Each year I look for one simple thought or idea I can use for a short talk at a nursing home, school or carol service. My aim is always to help people connect the story that they know so well with the reality of their daily lives, rather than see it as something they celebrate only at Christmas. So wherever I have gone this year, I have been asking the question “Where does the Christmas story end?”
In many ways that is a trick question, and so far no-one has fallen for the wrong answer! The Christmas story doesn’t end with the newborn Jesus being placed in a manger, or the angels visiting the shepherds or the wise men bearing gifts to the house where Jesus was staying.
The baby Jesus grew up. He learnt the trade of a carpenter. About the age of thirty He began a public ministry of preaching and teaching, and demonstrating the power of God’s kingdom. He spoke of the need to repent and believe in the good news. He performed many miracles from the turning of water into wine to the feeding of the 5000. He showed God’s particular love for the outcast, the downtrodden and the vulnerable.
But not everyone welcomed the coming of Jesus. The religious leaders, the vicars of their day, were upset by His message and only saw Him as a threat to their privileged position. So they murdered Him. They arrested Jesus, subjected Him to a show trial and handed Him over to the Romans who crucified Him.
So was that the end of the story? Remarkably, no. Three days later Jesus rose again to conclusively prove He was and is indeed the Son of God. The mission He began through His birth in Bethlehem to save us from sin, death and evil was completed. He ascended to the right hand of God on High and even now sends His Holy Spirit upon all those who believe and trust in His name.
That is why the Christmas story has no end. In one sense many of us know this to be true. But on a practical level we tend to pack everything away on the 6th January, and become so immersed in the busyness of the new year that we forget the wonder and the mystery of Jesus, the Word become flesh. My simple challenge this year is to ask people to remember this same Jesus born on earth all those years ago is the one who is still with us now, who enables to be born again as children of the living God and who gives us a hope beyond even this life.
And it is because this Jesus born 2000 years ago is still alive that no matter whether this Christmas is one of great sorrow or of great joy we can pray in His name, knowing that He will hear and answer His prayers. It is because this Jesus is alive that we can give Him our regrets for the past year, knowing that He will forgive us all that is wrong and give us a fresh start. It is because this Jesus is alive we can give Him the future that may worry or confuse us, knowing that ultimately all things are in His hands.
May I take this opportunity of wishing you all a very peaceful Christmas, praying that as you go into the New Year you will continue to know the presence of the living Lord Jesus in your hearts. May the Lord bless you all.