Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keep in Touch pew sheet 15 December 2019
Every Christmas, folk who wouldn’t otherwise go to church take themselves off to a cathedral or their village church or their parents’ or partner’s church for a carol service. Some feel a teeny bit guilty that they don’t attend the place more frequently. And their parents and partners wish that they did, too. But where were the principal actors at Christ’s actual birth? And who were they? Were they respectable, upstanding regular church goers?
First, the shepherds. They were “abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night”. They weren’t goody two shoes in the temple, they were agricultural tradies getting on with their job. Yet it was to the shepherds, not to the clergy or temple-goers, that the angel announced good news of great joy.
Then the wise men. They weren’t even Jewish. They were foreigners, and probably they believed in or kept an open mind about other religious faiths of the region. But like good scientists, they made an observation - the star in the East, where they hailed from - came up with a theory that it might be linked to a prophecy of a new king, and travelled a long distance to test the hypothesis. When it proved true, they gave gifts to the baby/Messiah. Those gifts, from foreign academics who didn’t even subscribe to Israel’s religion, showed a better understanding of Christ’s kingship through suffering than the Jewish high priests displayed.
Look, I hope that folk we love do turn up at church at Christmas. It would be good to see them here from time to time during the rest of the year, too. But Jesus came to ordinary non-church women and men who were just getting on with their everyday work, or their everyday study. Angels told them not to feel bad about that. So do I. And this Christmas I’ll be praying that God breaks into their work and study, and thanking God that we’re not all cloistered in church but that someone’s keeping the world’s wheels turning at work and others are studying to make that world better. Because that’s why Jesus came here at Christmas.