Saturday 25 December 2021, St Paul’s, Durban

Dear People of God

Happy Christmas!

Sermon

Today’s Christmas sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu may be found below.

Christmas Music

We have two musical items:

Christmas Interlude by Melvin Peters .

Bremen-Durban Partnership 10 Years by Melvin Peters and Tim Gunther .

Both of these are available on WhatsApp.

Rest in Peace

One of our members, Mrs Beatrice Sosibo passed on on Thursday evening.  Her funeral will be on Wednesday next week at St Pauls.

Mandisa Gumada of our parish will be burying her mother, Portia Gumada, on Monday (in Flagstaff)

Let us pray for these families.

  • Services are on Sundays at 7.30am and 9.15am. Mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing are essential. No singing is permitted. Temperatures and tracing details of those attending will be taken.
  • The full Service Slides, including the hymns, readings, prayers, other liturgy and notices may be found on our website.

A video regarding vaccination (and the text of it), received from the Archbishop’s COVID advisory team can be found

  • A video regarding vaccination (and the text of it), received from the Archbishop’s COVID advisory team can be found here.

Sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu Christmas Luke 2:1-20

The problem with preaching Christmas sermon is that people already know what to expect.

You expect a preacher to be standing on a pulpit telling you about the birth of Jesus.

And you know the Christmas story from Sunday School. And so, we are no longer shocked by the long story Luke tells this morning.

But just imagine you are out there at the Spar or Pick n Pay, feeling flattened by the terrible heat,

worrying about climate change and the fact that your money goes nowhere, and tossing your particular anxieties around in your head, and this untidy looking street person comes up to you and says: I had a message from an angel, and I went to a hut on the hills around Mbumbulu and there I found a newborn child and s/he is the saviour of the world.

Would you believe this message?

Would you abandon your shopping and head for Mbumbulu?

Or would you just smile politely and think “Oh my goodness another one…”

and get on with your shopping, trying to remember not to forget the Choice assorted biscuits and dessert.

Saviour of the world, indeed! It’s pretty hard even to imagine a saviour of our own country.   Who might that be? We probably thought Cyril but that seems unlikely with his own party employees spending Christmas unpaid.

Judge Zondo? Well only if you have still have the whole of 2022 to listen to endless stories of state capture.  King Misuzulu, well if you have some more money to buy newspapers narrating us about the Royal household taking each other to court.

So, it’s pretty difficult to imagine any of these powerful leaders saving just our own small part of the world. But if you are told a baby girl/boy in a hut near Mbumbulu is going to do this, well that’s a pie in the sky.

But I guess that is what Luke is asking us to believe this morning.  A baby born in the cowshed. And this baby is the chosen one of God, anointed to be the saviour of not just the country but the whole world.

It’s as outrageous as a baby girl/boy in Mbumbulu. As if this was not shocking enough, Luke fills in some more details to help us get the point.

Maybe lets us try and explore these details, Luke begins his story of Jesus’ birth by telling us that Emperor Augustus ordered the whole world to be counted in a census. An emperor in Rome is about as far away from a baby in Bethlehem as you can get.

This Emperor Augustus called himself divi filius – son of God or “divine son”. Augustus was also sometimes called Saviour of the world. So, Luke has a bit of a joke at the emperor’s expense, when he says this baby Palestinian boy is the son of God and saviour of the world.  Not Emperor Augustus, but a peasant boy.

Not this powerful dictating figure, but this small humble boy.

And how did anyone even know this?

Well, says Luke, the birth was announced by an angel to a group of shepherds who eventually spread the news. It gets even more unbelievable

Those who have been to the traditional site of the shepherds’ field outside Bethlehem tells us it’s just a stony little hill with some scrubby grass and a few small trees. So, the point of all of this is that Luke insists that the birth is announced not from the palace steps in Rome, or in the temple in Jerusalem but on an insignificant little hill to an insignificant group of “untidy” shepherds

And when the angels leave those terrified shepherds, what do the shepherds do?

They speak to each other and decide to head off for Bethlehem.

Eish we often miss this verse thinking it’s not important. Except that it is.  The shepherds speak to each other.

Contrast that with Emperor Augustus who speaks by himself and orders the way things will be.  In God’s new community there are no top down commands. There is discussion, with each other. Together they decide.

All the voices matter. And they head off together and arrive together. Not some comrade marathon but the rest of us jogging along. As community they decide. As community they travel

and as community they arrive at the manger side.  And as community they discover the child, the promise, as promised.

Together they discover the saver.

And then they head off home and on the way they spread the word. And all were amazed at their telling, says Luke.

I imagine some who heard went to look for themselves, but probably others just got on with buying choice assorted biscuits and dessert.

My sisters and brothers in Christ allow me to suggest that: every one of us is like the shepherds.

Of course, most of us here this morning live-in middle-class homes and drive middle class cars and own middle-class technology. But like those shepherds, every one of us has been marked by the hardship of living.

We might not be poor, but each of us carries something we feel ashamed of, something that marks us as outcast. Something we wouldn’t like others to know.

Every one of us has endured a painful night on a cold hillside – maybe not literally, but every one of us has watched someone we love die or stayed awake at night frightened by the violence and looting in our country, every one of us lives in fear of what COVID 19 could have for us in 2022.

We are worried about a child who isn’t doing well, or a relationship that looks set to crash.

And every one of us, like those shepherds, knows what it’s like, at some time or another, not to be included in the in-group.

And I imagine pretty much every one of us, thinks to ourselves: Who am I?  I have no hope, no right to be touched by the divine and come face to face with the face of God

And yet it’s to those outcast, worried, frightened, unimportant, ordinary people, that the angelic messenger comes and says: Today, to you, is born this sign of hope.

We won’t hear the gospel proclaimed from Parliament. And we won’t hear it told to the perfect parts of our lives – the parts we usually put on display

(especially in church).

The angel’s message is spoken to you and me in the frail, fragile, faithless parts of our lives, and often on dark nights. And it will probably be frightening and strange and pretty unbelievable. But then we have each other to speak to and to journey alongside.  And if we stick together, and encourage each other, perhaps we too, like those shepherds, we will together arrive at the manger and discover the light of the world.

 

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account:   Account Name: St Paul’s Church      Account Number: 50854628623     Bank: First National Bank (FNB)     Branch Code: 221426