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Sermon for Nativity Service 2014


I am a terrible present buyer. 

When my wife, Lizzie, and I first got together, I discovered quickly that her first response to my carefully chosen and beautifully wrapped Christmas gift was almost always….’have you got the receipt?

So for a few years I bought the present and hung on to the receipt, just in case. But it was used more often than not, so it seemed easier just to attach the receipt to the present, so that it was all there together.

But taking things back to the shops is a hassle, and it happened so often that I started to ask what she wanted. Exactly what she wanted. Even then it’s easy to get the wrong size, or the wrong colour. So now, Lizzie usually buys herself a present, gives it to me to wrap and then acts all surprised when she opens it and says, in all honestly, ’darling, what a perfect present!’.

And it’s not just me that struggles to find a present that will last. Here’s a depressing statistic for all those of you who, like me, have been trying so hard to find the perfect gift. This Boxing Day, 1.5 million items are expected to be put up for sale on eBay - most of them presumably something unwanted from the day before.

So what is there at the heart of Christmas that is worth hanging on to? What is there that will last once the presents have been opened, the unwanted ones put on eBay and the Christmas lights are turned off for another year?

What lasts… is the promise that you are not alone. 

The promise that God is not off in his heaven, way up beyond the clouds looking down on us, with a benevolent smile. He is here amongst us. That he is alongside us. That he is with us.

A promise that whatever is going on in your life at the moment - whether it’s all going brilliantly, or it feels like nothing is working out the way it was meant to. Whether you’re as happy as you’ve ever been, or you can’t imagine ever being happy again - whatever is going on in your life, the promise is that you are not alone.

I heard someone from round here talking about God recently. She hadn’t been brought up as a Christian, but as an adult she had a strong sense that there was something more to life. And she started talking to people, and she tried out praying, and she asked questions, and she discovered that the promise is true. That she is not alone; God is there. Jesus is real. 

And she said, ‘I wish someone had told me earlier’.

She wished that she had known earlier that she is not alone - that this baby isn’t just a character in a sweet story that we wheel out once a year. He is Jesus, the answer to all our questions, the solution to all our troubles. She wished that someone had told her earlier.

So if you’re sitting (or standing) here wondering about all of this. Is there more to life? Is there anything in it that lasts beyond Christmas Day?  

If you’re thinking, probably there is a God, but I’m not really sure what to do about that - or even if I want to do anything about it, I’m here to tell you that the promise is real. You are not alone. And all you need to do to take the next step, is to take it.

And maybe there’s someone here who wants to do that now - someone who is ready, quietly in their hearts, to say ‘Jesus,I’m ready to welcome you into my life this Christmas’. If that’s you - you can make that decision right now, just say those words,  ‘Jesus,I’m ready to welcome you into my life this Christmas’ in your heart, right now.

Or maybe you’re not quite there, but you know you’d like to be.  You’re longing for something more to life, but you can’t quite believe the God-stuff. Perhaps find a moment to pray this evening.  God can do amazing things with our uncertainty. You could come and talk to me, or to someone else you know who has discovered for themselves that the promise is true. You could come along to the Alpha course; which starts in January. Alpha is for everyone who’s got big questions about life and faith.  You absolutely don’t need to be a Christian to come along up.  All you need is your honest questions. 

I hope you receive some great presents tomorrow, and I hope that the ones you give go down really well, no receipts needed. I hope you have a fantastic celebration. And when it’s all done, and the decorations come down for another year and life starts up again, remember that there is one thing that lasts, a gift that never needs the receipt. And that’s a promise.

You are never alone.

God is with you.

All you need to do, is to welcome him in.

Will you choose to receive that gift this Christmas?

Posted: 31/12/2014 at 08:15
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