Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas - The True Fairy Tale

It seems the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was poorly) was going to say that Christmas is not a fictional fairy tale with a fantasy happily ever after ending but good news of great joy. Good stuff. 

I'm afraid I dreadfully plagiarised Glen and Emma Scrivener for my carol service sermon this year. I hope they don't mind! And a respectful nod to Professor Tolkien (On Fairy Stories - PDF)

Here is "my" effort - the audio of which should be here evenually:

The Christmas story can easily seem like a fairy tale.
There’s a magical birth.
And supernatural messengers.
And mysterious visitors from far away.
And a wicked king.
All it needs is a talking snowman and it would be a suitable family film for Christmas afternoon!

But it’s more than a matter of these details.
The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, fear, danger and faith.
It is the story of a new dawn – of light coming into a dark world.
Ultimately, the Bible’s story will be the story of the greatest ever hero, come to the rescue.
It will be the triumph of life over death, of victory through a great sacrifice.
And because of that baby, born in a manger, nothing will ever be the same again.
Christmas is the decisive turning point in the Bible’s story.
For all those who put their trust in Jesus, they really will live happily ever after.  
Not that life with Jesus is one long happy fairy tale.
Sometimes the most terrible pain is part of the story for us, as it was for Jesus, but we know the end of this story.
We know that love wins.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

All the great stories we tell are really reflections of the Bible’s story.
Without a crisis and a redemption, there’s really no story at all – you’re left with some kind of Modernist novel.
If a story’s going to have any kind of plot, there has to be a problem that needs to be overcome.
And that’s what we find with the Bible’s story:
It’s the story of the good world God made gone wrong through human rebellion.
It’s the Bible’s story which makes sense of our intuition that this world is not as it should be.
Whenever we cry out for justice we’re agreeing with the Bible’s vision of the way the world ought to be.
It’s as if we have a dim memory of Eden and a longing to return.

As our opening prayer said, in the pages of Holy Scripture we can read the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience to the glorious redemption brought us by the Holy Child.

The Bible is a story of paradise lost and regained – only better.
We could sum up a thousand pages of Scripture as: “Jesus kills the dragon and gets the girl”.
It is the ultimate, the original, fairy story.
Jesus is the long promised rescuer-king, who, at the cost of his own life, overcomes evil and wins his bride, the church.
The whole world is under the terrible curse of sin, but there’s the ancient promise that one day, a child will be born who will undo the curse.
At last, that child has come.
Jesus is our knight in shining armour - our prince, who will undo the sleep of death.
He is the one in whom all the old prophecies find their fulfilment.
He answers all our deepest longings and dreams.  
Jesus is the hope of the ages and the desire of the nations.
On this child hangs the destiny of the whole world.
He will bring light to the darkness.
His will be an everlasting kingdom of justice, righteousness, peace and joy.

We know that in fairy tales all is not always as it seems.
That Grandma might turn out to be a wolf.
And so it is in this story.
Not wolves and grandmas – but all is not as it seen.
The child born in poverty is a prince.
The helpless baby is the Almighty creator of the heavens and the earth.
The king of the ages is found, not in a palace, but in a manger.

The Bible offers a happily ever after story that seems too good to be true.

Yet the Bible’s story is not a matter of make believe.
Here is the true fairy story – a fairy story that actually happened in real life history.
This is not “once upon a time in a land far away” but “in the days of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, in the town of Bethlehem.”   
The no nonsense shepherds could say to one another:
“Let’s go and see this thing which has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They could check these things out for themselves.
They could see the promised king lying in a manger.
“And they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they were told.”

This true story stands up to historical investigation.
And it goes on changing countless lives around the world today.

The whole point of the Christmas story is that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
This is the greatest story ever told.
But it’s more than a story – more than an idea.  
God himself entered human history as a man.
Jesus is the Down To Earth God.
Everything hangs on that fact.
The eye-witness John says:
 “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
God, the author, has entered his story.
God has come to the world he has made to sort it out.
Jesus stands at the centre of the human story so that your story and mine find there meaning in his birth, life, death, resurrection and return.

It’s our response to Jesus that determines the conclusion of our story:
“to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children God”  

The Christmas story is not just for the kids.
And it’s not just for Christmas.
Here is the true story of our world.
And it’s a story that invites us in.

Will you find time this Christmas, like Mary did, to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart?
What does the birth of Jesus, the Saviour who is Christ the Lord, mean for you?

Like the Shepherds, will you find out for yourself whether or not these things are true?

Like the wise men, will you bow down and worship this child who was born to be your king?

May God enable us to do so. Amen.

No comments: