Towards the end of November each year the Oxford Dictionaries announce their word of the year. In 2013 they chose “selfie” as the word for 2013. Its formal definition is:
“a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”
Apparently, the word was first used on an Australian online form in 2002, but its recorded uses from 2012 to 2013 increased by 17,000% from the previous year.
It’s even gained some derivatives, such as welfie, which is a selfie taken while doing a workout, and shelfie, which is a photo of your own bookshelf.
Some prominent leaders got in trouble for taking a selfies at the memorial event for Nelson Mandela. We’ve got selfies from space, alongside selfies from the diving board. Even cats are getting in on the act!
This year royalty have joined in the fun, here’s a selfies of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from their trip to Australia, and the Queen looking a little nervous as a young lad snaps one of her and him.
The children’s and youth team here love a good selfie, encouraged by the young people who took this one just before the paint party at Soul Survivor in the summer.
Santa and his elves even enjoy a cheeky selfies when they have a moment.
Not that there’s anything new about selfies – they’ve been around since the camera was invented. And even before that, Vincent Van Gogh perfected the self portrait. Although, of course, he didn’t upload it to a social media website, because there were no such things as social media websites. The nearest thing to such a website would be a wall in an art gallery, perhaps.
But God was ahead of the selfie game long before the post-impressionists set paint to canvas: as the opening chapter of Genesis reminds us, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” And he, if you like, uploaded his selfies to his creation, to this planet earth, so that the rest of his creation could see them.
Unfortunately, that selfie often comes out a little blurred, and leaves God hard to recognize. So God had another go, he decided that he would call a people to be his own people, who would show the people of the world what God was like, so that other people could see him in them. But that didn’t seem to work either – again the image of God, the selfie that God tried to create was blurred.
So God had yet another go: this selfie needed to be a whole person, a whole life, devoted to showing what God is really like. And so God sent his son into the world. Jesus is God’s ultimate ‘selfie’ – as the letter to the Hebrews puts it ”he is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being,”
But in God’s selfie, which we are celebrating this Christmas time, we don’t see presidents and prime ministers, but rather peasants and shepherds; we don’t see stunning surroundings, but an animal feeding trough, in a borrowed stable, in a country under military occupation by a foreign power.
God didn’t take a selfie to associate with famous people, or to be seen in exotic places – it was purely to make absolutely sure that we’re in no doubt about what God is like; to give us the best possible image, free from the distortion of human brokenness and sinfulness.
If we want to know what God is like, we can look at Jesus – not because Jesus is like God, but because Jesus is God – God’s selfie.
So God is the one who says “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”; God says “Let the children come to me”; God says “No-one will snatch you out of my hand”; God says, over and over again “Do not be afraid”.
Jesus told his disciples, at the end of his earthly life, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”
From God’s selfie, we know that God is loving, sacrificial and forgiving, willing to go to any length to reach us in our need – and I think that’s a selfie worth sharing!
But think for just a bit more. What does that then say about us, those of us who are followers of Jesus. You see, most of the selfies that I look at on the internet are of people I’ve never met, people I’ve never seen in real life. At the other end of his life, after his death and resurrection, Jesus left this world to return to his heavenly father. But he left behind selfies, so that people would discover him and come to know him. And those selfies were his followers, those selfies are his followers today.
Do you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus – because Jesus is God. Do you want to know what Jesus looks like, look at us, look at you and me – because the church is Jesus, the church is the body of Christ here on earth. Isn’t that amazing?
Today we celebrate the good news by lighting Christingles. Christingle literally means “Christ light” and celebrates the light of Jesus coming into the world. In John’s gospel, his account of Jesus’ life, Jesus is described as the “light of men”: “The Light shines in darkness but the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
The Orange stands for the world, with all its sin and suffering. We have seen a lot of that on television recently – with the bin lorry accident in Glasgow, shootings in Australia and the USA, wars around the world. It’s such a shame because this world could be a really nice place to live in. But evil people do evil things.
The Candle stands for Jesus coming into this world, as the light of the world. As we heard earlier, Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus’ birth, which we celebrate at Christmas is the like the lighting of the candle.
LIGHT THE CANDLE
The red ribbon stands for the blood of Jesus. Jesus, the little baby whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas – was killed on a cross when he was only 33 years old.
He died so that we could become part of God’s family. Jesus blood was spilled to take away the evil of the world – to wash us and makes us whiter than snow.
The red ribbon is placed around the orange to show that – when Jesus died – it was for the whole world. When evil men killed Jesus – an act, which we remember on Good Friday – they thought that they had put out the light of the world for good.
BLOW OUT THE CANDLE ON THE CHRISTINGLE
And it seemed for three days that the Light of the world had been put out.
RELIGHT THE CHRISTINGLE CANDLE
However God relit it, when he raised Jesus from the dead and every Christmas we are reminded that Jesus continues to shine in the darkness.
The four cocktail sticks stand for the four seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter. On the sticks there are fruit, nuts and sweets to show the good fruits in the earth.
The fruit also reminds us if we are to follow Jesus, we too should produce good fruit. As St. Paul reminds us the fruit of God’s spirit in our lives is: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 6:22)
I’d like to leave you with a final thought. When people killed Jesus, they thought that they had put out the light of the world for good. However God relit it, when he raised Jesus from the dead. And so I’d like to encourage you to think about this every time you see a candle on a Christingle or on an advent wreath.
Jesus’ birth is the like the lighting of the candle. And although it was blown out later by bad men, God re-lit the candle and it continues to shine in the darkness. And we should live our lives so that people see that we shine too, as the Candle – just like Jesus. For we too need to bring love, help and support to others who need our love and God’s love.