This is the sermon Derreck preached at Christmas Eve Communion 11.30pm
Intro: What would you think and feel if I was to say the words…… Hands-Face-Space ?!
You may feel a sense of gloom, heaviness even despair/anxiety, maybe even frustration, anger – not what you want to experience or feel in a Midnight service.
I would like us to look at that catchphrase in a new light, so that whenever you see it at a news conference or statement in the future – you will have a different more positive, uplifting sense of the phrase.
On the 22nd June 1986 in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City something happened that shattered my sports-mad life.
England were playing Argentina in the World Cup quarter finals.
The ball came into the penalty area (an easy catch for Gk Shilton) when Diego Maradona leapt and punched the ball into the goal – a clear handball that was seen the world over but not by the visually impaired match officials. In the press conference after Maradona said that the goal was scored by the ….. ’Hand of God’.
The phrase has come to mean that if you see a person’s ‘hand’ in something, you see their actions, intent, personality, characteristics – even if you don’t see the physical hand!
I don’t believe for a nanosecond the goal was scored by God’s hand but it tells us much about Maradona’s character – but I do believe God’s hand can be seen in everything we do and experience in our lives.
From the very beginning in Genesis God’s hand can be seen working towards the day that we celebrate here – Christmas Day.
The moment it began to unravel (with Adam&Eve’s disobedience) God determined a plan to put it right.
God (speaking to Satan) said,
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15)
God would send someone – an offspring of woman – that would deal with Satan and deal with the aftermath of Satan’s actions.
God’s hand has been at work ever since.
Through covenant promises to individuals and nations.
Through the Law given via Moses.
Through His words through the prophets.
Through to His eternal gift of Jesus tomorrow morning.
God’s hand, indeed His handiwork is there throughout history.
God’s hand and handiwork is evident from creation until now.
You can refuse to see, critics, cynics, detractors of faith, but you have to choose not to see.
Also, we can not see because we don’t look.
An apparently random event bringing blessing could be called coincidence by those cynics.
The same ‘coincidental’ event seen as God at work by the believer.
But the event will only be seen if it is looked for.
Even for us – if we don’t look for God at work even we will not see His handiwork !
The alternative to God’s being in everything is to suggest that even if God exists He has no control over what happens in the world, or is powerless to intervene.
Some have asked where God is on the current Covid-19 epidemic.
I’ll tell you where, He is where He always is – in the middle of it, working out His purposes and plans in our lives, walking with us through the difficulty, standing by in our doubts and concerns.
If we don’t believe this then we worship a God that can be ‘caught out’ by world events. Do we really think that God can deal with sin and Satan but missed C-19. Are we thinking that God took a Saturday off, sat in heavens garden with His feet on a stool drinking the heavenly version of a Pimms – and while He wasn’t looking C-19 escaped from a Chinese laboratory?
That’s not my God! That’s Elijah’s description of Baal on Mt Carmel,
“Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or gone on holiday. Maybe he is fast asleep, or gone to the toilet.” (1Kings 18:27)
Have we forgotten?
“…indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psm 121:4)
While God did not cause Covid-19 (that’s down to the stupidity of man) God will work through it, even bless through it, through the hurt and pain.
But if you want to see His handiwork, you must look.
As we progress into tomorrow and out into the New Year what is it we should focus our attention upon?
When the trees are thrown out or packed away, the tinsel and laughing Santa’s returned to their box, the paper chains thrown into the recycling, the presents opened and the wrapping also recycled what then, what do we look to next.
We look to what we should be looking at already, Jesus face, His presence with us.
All the feasting, gifting, decorating, even attending church should point and focus us upon Jesus.
If all the celebrations are not pointing to Him they are getting in the way of us knowing Him.
In the motto, Hands-Face-Space, the ‘face’ bit is to encourage us to cover up!
But no, I tell you the ‘face’ bit in our lives is to get everything that distracts us or covers/hides Jesus is to be REMOVED.
If there is anything getting in the way of us seeing Jesus face, relating to Him in prayer, worship, developing a deeper relationship then remove it.
If we cannot ‘see’ Him, it’s not that He isn’t here, it’s that He is hidden under all the detritus of our lives, all the other ‘priorities’ we hold dear.
Strip them away and He will be revealed as being right next to us all the time!
The ‘space’ part is to remind us to ‘make space’ to keep apart from one-another. I would like to suggest a different perspective.
That we must make space in our lives for God to move in our lives and through our lives.
Make space to hear that ‘still, small voice’ and to recognise that voice and to respond obediently to that voice’s prompting.
How much room do we have in our lives for God to speak and work in, or are our lives filled with ‘stuff’?
How can we live in the way God would lead us, if we have all this other ‘stuff’ going on?
Don’t worry, New Year approaches and we can once again look at our lives contents and resolve to live differently! 😊
But also to make space in our lives for each other – not to become more distant.
Really difficult for now, but difficult is not impossible!
The phone is a wonderful thing, talking with neighbours/friends ‘on the doorstep’, sending cards with encouraging supportive messages.
Finding ways to make space for people in our lives at the moment is difficult – but not impossible.
In doing so we do spread the joy of the season of Messiah’s birth.
When you next see or hear ‘Hands-Face-Space’, think of……
a) all the ways you see God’s hand working, if you don’t see……look,
remember His handiwork down through history – we are neither
forgotten nor forsaken.
b) what is important – Him. Clear away distractions and frippery, He
is not hiding, just waiting to be uncovered anew.
c). making space in our lives allowing Him to work in and through us,
also for others, to spread the blessing, for it is there within us.