With just a few more days to consider shopping it seems that change is the one constant we all live with. The change in our language is forever moving. Words we used for one thing even five years ago have taken on a whole new meaning that they would never have meant until quite recently.
This came home to me very recently when I overheard two adults in conversation talking about the number of ‘sleeps’ until Christmas. Now I know children have used that expression for some time, but for most of us we grew up with the expression ‘so many shopping days until Christmas’, until now of course every day is a shopping day whether we like it or not.
Now it seems our shopping habits are changing. Shops are losing trade for a number of reasons and we see many household store names disappearing from our town high streets and shopping centres. Our shopping habits, like our language are moving on. We are told that we are now buying fewer and fewer ‘things’ and buying more and more ‘experiences’ because we are told therein lies the secret of a happy and fulfilled life. Sadly we discover that experiences are no more satisfying than things.
Equally sadly is the role the church has to play in all this, increasingly it seems the church is attempting to be contemporary by offering experiences. These might be highly mystical opportunities that offer sights, sounds and smells that offer to lead us to that place where we are completely satisfied. Others might offer all the razzmatazz of loud music, lights and action, still more might offer that place where we can get into close contact with out emotions with the false promise that they will bring us closer to God. Many have been there, many have been beguiled and left unsatisfied and left the church behind with promises unfulfilled.
In reality there is nothing new, every one of us can wake up each morning, look in a mirror and be dissatisfied with what we see. No matter how we attempt to dress it up each one of us cannot hide from the truth that we are all failures in our own eyes.
Why? To use a very deeply old fashioned word, it is because of sin, none of us can live the life we are designed for, we are all deeply floored.
The answer is not to be found in something new and trendy, it is not to be found in new and wildly exotic experiences. Not to be found in holidays and gap years, not to be found in possessions that impress others, or gadgets make life easier for us to things we don’t need. The good news is that this new life that we all seek is found in a person, and person who walked this planet fully living life as a man, yet at the same time he was fully God the creator of all things and who’s coming we mark each Christmas.
How can we understand that fully, we cannot, it means we need to have a little bit of faith.
The life that is fulfilled is that of a person who knows they are at peace with their creator. That creator is the one whose coming we celebrate each Christmas. Fulfilment in our lives rests on him and not on things or experiences. The story is an old one, it might seem unfashionable, it might not seem to be very contemporary, it may not at first glance appear to be that radical, but just ask those who know fully what Jesus accomplished for each one of us.
The church has often failed to tell that story and as a result many have no idea what the story is. Many have become so taken with the bright and shiny new they have lost sight of what the old has to tell us.
Over the coming days you may hear several passages of the bible read, including this one read many times in churches and in almost every service of carols that we sing. It was written 700 years before the coming of the one to whom it refers, it means that in places where it is read they are reading words that were written almost 3,000 years ago and we do not hide them, nor do we hide the one of whom the words were written.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
The bright and new and shiny might have an appeal, but for meaning look to the old message, the old story, the established truth, to Jesus.