Have you ever experienced an “upside down” day – one of those days that start off normally? But, by the time the day is over, things have changed irretrievably? Life is upended. Everything capsizes. The solid ground vanishes from beneath your feet. One is left suspended in a sea of bewilderment and chaos.

Just over four years ago a young cricketer by the name of Phillip Hughes put his pads on to open an innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Out in the middle Hughes was struck fatally in the head by a ball. He died later that day.

Then, on 15th December, a gunman took eighteen people hostage in a Sydney café. Two of the hostages, Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson, were shot dead. The lives of those innocent bystanders came to a cruel, abrupt end.

Life can be harsh. Life can be brutal. One moment everything is plain sailing. Then something happens. Life is turned upside down. We are never the same again.

Life is like this. I believe Christian faith does not provide a neat insurance policy against such things. Some of the worst things happen to some of the best people. We know this and have seen it for ourselves.

So, what can me make of the “Good News”? How are we to understand the promise of hope and peace being presented to us today?

Friends, as we approach Christmas be aware that Jesus comes, not as a solution to our suffering. Jesus is born, not as an antidote to our troubles or our dilemmas. Rather, Jesus is gifted to us as a companion on the way. Jesus lives among us as one who knows what it means to be wounded by the merciless circumstances of life. And in doing so, Jesus becomes one with us.

Friends that baby, whose birth in Bethlehem we anticipate today, comes to nurture, support and sustain us on the way.

Jesus is born to demonstrate the unequivocal, irrefutable truth that God loves us SO much. God loves us SO much that God will never abandon us. No matter who we are and no matter what sufferings, troubles or dilemmas continue to haunt us – God will always be there.

Christmas does not remove the possibility of an “upside down” day. But the birth of Jesus assures us that God is there, with and for us, every day!

Rev John Barr