A large helping of GOOD NEWS!
Dec 19th has always been one of the most significant days on my calendar, especially when I was little. It was my beloved Dad’s birthday. And what a grand affair it was! Mum took charge. She ensured that not just her seven children, but all our friends, relatives and neighbours joined in the extravaganza. For weeks preceding the event, we children would be stifling giggles in the kitchen, practising in hushed tones, (so Dad wouldn’t hear), a nativity play and other novel items for the Show of the year. Dad constructed an elaborate curtain. Mum typed up attractive programmes to hand to our guests. She even composed a new song each year. Here’s one of them, set to the tune of “Marching to Georgia”.
“Oh we are the young Abayasekara Seven, very glad to see you here today.
We may not appear to have stepped straight from heaven,
But we did, and are happy to stay...
We hope that you all will come year after year, this glad day with us children to share,
It's a Big Day for us in the season of cheer, and right now we are proud to declare,
That our Thatha has been quite the bestest of Dads,
And we wish him with love and with pride,
May his dreams all come true as his Seven grow up,
And our love hold whatever betide.”
When the big day arrived, our home would overflow with family and friends. There was joy and celebration, feasting and fellowship. At the tender age of 3, I played the part of an angel, announcing the good news to the shepherds. “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born in the city a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” A bachelor friend of my parents was enchanted by my performance and made a prediction about yours truly—that I’d be a ‘Florence Nightingale’ and would stay single and serve humanity. Alas, his hopes have not been realised.
After a scrumptious dinner, we'd enjoy a lively session of carol singing. An uncle and aunt, versatile players of clarinet and piano, provided the music. Those were glorious evenings, filled with the joy and wonder of Christmas. As the years passed, inevitably my older brothers and sisters grew up, got busy and left home, so the number of actors and actresses gradually diminished. I was sad—I’d have liked those concerts to last forever. There was one year when there was just two of us left. The play we chose had more than two characters. So what did we do? We kept switching roles, (wasn’t that clever)? In one scene, my brother was the king and I was a subject. In the next, I was the king and he was a shepherd. In a third, he was the king and I was a servant. The mind boggles. It must have been a totally bewildering experience for our audience!
This week we reflect afresh on the Christmas narrative. There's Mary and Joseph, travel weary but with full hearts and tear filled eyes as they gaze in wonder at their beautiful baby. A brilliant star illumines the little tableaux. The shepherds hurry in excitedly. Baby Jesus opens his eyes and the shepherds falls to their knees in adoration and worship. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you and I could tiptoe into that stable? Which of the Nativity group would you like to be this Christmas?
Would you choose to be …
The donkey that Mary rode on—blessed by the precious load he carried?
The Inn keeper—stunned to hear who was sleeping in his stable?
The Angels, praising God and thrilled to perform their part in God’s story?
The Shepherds who viewed the glory of the Lord and heard the amazing News?
The Wise men who sought for so long ‘til they found Him?
Joseph, willing to trust God no matter that his wife had carried Another’s child?
Mary, gathering treasures of a unique kind and pondering over them in her heart?
It would be a learning experience to walk in each of their shoes, wouldn’t it? But I can't stop there. Let me don our Lord's cloak of humility; put on His Royal Crown of Love. Let me slip my feet into my Saviour’s sandals and follow Him. Let me touch the lives of the grieving, the sorrowing and the lost, those for whom He came. Will you join me?
And here’s the thing. It was the greatest show on earth, but it was the littlest of them all, only a few hours old who was the leading STAR! Over 2000 years later, He’s still the STAR! He is the One who makes our world turn on its axis. He who threw off His King’s royal cloak and changed into a a poor man’s attire. He who created the universe and all who live in it. He who flung the stars into space and breathed life into us. He who is the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Door to Eternal Life. He who died a cruel death on a cross so that you and I might find our way back to God. Today I'd like to offer you some good news. The best news ever. No matter how bleak your situation, the messsage of Christmas never dims. Jesus came into the world to bring you life. And joy. And hope. And peace with God. Would you like a large helping of that?
So come, let us go together to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, born in a lowly stable—but the Christ, the Saviour of the World. And as we worship Him, may we be transformed, so that like the shepherds, we too will hasten away, filled with elation and wonder, to share the good news of great joy with all the world!
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:2