Do you tell the truth at Christmas?

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As Jonny put his Christmas preach on his blog, here is mine from the YMCA Carol Service.  I have tried to attach the video clip so we shall see if it works!  Whatever, have a great Christmas.
“And at Christmas you tell the truth.”

This has always struck me as an odd thing to say about Christmas.  It seems to me that actually the very opposite is true.  We definitely do not tell the truth at Christmas.  You don’t believe me?  Well how about when you open that hideous gift, what do you say?  “It’s lovely” or perhaps “it was just what I always wanted!” How about the fight for the remote? Are you prepared to relinquish control, smile and say, “No I really don’t mind what we watch.” Or what about the classic, “I couldn’t eat another thing”, as you reach for the Quality Street. And one for the men, “No your bum definitely does not look big in that!”  Do you still think you always tell the truth at Christmas?  The reality is that in order to get through the festive season a lot of little white lies will have to be told and then forgotten. 

However, there is a truth that we can be sure of at Christmas.  In the Bible in the book of John, Chapter 3, verse 16 it says, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.  And this is why; so that no one need be destroyed; by believing Jesus, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the whole world how bad it was.  He came to help, to put the world right again.”

I always find it amazing at Christmas to think about how the mighty, powerful, holy God who made the entire universe and created humankind in His image, allowed himself to become a foetus carried in the womb of a teenage, unmarried mother. He was born in an animal shed.  The angelic host that heralded this cosmic event appeared to men working out in the fields.  His parents then had to protect the baby from death by fleeing to another country and becoming refugees.  So this then is the ultimate truth to tell at Christmas, summed up in one word, Emmanuel – God is with us.  God with us in our vulnerability; God with us in our fear; God with us in our pain; God with us in the filth; God with us in our shame and God with us in our homelessness.  I hope and pray that whether you have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year or not, you will know the truth that whatever your circumstances, God is with you.  Not because any of us are worthy of Him but because He loves you so much that He gave his Son, his one and only Son, so that you will not be destroyed but by believing in Him you can experience a whole and lasting life.

Man up

I recently went to church and heard a sermon where I was encouraged to ‘man up’.  Presumably this is because the popular misconception is that man is the stronger of the sexes.  While there might be some evidence to support that in purely physical terms men are indeed stronger, in every other sense men are whimps!  Oh that’s a bit harsh I hear you say on what basis do I make such a provocative statement.  Well, let’s go back to the Garden of Eden – the woman was deceived by the serpent but Adam deliberately chose to disobey God, his response? “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” (Gen 3:12).  So he not only blames Eve but also God for providing him with her.  Men have been refusing to take responsibility ever since.  So why is this?  Well I had an interesting conversation with my Dad about my birth this week and he said that in the same way that chickens are involved in providing eggs but the pig is committed to making bacon, so he was involved but my mother was committed!  So maybe the majority of men think love is pleasure, women know love is pain.  Thank goodness we have a saviour who is a real man!   At Christmas we celebrate Jesus taking ultimate responsibility for us and our sinfulness – by entering into our humanity, becoming totally vulnerable for our sakes and being prepared to love us literally to death.  So boys if you are going to ‘man up’ this festive season, please do so in the model of our Lord and not some macho Christianity that has more to do with ‘Call of Duty’ than the Kingdom of God.  I am really getting into Franciscanism which Simon Tugwell describes as, “the radically unprotected life; a life that is cruciform in shape”…”It’s to live dangerously open, revealing all that we genuinely are and receiving all the pain and sorrow the world will give back in return.  It’s to be real because we know the Real.  Maybe living the unprotected life is what it means to be a Christian.” (p67-8, ‘Chasing Francis’ by Ian Morgan Cron)