2021-12-25 - Christmas Day - Prädikantin Elke von Schlichting

( 1. John 3:1-2 ) - [ Deutsch ] - [ Abkündigungen515.51 KB ]

Dear congregation,

I don’t know about you, but I have many memories from my childhood that come up every year at Christmas. And today still I look forward to the time of advent and Christmas like a child and that is why I am grateful that the text underlying our sermon today also deals with being a child. I want to read from 1. John 3:1-2: “1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Under ideal circumstances, being a child means developing freely in body and spirit with as little performance pressure as possible here and now. But being a child also means learning rules, accepting limitations, making mistakes and learning from them. And all of this in a space of time, love, acceptance and encouragement that is lovingly created by the parents; a space where there is room for mistakes and where new beginnings are always possible and where comfort and empathy form the foundation of being a child.

Today we also think back of such a space – no spacious children’s or playroom of affluent parents, but a stable in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. And this brings me back to my childhood memories at Christmas. I remember the beautiful wood manger that stood under the Christmas tree. Carved wooden nativity figurines from the Ore Mountains were set up in a stable that my grandfather had crafted himself. It was and still is the most beautiful and important Christmas decoration in the Christmas room.

Let us embark today on a childlike journey of discovery of these nativity figurines because they play an important role in our lives today. Let us sing carols of the joyful miracle of Christmas. Because if there is one day in the year that should not be overshadowed by anything and that should speak only of joy and love, then surely that is Christmas. So, let your childhood memories become awake and feel the joy of Christmas yet again, marvel at the angels, the shepherds and sheep, Mary and Joseph, the child Jesus, the wise men and the star of Bethlehem and think of the holy night.

  1. Joyful anticipation

Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude – anticipation is the greatest joy – we are told by an old German saying. In Europe, the time leading up to Christmas is very special. The Christmas markets, Glühwein, the decorated windows and streets convey the feeling of Christmas much more strongly than the heat of our summer, the bent candles on our Christmas tree, the butter that is far too soft to bake Christmas cookies. And, yet, our South African Christmas is something very special.

The carol “Somerkersfees” by Jannie du Toit simply forms part of South African Christmas. For many it is the carol that best expresses a deep sense of belonging and gratitude for our beautiful country, a vast country that reflects God’s endless love for humankind through the birth of Christ.

Carol: “Somerkersfees” (approx. 3 min.)

  1. The angels

Being an angel and having a guardian angel is very vivid and important for children. But as an adult, I also believe in angels. Angels are an image that God is with me. They convey the feeling and warmth of never being left alone and always being loved and accompanied by God. The angels of Christmas open the heavens for us and bring God and humans together through love. Where are the angels in your life? Do you feel them? Or where are you an angel for others? Where are you accompanying someone, giving him the love and warmth so that he need not feel deserted? A valuable input in this time of Christmas.

Carol: “Engel auf den Feldern singen“ (Melody EG 54) (approx. 3 min.)

  1. The shepherds and sheep

The shepherds were the first who heard of it, in the middle of the night. Simple people, old and young without a roof over their heads. Somewhere on an open field they had set up camp and they were surrounded by sheep and lambs, symbols of vulnerability and innocence. Why did the shepherds receive the message first? And why outdoors on a field instead of on a marketplace or at a public event? Because the shepherds were simple people, just like you and I. God’s son came primarily for the simple people, people who hope and who are watchful, but also people living in darkness and fear, in need and distress.

You, too, are a shepherd – at Christmas God personally comes into your life that you are trying to master with all its ups and downs, Jesus comes to you first – get up and walk towards him.

Carol: “Als ich bei meinen Schafen wacht“ (approx. 2 ½ min.)

  1. The manger and the stable

Just as we try to understand why the shepherds were the first to hear of Christ’s birth, we also try to understand why Jesus was placed in a manger. In a manger, animals find the food they need to sustain their life. And in Jesus we find food for our human soul. The manger is a symbol of God becoming human and embodies the mystery of him becoming flesh. In Jesus, God has become human. In him, we can encounter God. What does your life look like? Where do you find your spiritual food? In the sparkling pipe dreams built on outer appearance and earthly pleasures or in the manger in the stable that is often presented as a ruin symbolising the brokenness of our life and expressing that we rely fully on Christ for our salvation?

Carol: EG 37: V. 1, 4, 9 “Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier“ (approx. 2 min.)

  1. Mary and Joseph

Every girl wants to be Mary in the nativity play at least once and every boy wants to play Joseph. The figure of the young mother Mary embodies pureness and unspoiltness. But it is also an image of humility, obedience and strength. She is mostly shown kneeling or sitting besides the manger and almost always wears a blue cloak. Blue is the colour of the skies and symbolises the role of Mary as go-between between heaven and earth, but blue is also the colour of faith and faithfulness. By her side, the father Joseph is often presented as a man with a beard, lantern and staff to the right of the manger. While the lantern stands for light and hope, the staff indicates that Joseph is the protector of the family. A man for whom it was definitely not easy to understand the situation. And still, just like Mary, he puts aside his own interests and future plans, listens to God and accepts his tasks. Yet another example of obedience. Not only children long to be Mary or Joseph, but as an adult too I stand in front of these two persons and feel the desire of hearing God’s directions just as clearly as Joseph and Mary did and following them as they did, without questions or compromise. Do you do too?

Carol: “Josef, lieber Josef mein” (approx. 2 min.)

6.         Child Jesus

When I look at the child Jesus I feel an immense gratitude for God’s gift of life. The gift of Jesus, the gift of my family, my children, my grandchild, the gift of my friends, colleagues and the gift of our congregation.

The endless love of God that is expressed in the birth of Jesus is a blessing for us all and liberates us to live our life, regardless of what this life has in store for us. A baby in a stable of poverty. In him God becomes alive on earth. Jesus, the “God that helps“ and “God, my saviour“. Jesus invites us to fully rely on him with all our questions, our despair, our needs or whatever burdens we carry. He will carry us. Not only on Christmas day, but every day of our lives.

Carol: “Mary, did you know” – von Schlichtings (approx. 4 min.)

  1. The magi and the star of Bethlehem

The appearance of the holy three kings, the wise men, is linked to numerous myths and legends. Neither their names nor their origin nor their number is proven. But as a child, I was very impressed by them and they are part of every nativity scene. Perhaps because they indicate that even kings must bow their heads before the highest king, the saviour of this world. Other than the shepherds who simply started their journey without having directions, the kings are said to have followed a bright star, the biblical symbol of Jesus Christ, the true saviour. But what is most impressive is the presence of shepherds and kings in the same stable at the manger. A symbol for all persons being equal before God. Are you a king or a shepherd? Have you been led to God or did you find your own way to him? Or are you still on your journey to him?

Carol: EG 544, V. 1-3 “Stern über Bethlehem“ (approx. 2 min.)

  1. Holy night

And so we stand, as children, every year and think back of what Christmas was like back then. We hear the story of Christmas, in awe of the unbelievable events that unfolded over 2000 years ago and we look at the manger and are grateful that at the manger of the child Jesus everyone is welcome: angels, kings, shepherds, sheep, old and young, rich and poor, happy and grateful or filled with despair and questions. The holy night has changed the world.

Through Jesus, God calls us to be his children and every year at Christmas it is his greatest wish that we follow his calling so that the world will get to know and follow him through us. Amen.

Carol: “O, holy night” – Hanko & Jannik (V. 1 and refrain,) congregation (V. 2 and refrain) (approx. 4 min.)


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