God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Archive for December 22nd, 2006

A WordPress Christmas message: God is breastfeeding

Posted by Martin on December 22, 2006

For anyone looking for a Christmas message, unpacking a little bit of the true meaning of Christmas, I thought I’d post this – a message I delivered on a London radio station today. Hope it means something to you – and a very Merry Christmas, whoever you are…

The Nativity Story. The wise men, and the shepherds. The cows and the donkeys and the straw. And the little baby Jesus, in his little manger – no crib for a bed. It’s a nice picture isn’t it? Soft, cuddly; reminds you of when you were five years old.

But if you’re honest, has it ever struck you that in this day and age, the nativity seems, well… a bit rubbish? This is supposed to be one of the two main events of the Christian story. Well, by Hollywood standards, it’s hardly a great action sequence.

The sweet little donkey, plodding along under the weight of a considerably-large woman. The shepherds following the star like students staggering after an early morning kebab. And then the baby is born – all little and soft and smelling of roses. And that’s it. That’s the story.

So the nativity: a bit rubbish? Well if you ever have thought that, you’re not alone. It was what the religious people thought at the time. Their prophets had been telling them God was going to send a saviour. And since they were oppressed by the Roman empire, and has lost their freedom – to them, a saviour was going to look a lot more like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Imagine this, alternative Nativity story. Jesus, played by Arnie, teleports into Jerusalem during an electrical storm. Obviously he’s naked, so he goes and beats up a local tax collector and steals his biking leathers. Then he carries his AK-47 into town, and starts blowing away Romans for fun. The Jewish people get their city back, everyone praises God, and Arnie gives the leathers back and pops off home to heaven in time for manna with Moses. Now that’s a story.

But it wasn’t God’s story. And to understand God’s story, and what on earth he was doing through the nativity, we have to go a lot further back.

Here’s what happens in the Old Testament: God makes man, but he falls and loses his place in paradise. Then God chooses a people who can come back to him, but they mess up, and end up as slaves in Egypt. They stay there for about 400 years, but they keep crying out to God, and he can’t ignore it (cos he’s just too darned nice). So he gives power to a leader – Moses – and brings them out of slavery dramatically. Then years and years pass, and the people of God just keep on messing it up. They worship other Gods, they build golden calves and opulent palaces – they can’t stay faithful for five minutes. So God removes his favour, and they get overtaken by the Babylonians, and later by the Romans.

Or more basically: God gives people a chance – they mess it up. Then God gives people a chance – and they mess it up. It’s a cycle.

So what the Jews were expecting, was another Moses – another chance from God – another rescue from oppressors. And who turns up? A little baby. Away in a Manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head. And all the oppressed Jewish people think – are you serious!?!?

And when he grows up – preaching love, humility and turning the other cheek, they’re even more nonplussed. They all decide that this guy just can’t be the saviour who the prophets had been predicting.

But he was. The miracles he performed, and the fact that he rose from the dead, convinced enough people that it spread to become a movement, which is today around 2 Billion strong. The words he spoke were so wise – so unearthly – that he’s now regarded as one of the greatest teachers of all time – whoever you believe he was.

Here’s what happened: God, seeing that Paradise hadn’t been enough; realising that choosing a people and teaching them how to live hadn’t been enough, takes the most drastic action. He sends his own Son – who is fully God – to earth. That moment is pivotal in human history – because God comes to earth to open up the way back to him. Through his son, man and God will again be able to look one another in the eye.

And so Jesus – this eternal, all-powerful being – is incarnated as a human being. He can feel pain, physical weakness, tiredness.

But even more than that – God doesn’t just make Jesus appear – all grown up and full of great wisdom. He brings him into the world through childbirth – as a tiny, frail, helpless baby.

So here we are, back at the nativity. And to me, it doesn’t seem so rubbish now – that Christmas Card picture: the Shepherds and the wise men, crowding round his manger, because they’re in on the secret – God just moved into the neighbourhood. And Mary, with the baby Jesus, feeding at her breast.

God is breastfeeding. He’s become human in every way. What a picture! It’s one you don’t see on the Christmas cards – but what a picture! God is breastfeeding! He humbles himself to the point that he is dependent on man to keep him alive. He lays aside all his power and puts his life literally in one woman’s hands.

He grows up, and although it’s not obvious at the time, he does save the people. He saves them from the Romans – the empire turned Christian within a couple of centuries, and then fell; he saves them from their separation from god. From those humble beginnings – he goes on to become the greatest hero the world has ever seen.

So no, the nativity isn’t rubbish. We might have sanitised it into a nice children’s story because it has animals and a baby in it, but it’s anything but rubbish. This is the moment that God started putting the world back together. And Christmas gives us a chance to remember what God is really doing in that seemingly childish story – he turns the universe upside down so that we might know him. And what an incredible Christmas present that is.

Have a great Christmas.

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Over-prayed footballers

Posted by Martin on December 22, 2006

I’ve already confessed my love of this kind of story – now possibly my favourite TV show in the whole wide world is devoting this Saturday’s programme to it. The BBC Sport website today reports that England footballer Jermaine Defoe is a Christian who says that prayer helps him to get over the disappointments in his career. He says:

‘I pray every day. In the mornings and, before I go to bed. I think it’s important to pray not just when things are going bad.

‘When things are going bad, it’s easy to pray and ask God to help you out, but it’s also important to pray when things are going well and show your appreciation.’

Good on Jermaine for saying that in public when he knows he could get stick from the fans, and good on the BBC for airing his story of faith, and those of other players, in the ‘Faith in football’ special of Football Focus, on BBC ONE this Saturday at 12.10pm GMT.

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