home? Whose task is that in your house? In our house it’s Liz and the kids who do this, especially decorating the Christmas tree. In fact they were doing it whilst I was trying to write this talk. It was a bit on the noisy side, but they were obviously having fun remembering the stories behind some of the tree decorations, singing Christmas songs, working together to make the house all bright and shiny for Christmas.

In the readings this afternoon we’ve been hearing all about the history of God’s relationship with people. We started right back in the beginning, in the perfection of the dawn of creation. God had made the universe and the world. The plants and the animals and now had created people to live together with God and do stuff together – to care for creation together, to love together, to walk in the garden together. But people didn’t want that, they thought that they were better off on their own, so they went their own way, and cut themselves off from God.

But God had no intention of abandoning them. God wanted them to be able to return to a place of living and working, loving and being together with God, so God promised something. God promised that a child would be born, a child who would restore the relationship between God and people, who would establish a kingdom in which there would be perfect justice and mercy, a togetherness that would never fail.

The remarkable thing is that God didn’t just send a good man, or choose a human child to fulfill this promise. We have a God who works with us, who chooses to get dirty hands in the forge of creativity. So God’s own Son, Jesus, becomes human. Born into a human family, somehow conceived by the power of God, Jesus puts aside all the privileges and power, glory and riches of heaven and is born on earth as a real life human baby.

He grows into an adult and when he is thirty his public ministry begins. Three short, glorious, years of teaching and healing, freeing people, showing people what this perfect Kingdom of God could look like. Working with his friends and followers to share this good news, training them up, encouraging them, being with people in the thick of it.

In the end, though, there was one thing he had to do alone. Only Jesus, who will save his people from their sins, only Emmanuel, God with us, could break the power of sin and death in our lives by dying on the cross and being raised to life. In utter loneliness, Jesus bore the cost of our rejection of God.

And so now we have the opportunity to be back in that relationship with God in which we can work together. We can create together, live together, love together, build God’s kingdom together in big ways and small ways. By loving our neighbours. By noticing when we are enjoying Christmas togetherness that there are others who aren’t. By comforting those who are missing loved ones. By sharing the good news that we have found with those who haven’t yet found it.

Christmas is a time of togetherness, but it is not mainly about families and friends being together or doing things together. That is good, but it is only a sign or reminder of a much deeper togetherness that is available to all of us, whether or not we have friends and family close by. That deeper togetherness is the togetherness with God that we can all enjoy because at the first Christmas Jesus was born: Immanuel, God with us.

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