Everyone’s Invited | Tim Martin (Fancy Dress Nativity)
The Christmas Story
Excerpts taken from the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
He's here! The Nativity, from Luke 1–2.
Everything was ready. The moment God had been waiting for was here at last! God was coming help His people, just as he promised in the beginning.
But how would he come? What would he be like? What would he do? Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held it’s breath. As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came.
Mary and Joseph had to take a trip to Bethlehem, the town King David was from. But when they reached the little town, they found every room was full. Every bed was taken.
‘Go away!’ the innkeepers told them. ‘There isn’t any place for you.’ Where would they stay? Soon Mary’s baby would come.
They couldn’t find anywhere except an old, tumbledown stable. So they stayed where the cows and the donkeys and horses stayed.
And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world His wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby Son.
Mary and Joseph wrapped him up to keep him warm. They made a soft bed of straw and used the animals’ feeding trough as his cradle. And they gazed in wonder at God’s Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.
Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, ‘Emmanuel’ - which means ‘God has come to live with us’. Because, of course, He had.
The Light of the whole world. The story of the shepherds, from Luke 2 and
The King of all kings. The story of the three Wise Men, from Matthew 2
God couldn't keep the good news to himself. He’d been waiting all these long years for this moment, and now he wanted to tell everyone. So he pulled out all the stops.
He’d sent an angel to tell Mary the good news. He’d put a special star in the sky to show where his boy was. And now he was going to send a big choir of angels to sing his happy song to the world: ‘He’s here! He’s come! Go and see him. My Little Boy!’
Now where would you send your splendid choir? To a big concert hall maybe? Or a palace perhaps? God sent his to a little hillside, outside a little town, in the middle of the night. He sent all those angels to sing for a raggedy old bunch of shepherds watching their sheep outside Bethlehem.
Far away, in the East, three clever men saw the very same star. The star that God had put in the sky when Jesus was born. They knew it was a sign. A baby king had been born.
They had been waiting for this star. They knew it would come. ‘He’s here!’ they shouted. ‘He’s here!’
They packed up their camels and wrapped gifts for the baby. They brought their most precious treasures of all: frankincense, gold and myrrh – just right for a king.
They caught their breath. then quietly, they tiptoed inside. They knelt on the dirt floor. They had heard about this Promised Child and now he was here. Heaven’s Son. The Maker of the Stars. A baby sleeping in his mother’s arms.
This baby would be like that bright star shining in the sky that night.
A Light to light up the whole world. Chasing away darkness. Helping people to see. And the darker the night got, he brighter the star would shine.
Though he was the Prince of Heaven, he had become poor. Though he was the Mighty God, he had become a helpless babe. This King hadn’t come to be the boss. He had come to be a servant.
Over the past couple of weeks, the story of Jesus’ birth has been enacted by children up and down the country. Dressed as shepherds, angels and kings, they have celebrated the mind-blowing story of God coming to live among us.
Particularly fine performances are sometimes staged in schools, where every child has a part to play, no matter how big the class. Some do this by including crowds of shepherds and angels, and an entourage for the kings. Others involve all sorts of extras visiting the manger, such as Darth Vader, pirates and Harry Potter.
It might seem to rather stretch the Christmas story as told in Luke’s Gospel, but it reinforces a major part of the message: that the birth of this baby was for everyone.
The invitation to participate in God’s story is extended to us all, no matter who we are or what our lives have been like so far. But being invited is only where it starts. It’s up to us to accept the invitation and get involved.
I have occasionally accepted an invitation to a party, and then when it came to the day, I didn’t go after all. I just didn’t feel like it. Accepting is one thing, but turning up is another. It’s the same with God’s invitation to be part of his story. We might accept the invitation, believing that Jesus came to save us, but then life goes on and somehow we don’t make the connection. We don’t realise that accepting the invitation takes us into a whole new dimension of life, following Jesus as the King, and that this will be for ever.
So how do we respond to God’s invitation? On Sundays we can come together with other believers to celebrate God’s love. In our ‘little churches’ we can get to know each other better and explore what all this means. And we can simply turn to God in prayer and ask, ‘How can I be part of your story?’