A sermon by Rev Richard Keith on Luke 2:1-8 and 2 Corinthians 8:9 on Christmas Day 2018
There’s a saying these days, “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” It’s a challenge to back up your words with actions. A bit like the saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Or a bit like my old school motto, “Actions, not words.”
If you read your Bible you will find that God can talk the talk on the poor. The Old Testament law says,
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”
The Psalms say, “The Lord raises the poor from the dust he lifts the needy from the ash heap; and seats them with princes.”
And Jesus said,
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
He can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk? What qualifies him to say that the Lord has appointed him to give good news to the poor?
Well, even just a brief look at Luke chapter 2 shows us that these people are poor. Caesar Augustus says the word and the whole world has to go back to their hometown to register. Register for what? Register to pay tax. So Joseph has to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, despite the distance, despite the inconvenience, despite Mary’s pregnancy.
When the child is born there is no room for him where others stay in comfort. Nor is he wrapped in silken sheets in a golden crib, but in swaddling cloths in a manger, an animal’s food trough, would you believe it. Then there are the first visitors to pay a call on the new family. The men doing the job that no one else wants, staying outside at night looking after the animals. The shepherds. We can see the poverty. If we shut our eyes, we can probably even smell it. These people aren’t kings or emperors, or princes or royal advisers. They are not people of power and property. They are simple. They are ordinary. They are poor.
There’s another saying that goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” But the message of Christmas is that God chose this family for his Son. God searched the world, all times, all places, all peoples for the right family to adopt his son, to raise him as their own. And he chose this family. Mary the peasant girl, full of faith. Joseph, the heir by birth to the kingdom of David, but living in the hick town of Nazareth, earning his living as a carpenter. God chose this woman, this man. He chose their home. He chose the cloths, the manger. He even chose the shepherds to be first to receive the news of the birth of the Lord. Nothing happened by chance. Everything was according to plan. God thought it right, God thought it just, God thought it only fair that his son should be poor.
This is the good news to the poor, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor. God had talked the talk, but in Jesus he walked the walk, he put his words into actions. For he thought it only right that his son should grow up in a peasant home and not in a palace, that he should learn to obey his parents rather than to order around servants, that he should work with his hands, that he should know what it was like to have a proper job, to work to a deadline, to have to please customers, to get dust on his feet and sawdust under his nails, to pay his taxes like everyone else, to make ends meet, to speak the language of the common man. And when he died all he owned were the clothes on his back.
This is the good news to the poor, this is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich. He came down so he might lift us up. He became like us that we might become like him. He became a child of men, so that we might become children of God. Without Christ we are poor. Without Christ, nothing we possess is worth having. Without Christ, nothing we achieve is worth doing. In him we are rich. The daily profits of the four big banks are nothing compared to the blessings of knowing Christ and of having his life within us. In Christ our inheritance is bigger than Lachlan Murdoch’s. If we have nothing but Christ, we have all we need. God talked the talk on the poor, but in Christ, God walked the walk. He is God with the poor. He is God for the poor. He is God of the poor.
What some people achieve in their life changes nothing. Everything stays just the way it was. But what God has done in Jesus Christ changes everything. It changes the way we look at the world, the way we look at ourselves, and the way we look at others.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
This is our Lord, the God with the poor, the God for the poor. He talked the talk and he walked the walk, and he commands us to walk in his footsteps.