This year, in the wisdom of film distributors, The Grinch was released in November. As the tag-line says, it’s never too early to be annoyed by a Christmas film. One reviewer suggested that on this trend Christmas 2025 will begin in August.
Let’s step out of the rush for a few minutes and turn to an ancient document: The Gospel According to Luke. The book claims to be based on eye-witness accounts. It tells us that an angel named Gabriel came to a young virgin woman called Mary and told her she was going to have a child.
Here’s what the angel said about this child:
He will be great.
He will be called the Son of the Most High
His kingdom will never end.
For those who don’t know, The Grinch is the third screen adaptation of a book by Dr Seuss, which tells the story of a creature who attempts to put an end to Christmas by stealing from people’s homes on Christmas Eve. Luke’s gospel is the story of Jesus, the unexpected and strange king who was born in Bethlehem. He was born into a royal line with a supernatural birth and he became great in a way nobody could have expected.
It’s never too early to be annoyed by the story of Jesus. He confounds our ideas of greatness. He changes our ideas about God. He offers a kingdom like no other. Don’t let anyone steal this Christmas from you.
Jesus is the ultimate surpriser. If we say 'we've done this so Jesus will ...' we may soon have to admit that we are wrong.
Actually, everyone I know can surprise me. We my be predictable most of the time but none of us are predictable all the time. The people I know best can still surprise me.
Let me ask you a question: If I have faith will Jesus heal me? Got your answer? Here's mine: it's up to him. Sometimes Jesus rewards faith in this way. Sometimes Jesus heals when there is no faith. Sometimes he does not heal when there is plenty of faith. That's how it worked in New Testament times and that's how it still is.
What I do know is that Jesus has compassion.
Someone wisely said that faith is not a slot machine. It's a real relationship, with someone who is wonderful and gloriously unpredictable. When God revealed himself in human form he was nothing like the thing we expected him to be. When we get to know him now he amazes us. He disappoints us. He leads us to places we could never have imagined.
Marriage is an adventure. Friendship is adventure. You never know where they will lead. Faith is the most wonderful adventure. Just when you think you've 'got' Jesus you find that you haven't.
Give Jesus permission to surprise you today.
A quick request: I’d like you to sum up the life of Jesus in one sentence, no more than ten words.
OK. What have you got? Here’s my answer for today. It’s from Luke’s gospel, chapter seven.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking.
You may think that your answer was more important than mine and you may be right. But please do hear me out. Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus ate meals with people. There are nine recorded meals in Luke’s gospel and many more we don’t know about.
Jesus loved to eat with people. He didn’t care whether they were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people. He wanted to be with them. And he liked to be welcomed properly. He accepted a half-hearted welcome, but it was better when people showed that they really welcomed him.
The award for the best welcome goes to a woman who was known for being ‘sinful.’ She gate-crashed the meal. Her welcome was outrageous and extravagant, much better than the welcome from the official host.
She did this because she knew she’d been forgiven. A lot.
More on Sunday ….