What is the most exciting thing happening this Christmas?
What about the most exciting thing for people living in the UK?
Not the latest gadget, Not a shiny new toy, but a journey…one over many years and thousands of miles…
It is the story of Tim Peake the first British European Space Agency astronaut.
The man from Earth to space…some facts about Tim
– he was a test pilot for the RAF and clocked up 3000 flying hours. In 2009 he beat 8000 other people to join the ESAs astronaut training programme.
– During launch, as per tradition, each cosmonaut was allowed three songs to be played to them. Tim chose Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, U2’s “Beautiful Day” and Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars”.
– His first meal at the ISS was a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea.
– He is now travelling at 17,150 miles an hour, one mile every 5 seconds, and completes 16 orbits of the earth every day 205-270 miles above the earth.
The man from heaven to earth…
If we think of another traveller, celebrating his birthday today…he came from heaven to earth. John chapter 1 tells us that before He was born He existed. The Son of God came from existing for all eternity in heaven to be a little baby boy.
An incredible journey that was planned all the way back in Genesis 3.15… I will put enmity between…He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.
Some facts about Jesus…
– He was born to a woman who was his mother, but he had no human father
– He was a carpenter by trade and lived for 30 years Unknown to the outside world
– He was fully man and fully God in one body…the same essence as the Father and the Spirit.
– He had three years of very popular but controversial ministry and was a victim of a hate campaign to kill him.
So you have these two men – both relatively unknown for most of their adult life, but now thrust into the spotlight. Both men had a specific mission to fulfil, both had spent years in preparation. However, while they are both an inspiration, only one can change your life at the deepest level.
Three simple things that we can see when we compare Tim Peake with Jesus this Christmas Day:
1. One had Royal blessing, the other Royal persecution
The first picture here is of a message sent from The Queen to Tim shortly after blast off. The Queen sums up the mood of the nation by saying that we are all proud of what he has accomplished and are right behind him. Not a bad first day on the job!
When we look at Jesus we see that the Royal response is a bit different … The men from the East went to the King expecting him to be celebrating the birth of a new son, instead they find he knows nothing about it. How dare some peasant family claim to give birth to an heir of his throne…so he sets out to find this child and destroy it.
From his earliest time on earth, Jesus divided people. The peace of the nativity scene was soon broken and the young family fled to Egypt. Later in life he would say, I did not come to bring peace but a sword – to divide a father against his son and a mother against her daughter. Not a sword of violence, but of spiritual transparency – to reveal what is already there.
God came into the world and the first thing we need to realise is that he came into a broken world. He found a hurting world, a divided world, a sinful world.
2. The star of one was seen by all, the other by only a select few
The second picture is of the take off of the Soyuz TMA-19M on 15th December. It took 9 minutes to reach orbit – and this picture was taken by an aeroplane pilot flying from Seoul to Frankfurt. It reminded me of the star in the east that the wise men followed. With the wonders of modern technology this picture has now been retweeted 6,000 times and liked 10,000 times…across the whole world thousands of people are seeing Tim’s star in the sky.
The star over Bethlehem that night was only seen by a few people. Only the men who studied such things spotted it, as far as we know, and followed it. A few people noticed and saw any significance in it. But just because it wasn’t all over Facebook and Twitter, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. God sometimes puts the most precious of gifts in the most obscure and hidden places.
All these years later we may celebrate it slightly differently but the second key point is that it really did happen. When we search beyond the obvious, and look underneath the superficial, we find that there actually was a real event that actually happened. A real baby, a real mother, a real birth. The start of the most incredible human life ever.
3. One had his blood tested, the other was tested to give all his blood
The last picture is of one of the other cosmonaut’s taking Tim’s blood. While he is up there he has a host of experiments to do on his own body. Part of it is getting his blood sampled for any changes during space flight. Just a pin prick and a small injection and all done!
For Jesus, his whole life was leading up to the moment when he would pour his blood out for the world he loved. From the moment of his birth his destiny was set – he truly was born to die. The blood that flowed within him was for the healing of the nation’s because it was divine blood, pure blood, perfect blood. Not in a biological sense, but in a moral sense. The life is in the blood we are told in the Old Testament. The perfect offering made as a gift…as a present made at Easter time, has power to cleanse us from all stains. This is the third key point – it cost him everything to undertake his rescue journey.
So this Christmas time, will we pause and take a moment to reflect? Reflect that we live in a broken world, a world that is beautiful but also stained. The dye has run and the colours have bled together. Will we meditate on our powerlessness to do anything to undo what has been done? Will we reflect that this baby was actually born, that it is not a fairy tale or myth, but an historical fact.
Will will take time to study the evidence of his life and death to answer the most important question, who is Jesus? Will we reflect on his sacrifice, at the one time in the year when the background music fades and the rat race momentarily slows down? Will you listen for his voice? He is calling your name, behind the tinsel and turkey and toys, he is calling to you, will you listen?