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Telling the Story Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-14

The Rich King
I would like to tell you a story which was told by a famous Danish Christian thinker called Søren Kierkegaard. He was a very clever man and his thoughts have been found to be true by many people. But I am glad that such a clever man could tell a fairy story like this one.

Once upon a time there was a very rich but unhappy king, unhappy because he was all alone in an empty palace. How he longed for a wife with whom he could share his life.Then one day the king saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, riding through the streets. Enquiries revealed she was a peasant girl, but the king’s heart was captivated. He would make sure that each day he rode past her house in the hope of catching a glimpse of his love.

But the king had a problem. How would he win her love. He could draw up a royal decree commanding her to become his queen. But then he could never be sure he had won her love, for she would be required to obey a royal decree. Perhaps he could call on her and try to win her over, appear in all his regal glory and sweep her off her feet. But no, then he could never be sure whether she had married him only for his power and riches.

Finally he came upon the perfect plan. He would come to her as a peasant. That was the only way to truly win her love. So he abandoned his palace and his riches and his comfort and put on the clothes of a peasant. He went and lived among the peasants. He worked with them, shared their sufferings, danced at their feasts, until finally he won the heart of the woman who had captured his.
So it is with God. Christ became one of us, lived among us, worked among us, suffered with us, danced with us. All in order to win our hearts.

Where do you start?
One of the things that a preacher or teacher (or even a parent) has to struggle with is how you explain the Christian faith. The favourite way of Jesus, which is an excellent example, is by telling stories. But how do you tell the story of what we believe? Where do you start? We have four gospels, stories of Jesus, in the Bible, and they give us the two possible starting points. Matthew and Luke chose to start from below and they tell a human story which reaches up to God. Mark is in such a hurry to tell us about Jesus’ work, that he doesn’t even tell us anything about Jesus being born. John is different from the first three gospels, and he decided to start telling his story from above: he starts with God and comes down to the world and human life. The letter to the Hebrews follows a similar pattern: “long ago God” it starts and then “but in these last days”. In the past God reached out to us by speaking through prophets. But more recently God reached out to us by sending his Son into the world.

St John was a little like the Danish thinker that I started my sermon with. He was a deep thinker, but he explained his deep thoughts in very simple words. John begins by saying that the thing which started off the whole story of the universe was the Word. He is actually picking up on the way that the Bible begins by explaining how God created the universe. God spoke and when he said, “Let there be light!” there was light. When he said “Let there be [all the other things]” they all came into being through his word. St John explains that this special Word was actually the Son of God. This Word was the light and life of the world. Then he says that a man called John came to get people ready for the next part of God’s story. The next part of the story was a surprise (like all good stories) followed by another surprise (like all really good stories!) The surprise was that this word that created everything became an ordinary human being. The extra surprise was that most people didn’t believe who they saw – that Jesus was from God, that he was the Son of God. But, as both John and the letter to the Hebrews explain, this one who came among us really was God and showed who God was really like.

Birds at Christmas
I would like to finish with a story about Christmas in Australia. One Christmas morning a family rose and eagerly opened their Christmas presents. After the present openings the mother and children got ready to go to church. The father opted to stay at home. He found it impossible to believe the Christmas message - that God had become a human being in order to save humanity.

It was an extraordinarily hot, sweltering morning. The family headed off and the father waved his family goodbye. He had the air conditioning turned up high and had just settled into read a book he'd received as a present when he heard a loud crash at the window.

When he went out the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds lying in the garden beneath the window. They were panting and near exhaustion. In a desperate search for shelter from the heat and water to drink they had tried to fly through his window.
"I can't let these poor creatures lie there and die," he thought. "But how can I help them?" He decided he could take the birds into the garage. It was located under the house and was cool. The man raced down, opened the garage door and quickly filled a large bucket with water. The birds could drink from this and even bathe in it. He then raced back to where the birds were, but as he approached they started, even in their weakened state, to cry as though terrified. When he tried to pick one of the birds up it pecked his hand furiously, drawing blood.

He gathered a broom and tried to shoo the birds down towards the garage, but they mustered what little energy they had and flew a few metres before falling to the ground even more exhausted. "The poor creatures," he said to himself. "They're terrified of me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety..."

Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees and prayed "Now I do understand," he whispered. "Now I know why you had to do it."

A Merry Christmas you all!

Copyright © Rev Paul Smith



Lord Jesus Christ,
your birth at Bethlehem
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth:
accept our heartfelt praise
as we worship you,
our Saviour and our eternal God.