Episode 1. Let’s Get Real for Just One Minute
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There’s an old Song by Sting called “Message in a Bottle”. Maybe that’s what Christmas is – a message in a bottle. But who’s it for? Me? …….no, surely not! Why don’t you join …
Song writers have a funny way of well “cutting to the quick”, telling us how things really are. Like the song that Sting wrote, “Message in a Bottle”. It starts out with these lyrics:
Just a castaway, an island lost at sea.
Another lonely day with no-one there but me.
Oh more loneliness that any man could bear,
rescue me before I fall into despair.
I will send an S.O.S to the world;
I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.
And it finishes up like this?:
Walked out this morning,
don’t believe what I saw.
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore.
Seems I’m not alone at being alone,
hundred billion castaways looking for a home.
I’ll send an S.O.S to the world,
I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.”
It’s a song that connected with a lot of people, a song that tells it just the way things are for so many. It slips under that thin veneer of so called success, the glossy successful images that the advertising industry uses to get us to buy their stuff. Somehow this song, “Message in a Bottle” speaks to the heart, it’s real.
So what are you saying Berni, that we’re all a bunch of losers? No, not that, I mean look, there are so many people succeeding, doing amazing things. They’re talented and they’re able and they’re committed, there are lots of good things happening in the world but mixed up with that, a lot of bad things too and it’s alway been like that. I guess though, I want to think for a moment about this whole ‘message in a bottle’ thing. Is it true? Are there a whole bunch of lonely people out there?
I was reading an article in the weekend newspaper just the other day about the internet and blogging. Now the word blog is short for Web Log and its where people, mostly young but plenty of not so young as well, they get on line on the internet and they share their thoughts and their photos and their videos on a personal billboard for the world to see.
I remember when a young girls diary was something she locked up, it was secret, the deepest thoughts of her heart but these days, young folk get on the internet and tell the world. How many people do you think there are on internet sites blogging at the moment? You know people with their own personal blog sites. You know there’s over a hundred million. A hundred million all sending out their message in a bottle, all crying out to be noticed, all wanting to be significant.
I asked my daughter, I mean she’s one of these people that blogs, she has her own blog site, why do you do it? What’s it all about? And she said, “It’s all about how many friends you can have subscribing to your blog.” Whether it’s on www.myspace.com or www.youtube.com it seems like this message in a bottle thing is happening in a way today that Sting could never had imagined when he wrote that song.
Maybe you’re not a blogger, I’m not, but you know what I’m talking about. This deep search for significance, people looking for that place where finally I’ve found myself, I’ve just discovered who I am, I have a deep sense of satisfaction about my life and me and how I fit in. It’s not so much about circumstances often but just about who we are and where we fit and so many, many people send out their messages in a bottle in the most amazing ways.
So much crime is about attention seeking, about wanting to be noticed and to be needed and it’s a cry for help. The vast majority of us though, I believe live out life without ever really discovering who we are and why we’re here and where we’re going.
Well here we are, the beginning of December hurtling towards Christmas. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s a bit early for you to be talking about Christmas Berni.” Well not really, I mean the shops have had their Christmas decorations up for weeks and Santa’s been there having his photo taken. We’re taking an early look at Christmas on the program this week because Christmas started well before Christmas, at least the first Christmas did.
We know that Christmas probably wasn’t in December because the shepherds were pretty unlikely to be out in the middle of winter at night tending their flocks. Oh, we all know the Christmas story, baby Jesus born in a manger, Mary, Joseph, the whole donkey thing, the shepherds and the wise men from the East and all that stuff and we’ve seen the pantomimes and the Christmas cards and stuff and my hunch is, the whole Christmas thing did start well before Christmas, that night in Bethlehem. We know it did.
You read through the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, the 39 books written by different people in many centuries before Jesus was born and there are a whole bunch of very specific predictions about Jesus like, He would be born in Bethlehem, He would be born of a virgin, He would be born of the tribe of Judah and the house of David and He would be crucified and they would gamble over His clothes. I mean over 100 and that’s a conservative estimate. Things that Jesus himself would have found pretty hard to arrange unless of course, He is who He says He is.
A kind of a weird thing, what was God up to? Why are these predictions through the Old Testament about Jesus? In fact can I ask a more direct question? Why Jesus at all? I mean, why send Jesus, His only Son to become a man and ultimately to die for you and me? Why not just forgive us and be done with it? Why the theatrics?
One of the places in the Old Testament gives us a clue to this is in Ezekiel, chapter 34. I’m going to read it to you; it’s about the shepherd heart of God. This is what God said:
I will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I’ll rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of clouds and darkness, I will search for the lost and bring back the strays, I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
God has this amazing shepherd’s heart, this heart that you see time and time again as you read through the Old Testament where He says:
I will be your God and you will be my people and I will walk in your midst and as shepherd I will give my sheep peace.
You read it in Psalm 23:
You make me to lie down in green pastures…
… is all about sheep who never lie down unless they feel safe and they’re at peace and so Gods plan is to be in our midst and to give us a peace and a joy and at Christmas time He kind of quietly slipped into the world in this stable in Bethlehem. We’ll look at that during the program this week.
What if God saw all our bottles lying on that beach? What if He heard the cry of our hearts? What if God always knew that the only way to still my heart, to still your heart, to satisfy our souls was for us to know Him? What if this Jesus is Gods message in a bottle to us, to you and me? What if Gods plan was always for God to become a man and to step into our world? God in the flesh, Gods message in a bottle.
It’s an amazing plan and it’s a plan that was born out of the shepherd heart of God, to be in our midst, for Him to be our God and us to be His people. What if that’s what Christmas is?