Have you exceeded the speed limit?
Have you cycled on the pavement?
Have you ever knocked on someones door and run away?
Have you activated your burglar alarm without nominating a key holder who can turn it off in your absence?
Have you sung happy birthday to a friend in public without a copyright license?
All of the above are against the law. Congratulations if you have answered no to all of them! But…
Have you driven a car before 1976 without a bale of hay?
Are you a man born before 1943? Did you keep up your longbow practice?
That is the problem with the law – there are so many, including the ones you don’t know about that it is impossible to keep them all.
So what has this got to do with Christmas? What we are celebrating is the coming of God to earth, but more than that, we are celebrating a whole new way of being right with God.
Lots of religions, and I only haven’t said all except Christianity because I don’t know about all of them, believe that you get right with God by doing the right things, by keeping the “law”. This was certainly the case with 1st Century Jews who not only had the 10 commandments, but the 613 laws of Moses and others that the pharisees had created to ensure that none of the others were broken – except it wasn’t possible to keep all the laws.
Jesus was born to bring Good News to the world – the good news being that it wasn’t keeping the law that made us right with God. Instead God loves all of us – whatever we have done – being right with God depends on God – not us. If you look at the Bible – the only people that Jesus has no time for are those who tell everyone that you have to behave – having created laws which people find impossible to keep, and which they cannot keep themselves, despite perhaps appearing to do so.
Now at this point you might well point me towards a lot of those Christians you hear on the radio telling you about the all the “laws” that you have to keep. All I can say is that I fundamentally disagree with them. Unfortunately the press like conflict and the extremes of the Church of England get more press time than the centre. This parish and the three churches in it are members of Inclusive Church, an organisation whose vision is, in part:
We believe in inclusive Church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality.
God is not a God who is watching over you, trying to catch you doing something you shouldn’t – adding up the pluses and minuses like some Santa figure trying to figure out if you are “naughty or nice”. God is a God who wants us all to have life in all its fullness – to live this life in a way that is fulfilling and life giving. That is the Good News that Jesus was born to bring to us – isn’t that something worth celebrating?
However, this isn’t some excuse for us all to do whatever we want. If God wants us all to have life in all its fullness then we cannot enjoy our life in such a way that others ability to enjoy theirs is impacted. If we insist on overheating the planet because we want our creature comforts, then others homes get flooded; if we want to pay less in taxes then those without the ability to earn sufficient to live will suffer; if we refuse to look after refugees, and others less well off than ourselves, then what for their life in all its fullness? The Jewish scriptures, based on law, defend the rights of the widow the alien and the orphan – how can we basking in God’s love do less?
Of course, if you believe in a God who is trying to catch you out then you will find that a different set of priorities are necessary and you might start telling people how they should behave to be right with God.
No wonder Jesus birth is seen as Good News – now we can all live the lives that he calls us to – lives that allow us and everyone else to enjoy life in all its fullness. No wonder we are celebrating the incarnation – God with us. If you aren’t already part of it I invite you to join this journey of faith and to share in the Good News.