The streets are decorated with all manner of shiny things. The adverts are full of idealistic beaming relatives as some consumer good or another is bestowed upon them. Every family is perfect, and every film is heartwarming. People work hard to put lights up on houses despite the price of energy, and people stretch burdened finances further so that our kids have the latest thing.
On this very point, Peter Andre is pleading with radio stations to listen to what the British public asks and I quote, and stop broadcasting the classic Christmas song ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year – out of respect. He says and I quote, While I acknowledge there are some extremely pleasant moments during Yuletide festivities, these are normally fleeting and often come with a busy schedule, an empty wallet and not much to show otherwise. “Strip back the gift-giving, tinsel and twinkly lights, and people are left with the stark reality that this time of year is cold, dark, and expensive.
Sue very soon is delivering a Blue Christmas service for those who find all this pressure to be happy, full of gifts, and expectations of beaming as they go around a crowded Tesco’s just too much when their reality is one of loss and sadness. The reverse of the image we are asked to aspire to and worse still – deliver.
Why has all this happened? Because all the paraphernalia of Christmas has become exploited,
It lost its roots as a result. Give it a week after Christmas day and Cadbury eggs will be in the stores.
Contemporary Christmas has become just another impossible thing to aspire too, like women’s magazines that are filled with body shapes that are ruled as perfect. That causes so much harm as our kids try and conform.
None of this is Christian really; none of it has anything to do with the Babe in our story today.
However, they do have one thing in common, a request for a certain conformity, an ideal of how to behave, Jesus does have a very, very big ask.
The Christian Christmas does have high standards. The difference is we are asked to give to others, love and forgive to a ridiculous standard all year round, to conform to godliness as best we can. That’s our universal conformity. That’s we know this is the only way the world works.
However, unlike in the Ads and films etc. There is a massive difference, When it all goes wrong, it is not such a disaster.
In reality, one very special thing is happening in today’s reading,
We are being forgiven our sins. That’s it. We have grace, which the glossy ads lack.
We are being forgiven our sins.
We are being forgiven, and the ask is, we are being asked to forgive.
By a child who in our story today, has no consumer goods and yet carries the one gift we all need. Forgiveness and the gift of God calling us friend
There was a little part of me that wanted to stop my sermon here and just let that sink in.
So while both these ideas are both asking for conformity, one for an ideal Christmas, one for the ideal Christian. The big difference is, the adverts don’t let us off, the pressure to conform is relentless and the price of failure a ruined ideal, not just for you but for all those you love. A fearful thing that causes our kids to suffer such stress, as they can’t live up to Instagram perfect, or fit in that dress, or change shape.
In our version of conformity, the idea of conformity has been abolished by the act of forgiveness of a loving God. We are asked to aspire and try hard, but we are forgiven as we are.
The forgiveness that is bestowed has many wonderful effects, bit here’s one I love to point out.
Emanuel, God with us joined us to forgive us for imperfection, in fact, to abolish the very idea because we are all made in his image, and every image is just how he wanted; this sets us free from the tyranny of failure to be enough. We are enough, all of us, every person born or yet to be born. We are enough; we are loved.
Because he made us as and loves us as we are, We are asked to come as we are and not as we aren’t; in messy families, in the arguments and the squabbling, the difference between our Christmas and the commercial one, they sell perfection. We come as loved, just as we are and only as angels as children of christ on the last day by a loving God.
This sets us free from any external valuation anyone or anything may place on us, including the valuation we put on ourselves. Nothing that happens on this earth can affect our value as human beings; nothing can make us any less in any way because we are loved enough to die for, to come down as a baby just to meet us where we are. We are enough
So as you step out of church today, I hope you feel released from the pressure of delivering a perfect Christmas because it was never the ask, in our Christmas, that was never asked for, in fact, imperfection was what god loved because he abolished the very idea.
. Our Christmas has not even got the worry of a dry turkey or the expectation of needing to be happy on the agenda, really. You are forgiven for not being able to conform to an idea of Christmas that God never made. The idea he asks you to conform to is love and to forgive just as you are forgiven when you drop from those heights.
It’s expected it was known that it would happen and he sent us his son to set us right with a perfect God. Through grace
So now know you are free from the expectation of being a perfect person by the child that was born in today’s story. Born into a less-than-perfect world, Born into a less-than-perfect situation, into a less-than-perfect family. This is where God joined us to forgive us.
God could have joined us in the top suite of a hotel with more money than Elon musk, with perfect abs and an Aston martin and an Instagram model on his arm.
But he joined us here, as a baby, with refugee parents and in a stable, and he chose that place to come to forgive a world that needs it.
That’s what happened in today’s story.