Sermon by Rev Andrew Mintern
Anglican Parish of Glenelg
At the start of this sermon,
I am going to hand over the microphone
to my beautiful assistant…..
Now I’m sure you are thinking (after demonstrating a singing Christmas pudding) that I am about to launch into an outburst about the over-commercialisation and kitschness of Christmas, but seeing as I have left at home our singing Christmas tree, the singing Christmas dog and the line dancing Santa, it might be a bit hypocritical of me to take that line of argument.
Yes! Christmas goes to excess in our society. Yes! We waste money on unnecessary things. Yes! We sometimes (perhaps often) lose touch with the real meaning of Christmas. I think we are all very aware of that which is why we are sitting in church, worshipping God with thankful hearts and reflecting on the birth of Jesus. We know Christmas is something more than the hype, the kitsch, and the commercialism. Christmas is more than a singing toy pudding. Thank God for that!
But I don’t want to leave Mr Pudding there, I want to reflect a little further on what he (or she… how do you tell?) has to offer. You see, I have not been able to get that phrase out of my head, since Pud came to live with us. “I just can’t get enough” – And it strikes me that it’s a thought-provoking phrase for us this Christmas.
The Characters of the Nativity
So let’s think about that phrase “I just can’t get enough” with reference to the main characters in the Christmas story who are role models for us in differing ways.
The shephered are ordinary folk, nothing special, salt of the earth, hard workers, helping to sustain their families and communities through what they do. They can probably be described as the Palestinian equivalent of what we might call the “Aussie Battlers”. I’m not sure who Aussie Battlers actually are, but no doubt we all feel that life gets a bit on top of us at times – the bills mount up quicker than the income; or the pressures on our time outweigh the allowance of the diary. There is no doubt we can suffer from a sense that “I just can’t get enough” – we can’t get enough time, enough cash flow, enough work/life balance, enough quality time in our relationships, enough of what we need for our own wellbeing.
The shepherds are interrupted in their ordinary lives and led to visit the stable. They are brought by angelic invitation to step aside from all that weighs them down to simply see the Christ-child lying in the manger. Here is Jesus! How could a baby make a difference? How could he be enough?
What of the wise men? Well, they are, we assume, very wealthy. They had the means to travel far with very expensive gifts. They are often called the three kings, but the bible calls them neither kings nor specifies the number. They are simply Magi from the East bearing three gifts. The word “Magi” is plural so there were at least two but there could have been twenty-two. There are many jokes about the three wise women bringing useful gifts instead. Well, whilst the magi were most probably male, they might not have been. I saw an intriguing painting where one of the Magi is depicted as female. Intriguing and quite possible, but I digress.
Surely the magi were wealthy and probably had great influence, so we might think in response to Ms Pudding that these were people who surely could get enough, but then….why were they still searching?
In a world where most of the world’s resources are in the hands of a few, it is a reminder that wealth and power do not necessarily bring with them satisfaction for the soul. The magi were still searching for something more, something deeper, something greater, something to satisfy the deep yearnings of life, something that would be enough.
What did the magi see when they saw Jesus? They certainly saw enough in the Christ-child to make them hand over their rich gifts. As these, poetically titled, “kings” worshipped the infant king, did they know in their hearts that Jesus was their destination and was enough to end their searching and striving?
Mary and Joseph
What of Mary and Joseph? They were young people, salt of the earth (like the shepherds) but their lives had been turned upside down by an unexpected pregnancy and an oppressive occupying power that wanted to tax them more ruthlessly. They have no place to stay, their lives are in danger (not that they know it yet) but they will be forced to flee their country by the soldiers of a jealous tyrant. Like so many in our world at this time Mary and Joseph were forcibly displaced like 65.3 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide (including 21.3 million refugees, 10 million stateless people – with more than half the world’s refuges coming from just three countries – Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan – cf. http://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html). Like these victims of war and unrest, Mary and Joseph are without home or support. What did they think when they held Jesus, bringing him into such a situation? Were they consumed with fears and worries or, when they gazed upon him, like any new parent, did they know in their hearts that he was enough for them?
All of us
And what of us? Do we arrive at this Christmas with a sense that we just can’t get enough. Maybe we feel that there is too much of some stuff and not enough of what we need. As Wolfgang Goethe said: “The things that are most important in life are always at the mercy of the things that are least important.” I’ve always found that statement to be disturbingly and profoundly true.
So as we gather to worship in celebration of the birth of Jesus, we affirm that what he offers is enough. We are drawn into a life that is enough. We are drawn into kindness, generosity, love, compassion, hope and joy that is enough. We are drawn into that which is most important.
We may carry burdens, fears, pains, griefs, worries which are very real and difficult for us. Faith in Jesus doesn’t prevent problems coming our way, but it does change the way we see them and face them.
This Christmas we lay our joys and woes at the manger in the knowledge that here in Christ Human and divine are joined, that God is incarnated into our human lives and we receive the truth that Christ is enough.
So to misquote a famous football coach, “Mr Pudding you was wrong” – We can get enough.