Yesterday evening we had a wonderful Carols by Candlelight service. Everything went well, we had a full church, with many guests. It was wonderful.
I was invited back to some friends’ house afterwards and while there I noticed that my voice was starting to sound a bit odder than usual. When I got home I had dropped a couple of octaves (no idea where they went, I didn’t see them go) and was a bit squeaky-voiced. My throat was starting to hurt.
This morning I woke up to an unusual-sounding voice and my throat still hurts. I only have one more Christmas service to do, tomorrow morning’s celebration, but I need to have a voice for that service.
So today I am mostly being silent, and I am drinking plenty of fluids and taking appropriate medication.
It’s all rather inconvenient.
And it gets even more inconvenient when you remember that I like to use a computer voice recognition program to prepare my sermons. Aside from the stress on my voice, the program simply does not recognise me. It is a design flaw, in my opinion. There should be a setting to allow for squeaky sore-throat based voice transformations.
The little bug that is causing this inconvenience and pain is one of the tiniest organisms on this planet. Yet it has the ability to disrupt my life and defeat technology because of the effect of its activity in my throat. It’s often the little things that we might consider insignificant that end up being very significant.
This is a cue for me to cheat a bit and post last night’s talk here. It saves my voice, it fits with the idea of what we consider insignificant, and it means I have more time to prepare the other bits and pieces I need to do today.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
Apparently insignificant events can take on an importance far beyond that which we expect. Recently I watched Apollo 13 again: the dramatic film that tells the astonishing story of how the astronauts on the Apollo 13 lunar mission were able to return to Earth following an explosion that crippled their spacecraft.
Apollo 13’s life-and-death drama began five years earlier with a simple design change to the Apollo spacecraft. The manufacturer of a thermostat for an oxygen cooling tank had not been told of the design change. That was the first link in the chain of a series of apparently insignificant events which, when added together, almost led to a catastrophe. When you think about all that is involved in sending a rocket to the moon a thermostat in an oxygen cooling tank does not seem very significant at all.
Right at the beginning of Luke 2 we read some apparently insignificant words: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” It doesn’t seem significant but Luke is giving us this detail because he wants us to compare Jesus with Caesar Augustus.
Caesar Augustus is credited as the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Under his guidance the Empire expanded rapidly and alongside military conquests a new era of peace and prosperity began. All that we think of about the Roman Empire being unstoppable and magnificent, all the things that the Romans ever did for us, were initiated or came to fruition under Caesar Augustus.
‘Augustus’ means “exalted one” and ‘Caesar’ means “ruler”. The name Caesar Augustus was taken by the Emperor to show the world his status and magnificence. He was the absolute ruler of the Roman Empire, albeit through the Senate. When Caesar Augustus told you to jump you jumped, and if possible you only came back down to the ground when he gave you permission.
So a child apparently conceived out of wedlock, to peasant parents, in squalid surroundings, in an insignificant town, in one of the more rebellious regions of the Roman Empire would not have even registered (other than presumably being registered in the census). It was apparently insignificant. Yet 2000 years later Caesar Augustus is merely a footnote in the story of Jesus. Caesar Augustus simply becomes the reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem when he issued the census declaration. Jesus, on the other hand, has become one of the most significant people ever to have lived on this planet. Our history is dated from his birth.
What was it about Jesus that transformed the order of things in this way? It wasn’t the Angels, the shepherds, the star, the wise men or any of the other visitors to the stable. The answer is found in the words of the Angel to the shepherds on the hillside: “a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” This was no ordinary person.
The records of his life show someone of remarkable perception and wisdom; someone who demonstrated compassion and grace; someone who sought to empower others rather than seize power himself. He claimed that his death would not simply mark the tragic end of his ministry but would be the means by which all human beings can be reconciled to God. And the most accurate historical records of the day tell us that three days after he had been crucified he was raised to life – vindicating all that he said and did and confirming his identity as God’s son.
I like to leave you with a couple of questions to consider. What are the things in your life that, like Caesar Augustus, you consider to be most important?
What do you think about the Christmas story: is it just a quaint story to be considered at carol services once a year but otherwise is insignificant?
Those things you consider to be most significant may end up being a footnote in your life compared to Jesus.