December
03
Author
Iain Kennedy
Movie Advent, Part 1: Home Alone

It’s December and there’s no escaping it... ‘tis the season. We might as well embrace it and what better way than with Christmas movies. Over the next few weeks the office staff will be taking their favourite Christmas movies and comparing them to the very first Christmas, helping us to unwrap the real message of Christmas.

The opening scene to my favourite Christmas movie is chaos. The McCAllisters live in Chicago and are getting ready to go on a plane to Paris the next morning for their Christmas holidays. Everything seemed to be packed and ready to go when they headed to bed, but while they slept a power line was cut in a storm and the alarms were reset... They eventually woke and panic ensued! Having bundled everything and everyone into the cars they sped towards the airport and ran through 1991’s much lighter security gates to make it onto the plane in the nick of time. Phew! But high in the sky something was bugging mum and she just couldn’t shake it... “KEVIN!?!”

At first, Kevin loved being “Home Alone”. He ate LOTS of ice-cream, had free access to all his brother’s stuff and could stay up as late as he wanted to! But, despite the sensational booby traps he had set to defeat two dozy robbers, by Christmas morning Kevin was sad that he was all on his own. He missed them, even his annoying big brother.

In the Christmas story there are several forgotten characters who we might not expect to to be handed a role. The shepherds definitely fit that category. Shepherds had it tough in first century Palestine. They spent long nights out in the fields away from friends and family. Sheep required 24-hour protection, so to add to their woes the religious authorities gave them a hard time for not keeping the Sabbath. Shepherds had become a largely forgotten and marginalised group.

But the truth is they weren’t ever really forgotten. In Luke 2:8 an angel appears to them in the fields. The religious leaders considered them too impure for Temple worship because they didn’t keep the Sabbath, yet God didn’t send an angel to the rule-keeping Pharisees to announce the arrival of “Christ the Lord” (v.11), he sent an angel to these forgotten shepherds. If that weren’t outrageous enough, the angel then described the location of the birth, giving them permission to say, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (v.15)

The shepherds were Jesus' first visitors in one of the world’s lowliest maternity suites. They looked at a baby who would “grow in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man" (v.52) to take his place as the shepherd to God's people. David said in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and here he was born into poverty.  In John 10 Jesus confirms it himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep." These shepherds, who likely tended sheep for sacrificial slaughter in the synagogues and Temple, were not alone. God had remembered them in the fields. They may have been forgotten and considered impure (full of sin) by the religious system, but God had come not only to shepherd them, but to be slaughtered instead of them to declare them pure (without sin). This shepherd was willing to take the role of the lamb to set the sheep free.

You might be “Home Alone” or feeling forgotten this Christmas, but I pray that these words of the singing angels before the shepherds will comfort you. The truth is that God has not forgotten you, God has remembered you and offered you peace by being your shepherd and your lamb.

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We would love to see you at one of our Gateway Christmas events this year. Our Family Carol Service is on Sunday 18 December at 5pm (129 Alder Rd), our Carols By Candlelight is on Christmas Eve at 9pm (502 Ashley Rd) and our Christmas Day Service is at 10am (129 Alder Rd). More info at www.gatewaychurch.me/events