Start Christmas early- get the best present in town.

Depending on who you are, last Sunday may have been the weekend that the Christmas lights were switched on, the weekend when 2 siblings became world no1’s in the men’s singles and doubles tennis rankings, or stir-up Sunday (also known as the Feast of Christ the King). In many people’s minds its far to early to be thinking about Christmas- remembrance was just the other day, but for others its about time we got the decorations up and the party started. In the traditional church calendar its the end of the year- the equivalent of New Year’s Eve, except that New Year in the church begins with Advent rather than the dark days of January where the only thing worse than your bank balance is your diet…

Our Bible readings for the day talk about the supremacy of Jesus- yes as King, but so much more. One passage, in Colossians 1v9-20 was where I focussed last Sunday, and here’s what I said. As always, the actual version can be listened to on our website here.

Image result for christmas decorations box

This morning as we celebrate the supremacy of Christ on this feast of Christ the King, our reading contains Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Colosse, and it is that they would know God’s will and have spiritual wisdom- in other words they’d know what God wants them to do, and how to do it… in business or sport we might call that strategy and tactics… That combination of knowing the big thing, and working it out in the small things…

Our vision as a church here is to join in with that- knowing God’s will for us and knowing how to live and act in accordance with God’s will… Paul wants the Colossian Christians to live lives worthy of God- that please him in every way. We want the same for ourselves as Christians, for our church, and we recognise that for those around who don’t know God, their lives would be so much better if they knew that for themselves… Paul also goes on to pray that they’d be strengthened with God’s power to endure and have patience… things will not always, immediately, go the way they desire- people ignore God and stand in opposition to him, we’re not immune to making those mistakes ourselves and we have to pray that we’ be willing to listen together as we try to move in the direction God is leading us in… and Paul closes this prayer asking that they’d continue giving thanks to God- because he has given them a share in the inheritance of the saints… (Remember a few weeks back- the saints includes all Christians…) and that inheritance is the kingdom of light. God has rescued us from darkness, given us hope, a place in his people, a family around us and a purpose in life…

It was great to have one of the young people in our church reading that passage earlier- although its quite complex in some ways, and the language is difficult the idea at the heart of it is quite simple… choose your image- Jesus is at the heart of our faith… or he’s the foundation of our faith… or he’s the pinnacle of our faith… or the head of the body that is the church. Earlier this week I was asked who created God… and in this passage Paul goes behind that question to ask ‘who do you think Jesus is?’ Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God, who made and sustains all things- Jesus is before all things… therefore the question of who created him makes no sense if he is who Christians claim, or else he isn’t God, and therefore was created… Paul is writing to Christians surrounded by the worldview of the Roman Empire but also Greek philosophy and the worship of many Gods- into that mix he’s saying just how great God is, just how much higher Jesus is than the god-emperors of Rome- and he’s also saying just how different he is- Many leaders and faiths have promised to bring peace- just over a week ago Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech, talked about healing divisions and working together to bring unity in the US and peace abroad… Jesus does those things, but uniquely not by economic means, not by armed conquest, nor even by negotiation, but by giving himself. Jesus made peace between us and God and made it possible for us to be at peace with one another. And not just the peace that is an absence of conflict, but real peace. That is the big thing. Peace with God, through receiving forgiveness from one who loves us. Jesus brings that. He is the king of peace.

And that is why we celebrate. That is the reason that Christians over the years have listened to the celebrations of their communities and cultures and said ‘we understand your hopes and celebrations… in Jesus all those hopes are made greater’… and so Christmas and Easter, which folks in our communities can point to and say rightly that people have in some way celebrated since before Jesus’ birth and resurrection as celebrations of hope in the darkness and the new life in nature, those things have over the last 2000yrs become ways that we tell the story of Jesus… When someone tells you they’ve bought all the presents so that they can start getting excited, or have put up the tree already, its easy to mock them, it may be that they’re being drawn in by the consumer and retail craziness, but surely if we can celebrate with them, and point them towards the real hope that lasts beyond the tinsel and crackers- the big thing that is so much better than the most beautifully wrapped present… so lets practice our carols, deck the halls, go to the parties, and make sure that in the celebrations of Christmas this year we don’t just remember Jesus with a nod, but make him the heart of this season.

Have a good week, huge blessings as you start advent and everything it leads towards.

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