God's Loving Kindness: Christmas Day

25 Dec 2020 by Rev Paul Bartlett in: Worship Services: 2020

INTRODUCTION So many of the passages of Scripture that concern Christmas come from the Prophet Isaiah set several hundred years before Christ. They are written either side of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple and overwhelmingly convey a deep sighing and longing for God’s people to again be close to God. That deep longing finds expression in the ancient hymn ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ and in a birth long hoped for with the realisation that there is still in our hearts room for the Christ. This first video clip set in Israel has the 2nd verse in Hebrew, the language of Isaiah and the 2nd video clip after the passage from Isaiah 42 will speak for itself.

May they embrace you and warm your hearts on this Christmas Day!


VIDEO https://youtube.com/watch?v=MD-jBLZSZNU      Play until ~1 min 40 sec - end of the Hebrew verse

Isaiah 42: 6b – 9 I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other. Let us pray: Hand in hand with God, I will walk in light and justice.

Hand in hand with God, I will be a light for others. Hand in hand with God, I will speak and live in love, welcoming and embracing God Immanuel.


VIDEO   God with Us


HYMN TIS 268        

Joy to the world! The Lord is come

Let earth receive its king

Let every heart prepare him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.


Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns

Let us our songs employ

While fields and streams, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.


He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of his righteousness

And wonders of his love,

And wonders of his love

And wonders, wonders of his love.                            Isaac Watts 1674 – 1748



NT READING Titus 3:4 – 5 (NRSV)

When the  goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.



Lord Jesus, humble Saviour, you came amongst us by taking the lowest place in a cattle trough amidst beasts of burden and in that act you embraced all that needs your healing touch and renewal in us and in our world. There is no place you will not go to be God Immanuel, God with us.

We praise and adore you.

Lord Jesus, when much of our world is under lockdown for fear of the pandemic and we avoid the stranger or even the well-known one lest they be a carrier, we are reminded of a town where all the doors were barred to you except one.

Forgive us, when we close our doors to those in need of shelter, understanding, love and acceptance.

In Christ we see your goodness and loving kindness. Help us to be like Jesus.

Lord Jesus, who also received gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that would define his life of kingship, service and sacrifice, forgive us when we reject the Gifts you give us, gifts of leaven, salt and light that we may be a blessing and a channel of your Peace to others.

In Christ we see your goodness and loving kindness.  Help us to be like Jesus.

And on this day, when we are often overwhelmed by the empty chairs at our Christmas tables, forgive us when we refuse to invite you to the banquet hall that is our life, for there are still many rooms in our hearts closed to you and your abundant love.

In Christ we see your goodness and loving kindness. Help us to be like Jesus.

For in him is found abundant Life, freely and extravagantly given. Amen.



In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged & who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth, & laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!


HYMN TIS 292           

Infant holy, infant lowly

For his bed a cattle stall

Oxen lowing, little knowing

Christ the babe is Lord of all;

Swift are winging, angels singing

nowells ringing, tidings bringing

Christ the babe is Lord of all

Christ the bae is Lord of all.


Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping

Vigil till the morning new

Saw the glory, heard the story

Tidings of a gospel true;

Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow

Praises voicing, greet the morrow

Christ the babe was born for you

Christ the babe was born for you.                  Polish Carol tr Edith Gellibrand Reed 1885 - 1933

MESSAGE                                            “God’s loving kindness”

If our lives were perfect then there would be no need for Christmas, for Christ’s-mass.

Just think of all those very slowly chewed Christmas puddings from my childhood, not needed or anticipated as I looked for the 3d & 6d within! For 1,400 years from the time of Abraham down to the Prophet Malachi 400 years before Christ, God sent prophets and leaders to form a nation that would reflect God’s steadfast love available to them in all their relationships. A nation formed out of slavery and injustice in Egypt, became a pilgrim people of the 1st Covenant.


Throughout those 1,400 years and more, God’s heart was broken all too often. Time and again people were raised up: Moses, Nathan, Ruth, Elijah, Isaiah, Rachel, Miriam, Jeremiah… Time and again the people followed for a while and then lost their way…returning to live their lives focused primarily on self. And when they died, their link with those who remained, died with them.


We can never know why ‘just then’, the Scriptures call it ‘in the fulness of time’ but around 4-6BCE a young woman, Mary of Nazareth in a remote Province of the Roman Empire, gave birth to a son Yeshua in Hebrew, Jesus in Greek and Joshua in English. As Jesus lived his life engaging with others who felt a sense of inclusion and blessing never before experienced. They saw in Jesus the relationship he had with God was so profound, so insightful, so clear, that God the Creator – this must be God’s Son!!

For the very face and hands of Jesus they believed reflected the very presence and tenderness of God.


A relationship so profound, that death itself is conquered when Jesus rose from the tomb on Easter Day. No longer do God’s people need to keep offering sacrifices, need to keep trying to offload the burden of life’s broken relationships and fears day in and day out, to find healing and peace with God.

A once and for all gift that so truly liberates and sets people free, that millions of people ever since have made Jesus the prism through which all of their life, their values and actions, are lived.


And if daily life has within it much that can unravel before us and within, then 2020 has been one:

Bushfires, drought, floods and COVID-19. It’s as if each of our lives has become fragmented strips of cloth torn off our very being and sense of who we are. Where our deep hunger to be one with others in community has for some months become impossible to experience. A pandemic across most of the world where the virus now kills 3,000+ people a day in the US and continues to lockdown whole cities and countries. We have seen some of that in Australia. No wonder we may feel fragmented, torn, as if in strips where births can’t be celebrated, little ones unable to be held and where those we love who have been part of our lives, always, we have been unable to be with in on their last journeys.


In the mystery that is Christmas, of Immanuel, God with us, God comes in human form, embracing all that it means to be human, taking the lowest place in a cattle stall and taking into himself all our grief and loss, all our and the world’s pain and anger, all that has worked and all that has become dust and ashes in our lives. The image of Bethlehem, of the long journey on foot, at the decree of an Emperor in Rome, just for taxation purposes, oblivious to the lives he upends, of shepherds whose daily lives place them outside of their ability to access the Temple, to access to God, should never be lost on us.

They are the 1st to recognise and worship Jesus. Such a powerful statement of inclusion then and now.

People such as these can be included in the Kingdom.


And in the cattle stall, Jesus is wrapped in strips of cloth, in swaddling clothes.

As Joseph and Mary, shepherds and later Magi (wise men) from the East did when in Jesus’ presence, in their wonder and awe, in humility and generosity, they brought their own gifts to the Christ child.


So, today, perhaps with our own deep longings and hopes, we too sing ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’

we too will bring, strips of cloth to his Manger, as we welcome Jesus into our world and into our lives with all that we are. Please now bring to his manger the strips of cloth you have brought or have been given (using tongs) as you entered the church this morning…as I quietly sing, ‘Cloth for the cradle’.

I’ll close at the end with a prayer…On this day and on all days God is with us. Hallelujah! Amen.

HYMN TIS 256                         

From heaven you came, helpless babe

entered our world, your glory veiled

not to be served, but to serve

and give your life that we might live.


            This is our God, the Servant King

            He calls us now to follow him

            To bring our lives as a daily offering

            Of worship to the Servant King.


There in the garden of tears

my heavy load he chose to bear

his heart with sorrow was torn

‘Yet not my will but yours’ he said.




Come see his hands and his feet

the scars that speak of sacrifice

hands that flung stars into space

to cruel nails surrendered.




So let us learn how to serve

and in our lives enthrone him

each other’s needs to prefer

for it is Christ we’re serving


            Refrain…                                                          Graham Kendrick 1950 -




HYMN TIS 304 vs 1, 6 & 7       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8oc1ovRsnk

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant

Come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem

Come and behold him, born the king of angels,

O come, let us adore him, O come let us adore him

            O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!


Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation

Sing all ye citizens of heaven above

Glory to God, glory in the highest,



Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning

Jesus, to thee be glory given

Word of the father, now in flesh appearing,


BLESSING & BENEDICTION  May the wisdom of the Magi, the curiosity of the shepherds, the faithfulness of Joseph, the love of Mary, the generosity of the Inn keeper, the hospitality of all in the stable and the guiding light of the Christ Child, Immanuel, be a blessing and a hope to you this day and all days. Amen.