Anyone get any good cracker jokes? I think our best one was this…
Why did the man get fired from the orange factory? He couldn’t concentrate.
What sort of Christmas have you had? Are you all ready with your New Year Resolutions to eat healthily and exercise more?
I’ve been pondering these two passages all week – Luke draws a clear link between Hannah and Mary, and between Samuel and Jesus.
Those women are probably the two best examples of humble faith in the Bible. Both trust God, both give birth miraculously, and both sing a song of praise to God when they find out they are pregnant. They are all about giving God the glory.
Then there’s that verse about how Hannah used to make Samuel a little robe and take it to him on their yearly visit to the temple – it breaks my heart a little every time I hear it or read it – I’m a big softie really. She had made a vow that if God gave her a child, she would dedicate him to God’s service – and she followed through.
Samuel grew up to be a mighty judge and prophet, leading Israel faithfully all his life, anointing not one but two kings – one of whom was King David. And yet, even his legacy was mixed – his sons were wicked and abused their position.
We might not be surprised to read something like this:
The boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favour with the Lord and with people.
1 Samuel 2.26 (NIV)
Of course he grew, he was a little boy!
But then Luke quotes that verse, almost verbatim, and applies it to Jesus:
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Luke 2.52 (NIV)
Jesus grew. Luke isn’t simply talking physically here, but in every sense – in wisdom as well as stature, in favour with God and man.
For some of us it will feel a little weird to say that Jesus grew like that – he was God’s only Son, beloved from all eternity, begotten of the Father before all worlds – how could he grow in wisdom, how could he grow in favour with God!?
For others it will seem completely natural – of course Jesus grew, because we all do. We see Jesus being hungry, tired, angry, upset – we see our experience of what it means to be a human, mirrored in Jesus’ life. Of course Jesus grew!
We respond differently that verse, because it’s so hard to get our heads around what it means for the Son God to become a man. ‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity!’
We read in Hebrews that Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5.8), and in Mark that Jesus walked on water (Mark 6.48). We see him raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11.44), and then weeks later dying himself, on a Roman cross (Matthew 27.50).
It’s so hard to keep those two things together, that people usually emphasise one or the other – we either focus more on Jesus as God, or on Jesus as Man.
But the truth is, Jesus was and is both God and Man. He truly took on our human nature. It wasn’t a parlour trick, it was real.
It’s hard to understand – the technical term is ‘hypostatic union’ – and frankly we’ll never be able to understand how. But we don’t need to, because the Bible does tell us why, and what it means.
And the answer to that is simple: God is with us.
Jesus, God made Man, is God, and Jesus, God made Man, is Man – so he is God with us. And he is truly with us. I imagine that most of us have either had, or we have been ourselves, visitors in the last few days. Visitors are lovely – and to be honest one reason they are lovely is because they are temporary… they arrive, and then they leave (!).
But Jesus is not a visitor. Jesus is one of us. He doesn’t visit us, he dwells with us. Jesus doesn’t come and go, he came to stay. Jesus doesn’t expect us to find him – he came to find us, who are like lost sheep, and bring us home.
Jesus’ birth tells us who God really is – and it’s not who we might expect. I’d like to read you a poem about that, by someone called Glen Scrivener. It’s called Santa vs Jesus.