Good morning everyone

Today’s sermon is the 1st Sunday after Christmas. And with a beautiful performance by Mrs baker and the Sunday school kids on Christmas day to a full house I may add. We learnt how we got to the birth of Jesus in a manger. It was great fun to be part of and by all reports was enjoyed by the happy audience.

What makes us happy… happy is a feeling we experience receiving something that creates pleasure in us. It is described as a feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

For us to feel happy we need to receive something. Coffee in the morning makes me happy. Last week’s play made the whole church happy as they received the feeling of joy entertainment and love from the actors. And the actors received joy from performing.

Delving deeper, Happiness is therefore thankfulness. Thankful for the feeling that we have just received. Thankfulness is a great ally to have in our world. It defeats jealousy, pride and hate. It helped me battle my jealousy of my siblings. I’m the oldest of 3 children to my mum and dad. Yet, I’m the only one who doesn’t have my own house. But instead of being jealous, I’m thankful that I have a house to live in and 4 beautiful children and an amazing wife I adore. Nothing can buy what I have in my life, I honestly feel rich because of that.

Therefore, thankfulness, at its highest form …is Praise.

You see when you receive such a feeling of happiness there is no other way to describe it other than praise. Praise is happiness and happiness is praise. When I taught Abbie and Scarlet to ride their bikes and they succeeded. I was so happy, I praised them and their new-found skills and abilities. I was overjoyed with happiness and thankfulness that they had learnt this momentous life skill. And they also gave me praise, happily thanking me, for teaching them.

Just as we fully understand and appreciate the good news of the bible, we praise God because of his love and acceptance of us for who we are and the guaranteed seat he has set at his table in eternal life with our loved ones.  

However, this good news, could not have happened without God putting into action his plan and entering the world as a vulnerable little child in full trust of 2 humans on that first Christmas. Don’t forget the last team of 2 humans Adam and eve let him down. Yet he still showed trust and faith in us to care and raise his own son. Why wouldn’t he. He loves us. Look at the prodigal son story.

Without Christmas there would be no Easter, no saviour, no cross, no way, no good news.

This brings us to our Hebrews reading. This passage is very important as it blatantly shows us in black and white that Jesus had to come to earth born as a human child to fully and raised by a mother and father, to understand you and me and the temptations we encounter every day. He had to be human to know us and our sins and defeat death and the devil. He only came to save us, no one else, not even Angels, this is what is referred by Abraham’s descendants.  

One of the first sermons leesh and I went to in Tenterfield was on sin. Gus, the pastor told us we are all sinners and in fact were born with a sinful heart. This got my attention and I gave leesh a funny look. thinking, hmmm, I don’t know what this guy is on about. We were good people. I was the town cop I had to be good, if not for no other reason than to keep my employment.

But then he went on and spoke about, is a child taught to throw a tantrum when they don’t get there way. Do we teach our children to fight and argue over trivial matters like its world war 3? Do we teach them to lie to us when they took an extra chocolate or playing their iPad when they are not allowed? No, we don’t. I was gobsmacked. I looked at Leesh and our eyes met. We both nodded in agreement, this guy is good. Was pretty cool to share a penny drop moment with her, both stating, that is so true.

Sin is already in us and temptation is so easy for us to succumb to. But praise is not. Praise is something we need to work on every day. Change the word to happiness if it hits you better. Happiness is something we need to work on every day with our God inside us, the holy spirit, guiding us. Not always an easy task.

You know what though, during this Christmas season, I couldn’t help thinking of the sadness that is constantly around us and that impacts us or those close to us at a time of year where we are told to be happy and the expectation that we need to be causes stress, anxiety which breeds anger, frustration, jealousy and ungratefulness to name a few.

We can’t just be happy; we need to be aware that we have received something first.

At this this time of year its socially acceptable to wish everyone with well intentions to have a merry Christmas and have a Happy New year to help spread joy during this season. But the reality is, we can’t guarantee it will for ourselves or others around us be happy. In my life circle I know of family sadness, loss of life, financial hardships. I read with sorrow last weekend that 2 volunteer fighter fighters died, both with young children days before Christmas. God only knows what you are going through in your own life circle at the moment. With feelings of frustration, helplessness, anger and distress. And your allowed to feel that way, it is not wrong.  

You see we can’t control what happens in our lives, we can take precautions sure! and prepare for different things taking preventative measures, making reasonable decisions, but we can only do so much.

But we can control our response to these hardships. You see the beauty of our faith is we always have a trainer in our corner, to give us water, wipe our face and care for us, whether it’s the first round of in the boxing ring or the 12th.  

We have God, the mighty counsellor and comforter. A God who loves us and wants to help us. For this be happy, thankful and praise him for the strength perseverance and patience he provides as well as the courage, hope and love we all need.

Do you know that if you look at the birth of Jesus you will see the fruits of the holy spirit on display? The joy of child birth, the love Joseph had for Mary, the kindness of a mother and father and also the inn keeper offering something when he had nothing to offer. Patience of a mother and father awaiting the arrival of Jesus into the world, the peace in mother and father sharing their first moments with their child Jesus. The goodness of those coming to see and worship a child and the faith Mary and Joseph showed in accepting the job God needed them to do. The gentleness of a mother and Father wrapping their new born child in clothes and placing him in a manager with straw and the self-control of Jesus and Mary being told no, no, no, while knowing Mary was heavily pregnant, and needed rest and comfort which did not seem to be possible. I would have been beside myself and struggling to hold my self-control at people who obviously did not care about me or my wife.

Paul was clever in writing his Gospels and clearly knew his stuff as if you look at every interaction Jesus had and parable spoken. You will see like Paul, all the fruits of the spirit on display. I wonder if Paul did not identify them for us in Galatians. Would we have seen them?

It’s also funny how there was no room for Jesus in Bethlehem with inns packed full of people, drinking eating and laughing, apart from that one inn keepers stable where Jesus literally was cast aside too.

It seems we live in a modern world where again there is no room for Jesus and he is cast aside into the background whilst the world’s focus is on other material and flesh priorities. I wonder if Jesus is cast aside to the corner in your life. I know sometimes he is in mine. Bring him out into the forefront. He wants to guide you and love you. He wants to give you Happiness though his comfort, love and counsel.

The first reading, which was from Isaiah. Was written by a man who was suffering the oppression of the Babylonian army yet while having every right to be felt let down and discarded by God, he praised god.

Reminding his audience of how God has rescued them before and all the good deeds he had done yet seem to have been forgotten and cast aside.

Isaiah writes telling us what God said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”; and so, he became their Saviour. This sentence points towards Jesus and his role in saving us as well as the love God had for us, and still has for us. He will never give up on you or me. He further understands that he knows we go through times of distress and it distresses him too. Have trust and faith in his love for you and the good news that he will save you and lift you up all your days if you allow him too. Please take the hope offered by our God.  

Paul writes telling us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and therefore produces character, which produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)

Given to us, receive this gift of the Holy Spirit with happiness. No praise and allow it to cement your trust in God who wants nothing more to love, comfort and call you his brother or sister.

God gave us free will and on Christmas God gave us himself in human flesh so that he could truly relate to us and beyond doubt save us and ensure a spot in heaven.

Praise God and his love in your life. Thank him for everything you have and the things he has done, even in times of trouble as he always will offer you hope and the strength you need, remember Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God is only a whisper away, praise him and thank him for that. Don’t cast them aside like the inn keeper, sing praise, happiness and thankfulness to him for what he has done and yet to come.

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” ~William A. Ward. American Christian writer

Benediction Romans 15:13 (ESV)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.