A sermon for Christmas 2013 – with enormous thanks to Revd. Clive Russell for the original idea!
If you have been watching the news over the last couple of months, you might have noticed what Oxford Dictionaries chose as their word of the year for 2013 – It was “selfie”.
It’s not yet in the actual Oxford English Dictionary, but it’s up for inclusion, and it does already have a formal definition:
“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 17000% 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.
If you have been watching the news more recently, you will know that some prominent people got into trouble over a selfie lately. US President Barack Obama was caught by an Associated Press photographer taking a selfie with Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and our very own Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the memorial event for Nelson Mandela.
Of course, the story wasn’t as simple as it looked, but it did bring selfies even more into the public eye. Just a couple of days ago, a young lad got onto the news after taking a selfie with Prince Charles, and there was even a “selfie on the farm” competiion which was won by a farmer and his cows in Northern Ireland.
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.
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.”
Unfortunately, that selfie often comes out a little blurred, and leaves God hard to recognize.
So God had another go: this selfie needed to be a whole person, a whole life, devoted to showing what God is really like.
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 feed 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 sin.
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 putting up on a few websites!