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Merry Christmas everyone how are you doing today it’s so good to have you here to those of you tuning in at home as well we’re delighted to welcome you you guys in the building you are the televised crowd so congratulations to you I’ve told all the services so far that they’re my favorite service but you guys have my real favorite service the fifth of sixth is the place to be so thank you for joining us today my name is alex I’m one of the pastors here I get to welcome you and my name is laura and why are you here because it gives me an opportunity to meet people and not chase our three-year-old around absolutely you got to I bribed her to come up and help me with welcome with free child care for our three children so you’re like I’m in um but hesitantly for definite so um yeah thank you for joining me it’s so fun to have you here so we

wanted to make sure that Christmas eve was live and in person if it was absolutely possible there’s something magical about gathering together some of you have been doing online church for a long time and it’s a great thing to be able to put in place but I think many of you will find that you can’t capture all of the magic of gathering together through a television screen there’s something about being in person that just makes a difference I said to some some of the staff as we were chatting I was very emotional the first time I got to come back to church after the pandemic started if that’s you in this situation you may cry and if you do I want to know about it because I said I would like to make as many people cry on Christmas eve as I possibly can it’s a weird statistic to measure but that’s what we’re measuring this year so we

hope you enjoy singing and our goal was this we wanted you to be able to go away saying I felt like we sang the right amount if you go away saying I talk too much and we sang too little then I’m sorry because we wanted this to be about you getting to sing some of the advent songs that you may not have got to sing this year and so we’re so glad you could join us in person to do that but we have some some fun stuff going on outside and we want to let people know about that right what can they do outside well before that you kind of jump the gun I did yeah okay so we’ve we’ve only been here for a while it’s been three months which is crazy um but we you know so some of you are here for the first time and we haven’t met you so we’d love to meet you um or if we do already know you come and say hi um but you know we’re just so glad that

you came out tonight and or this evening now this evening anyway we’ve got some you know some really fun things outside you can take our Christmas journey um horse drawn carriage and then you can do the journey of light you walk down that way and you can play each clip and it will take you on the journey of the first Christmas uh you can try and guess the voices if you’re a south person try and figure out who did them because they did a wonderful job recording them and in actual fact everything that’s here tonight I just want to just give the staff a big shout out because they have put so much work into making sure in person worked on Christmas eve six services was not easy it’s taken a lot of energy I think yvonne and amy have been outside for about the last six days when a display blew down they picked it back up and they started again

aaron and the team making it through six services keeping those voices going jessica took all your emails when you changed your mind and said I want to go to a different service now she figured all of those dynamics out and this staff team is just amazing to work with and so I’m just very thankful to them one final thing before we start singing we are taking a Christmas offering we do it every year none of the money comes to south it goes straight out to a great organization this year it’s going to true international we sponsor two missionaries with true international tyler and amy they work in nairobi with about 450 street boys they would love at some point soon to purchase a piece of land that will enable them to provide almost like a safe space a haven for some of those boys where they can do some more ministry they can help

train them in in things that will help them find careers and and start businesses and all those different things if you would like to give to that if that feels like something you you feel passionate about there is a give box outside maybe you saw it when you came in there’s no pressure to give none of it comes to south won’t pay salaries won’t pay building costs won’t even do some of the great things we do all the all the year through but whether you’re online or in person you can do that online or in person so let’s pray and let’s start singing Jesus thank you for your presence uh thank you that we celebrate this season of advent we wait as they waited 2 000 years ago and now we’re at Christmas where our waiting ends we remember that 2000 years ago god made his entry into the world in a new way and we celebrate with

excitement that fact love it in the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word was god he was with god in the beginning through him all things were made without him nothing was made that has been made in him was life and that life was the light of all mankind the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world in him was life and that life was the light of all mankind the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world this is the historian john’s introduction to Jesus and compare it to this one this is another writer called luke while they were born there the time came for the baby to be born she gave birth to her first born a son she wrapped him in

cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them do you feel the tension of those two passages one is huge and it’s big and it’s this story that god who was not part of this world is now down here with us it’s this incredible descent of god from infinite and eternal to this tiny little thing right there and the other one is is normal many of you may have experienced it she had a baby she wrapped him in cloths to keep him warm just like people have done for a long time she probably fed him and things too those very normal things one story has this sense of there was a star and there was an angel and there was a party and and the other one was there was poop uh there was a barn it was smelly it was bad and I love these kids in this video because they just capture the mixture of the two stories there’s both

this magical sort of like eternal big thing going on and there’s also this really very normal thing going on but in the middle of this story god becomes human god makes this incredible journey from from not being involved in the story directly the creator of the story comes and gets involved in his own story as a character this is the incredible moment we use this word in church maybe you’re not familiar with it if you don’t do church very often we use this word incarnation and it’s a really important sounding word and the best way I’ve figured out to describe it especially to kids is this it’s like genie in aladdin so if you’ve seen a lad in the movie this sounds sacrilegious scandalous but it honestly is the best way to understand it because genie has this moment the big blue guy has this moment where he says phenomenal cosmic

power edbd living space he goes from being able to do anything he wants to being trapped in in a small place now the reason it’s kind of a scandalous way of describing it is not because it’s bad it’s actually because it’s so so close to what actually happens the god of the universe goes from being up there being able to do whatever he wants to to being down here and he turns up in this incredibly strange place a stable in palestine two thousand years ago that smelled bad that wasn’t ideal god turns up at times in very strange places maybe some of you that have been lucky enough to say that you’ve experienced god in some way would say that you’ve met him in strange places as well I experienced god in haiti in a play a time I didn’t want to be there I had no desire to be there I just had my third child life was busy I didn’t want to go and so I went

resentfully and arriving there I ended up playing soccer with a hundred haitian boys in a building that was probably about the size of the stage behind me and packed in there with all the sweat and all the noise and all the chaos I had this moment where I was like god is here right now it feels like it just feels surreal and I called my wife before I left and said I’m so desperate to see you I’m so longing to see you and the kids but I wish you were coming here because I’ve experienced something wonderful here god turns up in strange places he turns up in a stable 2000 years ago he turns up in a third world developing nation he turns up maybe here in an old shopping mall that we turned into a church god has this habit of turning up in very strange places and that the story that we just experienced is is fantastic think about these

different elements that come together so joseph went from up from the town of nazareth in galilee to judea to bethlehem to the town of david because he belonged to the house of david and he went there to register with mary he was play who was he he was pledged to be married with and expecting a child joseph and mary make their journey to bethlehem and the shepherds were told hurry up and found mary and joseph and the baby who was laying in a manger and these magi characters these wise men or kings after Jesus was born in bethlehem in judea during the time of king herod maggai came from the east to jerusalem these stories are pulled together like a magnet they’re slowly making their way to the same place maybe not at the same time maybe there wasn’t actually a party although I don’t know for sure but there’s

these stories that have been pulled in but actually the biggest story the most significant thing is the descent of god from being there to being down here with us that is the the big moment of the story god made a journey for you and for me that’s the the Christmas message that’s the thing to remind ourselves of the the waiting of advent this season we’ve just been through and if you’re not familiar with advent it’s the four weeks before Christmas day that waiting period ends with the moment that god 2 000 years ago we’re told became a human being to live our story with us and he made that journey for you and for me now I’ve not made that journey but I have as many of you I ha I would suggest probably have at some point I have made journeys for love for just the blind reason of love I was once dating my wife across the atlantic I lived in

england she lived in detroit and I was on vacation in vancouver and I thought you know what I can sneak over and see her for a couple of days now I was very poor at the time didn’t have any money really so I thought about it I thought is it good is it a wise use of resources whatever and a friend said this to me very profound poignant advice if you ever in this situation remember this advice you will never regret spending money on a story that you will tell for the rest of your life if you need some advice maybe that’s for you and so I did I jumped across I jumped on a plane and flew to detroit and we got to spend two three days together when she didn’t expect it I walked into the coffee shop she worked in and I had that moment where her face just lit up with surprise and I’ve made that journey and I did it just because I was in love and and I I played

this wonderful game with her I told her there was no way I would make it out there I even did as you may have done when you’re young and in love sent a little note to us saying I was in seattle and it was raining there because even the sky was sad that the two of us couldn’t be together you know those incredible sappy things you write when you’re young and in love but I made it across and we had this wonderful time together so I know what it is to make a journey for love and and that seems the premise of this Jesus story that god out of love for you and I makes a journey that takes him from all the way up there to all the way down here that is the Christmas moment the thing that we celebrate and yet I wonder whether we struggle with that story at times because of how our relationships work for many of you that have been in a

relationship you’re married you know that it takes work to keep it alive right you get to know the other person and you know not only their good points but you know some of their negative things as well and the cards that you used to write that say things like your eyes are like two limpet pools of loveliness I can’t possibly fathom their depths and you smell of roses become cards that say I still love you see last year’s card if you want more details it becomes like this slightly depressing experience if we’re not careful a colleague in ministry back in michigan where I worked a few years ago said that he asked the dangerous question of his wife could you tell me how you would rate our marriage I would give it eight and a half out of ten she said one and she said I feel left behind I feel like I just have no purpose and I just keep the house going

and you go and do these things and and so he said let’s date each other again so they began to spend more time intentionally together and they went out one evening and she poured out a heart and she said this is how I feel and she went to the bathroom and while she was gone he wrote her a note and handed it to her and she said I came back expecting it to be a note just just reminding me how much he loved me and how much he valued me it was actually a list of how she could be more productive with her day which was not what she was expecting not what she was wanting so she stormed out and and he honestly felt that god had told him to write this list uh and so as she stormed out she somehow knew this and she looked back at him and she yelled oh by the way that was not god talking to you marriage takes this work and if

you’re in a place where it’s feeling difficult where it’s it’s hard that’s okay that’s not it’s not supposed to make you feel bad but because that our relationships look like that because we see the weaknesses in the other person over time I wonder if it affects the way that we think god thinks about us see I would suggest god made a journey for you so that he could journey with you god actually likes being with you I think there’s this sense that we think that the Jesus story is about one moment where god comes and does everything but it’s actually one moment where god comes and does something so that he can spend life with us so he can be with us on that journey of life if you know nothing else this Christmas I would actually like you to know and it sounds insignificant I would actually like you to know that god likes you there’s all these

stories all the way through the bible that tell us god loves us that’s very important he does love you very much but when we’re talking about love and we know that god is love it can seem a bit like an obligation like something he has to do but to know that god likes you with all your quirks all the things that make you you is important he made you and he values you I think I find that hard because well I know just how irritating I actually am I have to spend all day with myself it’s just as bad as you could imagine I never shut up even in my own head so I’m stuck with me and I know all the ways that I irritate myself and I suspect you probably do as well something happens to our psyche as we grow up we go from being kids that believe everybody likes us to slowly questioning who what do people think about us and I wonder if that happens

to even those of us that say that we’re following Jesus on a journey that we’re involved with him day to day I wonder if we just questioned does he really like me I would love this Christmas season for you to know that god loves you and he likes you this is a passage from psalm 139 how precious are your thoughts about me god how vast is the sum of them where I could count them they would outnumber the grains of sand and when I awake I am still with you this writer talks about his journey with god as almost one of young lovers waking up and the first thing that he thinks about his god and he says that almost the first thing that god thinks about if he ever slept was was me they have that sense of relationship god’s thoughts about you are vast if you would uh number the grains of sand it wouldn’t equal the number of times or ways that

god’s god thinks about you and think about how many grains of sand that is think about every golf course and the sand traps think about every ocean bed think about every beachfront that god thinks about you and he loves you and he likes you I would love to create an opportunity for this Christmas season in the midst of singing and weren’t those guys incredible just the voices and just the band together it’s such a joyful time to sing but to create this invitation for you how will you respond to god’s invitation to journey with him maybe that’s something that you’ve never been asked before you’ve never thought about life with god as a journey maybe you’ve heard phrases like you should invite Jesus into your heart or things like that and that language is fine but sometimes it can make us think that all god is interested in is being small

and inside us or something like that but the idea that god is desiring to journey with you to walk step by step to lead you on a journey through life that he wants to give you the power to live a different kind of life isn’t that important at Christmas maybe you’re already on that journey but 2020 has made it difficult and you’re like I don’t even know what that looks like now maybe you’re doing great but there’s new ways for you and god to partner together I would love to create space in this service to invite you into that there’s this wonderful phrase in that story that we just read but mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in a heart I always used to give that song mary did you know a really hard time you know the song and it seems really polarizing some people love it some people hate it and I always used to say of course she

knew it’s in the bible she knew but over time I’ve started to wonder if I’m right because I’ve started to question well what did she know she knew that this child was going to do something incredible she knew that on some in some way on some level he would save the world but she didn’t know it involved crucifixion she didn’t know that it involved resurrection she didn’t know so much of what it would cost her she knew bits but she’s left pondering these things and wondering who this child is that sits in front of her and I would love us to do the same to just spend a moment pondering and maybe asking again for the maybe for the first time who is Jesus and if he is really who he said he is how does that change our life how does that change the world around us I love this child actor I just think she nails that pondering expression and

she’s young but mary herself was 15 16 years old when Jesus was born mary and joseph in some ways were just like the rest of us when we have kids just kids figuring out how life works and yet this story just becomes huge and big and it changes the world around them so in a second we’re going to do a couple of things we’re going to close our service by singing as we do every Christmas silent night by candlelight hopefully you had to get candle given to you when you came in and in a few minutes as aaron comes and leads us in another song oh come let us adore him I’m going to come over here and I’m going to light this center candle it’s called the christ candle it’s the moment that the waiting ends and we celebrate Jesus birth 2000 years ago if you have a story this year that has been maybe it’s been a tough year maybe you’ve

experienced something that you didn’t want to experience yet god has met you in it maybe you’ve had something to celebrate some big story and you’re thankful to god’s role in your life or his part in the journey with you we’d love to invite you to come and light from the christ candle doesn’t make you better than everyone else it just gives you an opportunity to celebrate that moment and then go and pass the late light to others remember if your your candle is lit you keep yours upright if it’s not lit you’re the one that turns yours to the side we do not want masks on fire we have an extra fire hazard this year and so we want to be extra cautious but I’d love us to stand as we do that and as we begin to sing we’re going to read this what’s called a liturgy together if you’ve never decided to follow Jesus for yourself you can make this a prayer

it’s a prayer of decision that says I would like to follow Jesus I would like to be on a journey with him it’s a moment of recognizing that this child came into the world to change everything about the way the world worked to give you new life and relationship with god so let’s read together god we we ask you to make our hearts clean that they may be worthy to become your dwelling place we want to find room for you come and live with us thank you that you turn up in strange places thank you that this is possible because of Jesus amen so if you’ve had one of those moments you can go ahead and come light your candle first Jesus thank you that each candle burning here burning in homes represents a soul a person that you love that you journeyed for so that you could journey with this Christmas season may we

ponder what your story means may we journey with you in fresh ways for each of my friends may they know the peace and joy of Christmas may they go share this light with the world around them amen feel free to blow your candles out friends if you blew them out through your mask your mask isn’t good enough that joke will not work next year I hope Merry Christmas everyone Merry Christmas have a wonderful Christmas

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