Well here we are. Together once again or perhaps you are here for the first time, welcome.
The good news is friends that it is Christmas Eve and you have made it this far. The shopping is finished, the wrapping and preparing of the food probably not yet finished and yet we find ourselves huddled together by candle light in this space. So lets now take an opportunity to breath, to reflect and to share together in the mystery of the season.
So if I can draw your attention to the screen behind me lets take a moment together to watch this …
The infamous Christmas advertising of John Lewis that year on year reaches into the homes of millions of people across the world. With their big budgets, beautiful backing music and seemingly not a lot of pressure to buy their products. John Lewis have realized that at the heart of most people, whether we admit it or not, Christmas is still about connection in some way shape or form. They play on our human desires to want something more than tinsel or useful electronic gifts and they do it well.
This year's offering is no different. It has a young girl making a connection with an old man on the moon. We see her find the moon and then focus her sight in to find a man living what appears to be a really lonely and sad existence.
The girl finds herself surrounded by family and friends and yet she too seems to have a sense of loneliness that mirrors the old man in the moons. She appears to know how he feels and we too find ourselves able to identify with the both of them. For the saying goes; you can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely. And so we find ourselves caught up in the story, wishing the two of them on to find a way to connect.
As the girl heads to her roof and tries to send him a note, we are with her, willing the note to make it. When that fails, she tries to send it by bow and arrow and we find ourselves wishing it will reach the moon. When that fails too we are left wondering how will they possibly ever connect? What will work?
And then there is the surprise.
Friends there is always a surprise, it is Christmas after all!
So we see the Christmas tree pop out of its string bag and the party swirls into action at the girls. But whilst this is all occurring in contrast we see the man on the moon, sat on his bench all alone. The dull dark moon scape is barren before him. His head is bowed, sad, isolated and lonely we find him. The scene is void of colour and life is absent. In our own humanity we recognise this pain…
But the story isn’t over, bouncing up and across the moon's surface comes a brightly coloured present, it is full of life and joy. Balloons and wrapping appear and a gift is given to him!
But how does it end? John Lewis could simply say "Presents make Christmas - buy them at John Lewis" But they don’t!
Friends even the ad execs at John Lewis know that the present is not the end.
For the present is simply the way to make a connection and it is the connection that matters the most.
So the screen simply says "Show someone they are loved this Christmas."
Too often we can often think of God as a 'Man on the moon' character. A distant, lonely, old man in need of our love, sat passively waiting for us to contact him. But the true story of Christmas though is nothing like this at all.
Romans 5:8 says "God has shown us how much he loves us – it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us”
Notice the movement here. We do not find God, it is he who comes and finds us. This friend’s is the true celebration of Christmas. It is not in us searching for God, trying to find enough balloons to get our gift to him. But it is about him coming down to us as the ultimate gift. God showed the world that they are loved on that first Christmas.
So perhaps the most powerful connection we can re establish or perhaps even make for the first time this Christmas is between God and us.
We were powerless, helpless and not even aware of our true state and yet he came. He came as a vulnerable child to a mother of no status in a way that would of brought shame and disgrace to her and he grew as a human like we are all growing, learning to navigate our strange and at times painful world.
Matthew 1:21 speaks of this connection on a deeper level, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
The good news of Christmas is it is not us who must go searching for him, friends thankfully there is no need for notes on paper planes or for arrows. For through Christ, God has already come searching for us.
Truth is the ultimate Christmas gift has already been given, paid for not by money but out of sacrifice. God has willing given the world his only son to us. A son who at this time we remember as small and vulnerable and laid in a manger. But friends Easter is coming and then we will remember the son as a man, who choose sacrifice as a gift so that you and I may have an eternal connection with the father.
In this advert we love the commitment of a young girl with the tenacity to send a parcel to the moon so the old man knows he has been seen and he is loved. We are captivated by the story, should we not love, even more, the Father who sends his only son, as a gift to make a connection with us?
But the gift that is given is not just for us to keep to ourselves, this is where the advert falls a little short!
For me it’s about responding to the love we’re given by God at Christmas by offering it to those who might be feeling like they are isolated, lonely and afraid, just like the man in the moon.
That could be inviting your neighbour around for a cup of tea. It could be striking up that conversation in the school playground. It could be simply sitting next to that person on the bus who others seem nervous about sitting with. Try it – take the risk, see what happens. We are called to be people who don’t accept the story that the world offers that seeks to divide us as communities and make us retreat to our individual moons for safety.
Friends I believe we have a part to play in a far better story: that God poured out his love for us by sending his son to be with us in this world with all its challenges and struggles. We have the capacity to share that risk-taking love – not just this Christmas, but always. Friends I am up for the challenge, the question tonight is are you?