A Christmas Sermon…

Categories: Rector

So, here we are at last, in the flickering light; a holy place, a holy people, a holy night… 

This, a moment of reflection and wonder at the ways of God, an emptying of the divine self into fragile human flesh, vulnerable, dependent, necessary.  A necessary birth, messy, bloody, of course precarious, and a woman heavy with infinitely more than life, for she brings life to life.  

Puzzled, she may well wonder… uncertain even of her own obedience to a will not her own, that declared fearlessly to her fearfulness, ‘You will bear a son…’  Her womb, a place of overshadowing, alien as yet to seed, but not to the growing pains of God within her and the piercing sword already shaping and searching, looming in her horizon, wantonly aiming at her heart.

A man, too, who dreams dreams but who forgives before he understands, his love is living seed, for he offers life instead of punishing death, protection from the cruel customs of his time; a righteous man, who will deal quietly with his own hurt and grief to save the loved one… He would not abandon her to the mercy of stones.  And so here he is, searching in the city of his line, somewhere, behind the closed doors of the human heart and the busyness of life, for a place where birth may happen, and where, God, may gurgle and cry.   

Menace overshadows all, the menace of great power; but it is not, like the spirit of God, life giving power, rather, life denying.  This power tears, rips, coerces and destroys, and all to rule an occupying empire, vast, unyielding.  Soldiers, the instruments of its success, scourge and mock and kill and already plat a crown of thorns.  Because of power, therefore, a census, existential, imperious, and implacable.  And so, there had been a journey, on a donkey, to a king’s city, a place of promise and fulfilment where, in a stable, God, somehow, managed to empty himself, only as he can, taking the form of a servant.

And in the fields, exactly where they should be, shepherds… here is more of the fragile, that precarious poverty, the vulnerable matter that God incarnated… terror seizes, as well it might, fear comes upon them, surprise and wonder at the voice of the angel and the chorus of many angels and the piercing light…  all beyond their scope.  No predator,  seeking someone to devour, but, God, offering himself, the healing balm of love, shaped in the shape of love… Good news… And the shepherds, they go to have a look…

And at the apex of this scene, wrapped in bands of cloth, in the body of a first-born, lying in a manger, is the breath of life… 

How could we not be here, in this holy place, on this holy night?  We, God’s holy people, fragile, vulnerable, incomplete as we are, to give thanks, and praise and to wonder at the Good News of Jesus Christ?

But what is the good news today in the city of David in a Bethlehem where walls divide the people the Incarnate God came down to touch with wonder and hope…

What is the good news in the fanaticism of religious zealots who maim and kill in the streets of our city and pour scorn upon humanity…

What is the good news in the brutality of power, power still life-denying, as thousands are abandoned to the fate of nature roaming their immediate world, looking for a safe place to lay their heads and some melt snow to make water…

Where the good news in the greed and corruption that consume honour and condemn millions to poverty… 

What is the good news in the prejudices that violate the image of God, mar his image, cement hatred and demand persecution of difference…

What is the good news in the closed heart and the slammed door of compassion as we hurt others and they hurt us…

What is the good news in the cult of celebrity, the obsessions of age and shape and the abuse of body and mind…

What is the good news in suffering that is beyond understanding or forbearance?

Here is the good news of Jesus Christ, lying in a manger, as the wood of the cross is already prepared and the sacrifice is shaped, one vertical piece, one horizontal, nails, hammer, the Lamb of God, the sacrifice of God; death that we may live… For this gurgling child is not a child, the noises he makes are not the noise of innocence but an outcry, a cry against desolation and the obscene injustices of our world… He calls,  he draws, he demands that we take notice, that we see and believe and act upon believing; that we love and embrace and judge not; that we admonish only in mercy and with compassion; that we hold and hold again in forgiveness, not seven times, but seventy times seven…

That we find the courage to share the many gifts granted of body and mind, of friendship and love, of the earth and its resources…

That we engage with the social justice issues of our day and cast his light to scatter the darkness before the path of the poor and the oppressed, the unloved and the lost…

That we open our eyes, not shut them, to clamour and dispute and become reconcilers, peacemakers…

That we see with the sight of God and recognise God in the other and melt at the wonder and glory of all he has created…

Here lies the good news of Jesus Christ on this holy night, in this holy place… in obedient hearts, and sacrificial love.

May God’s love pierce you with his eternal blessing as you celebrate the birth of our Saviour Christ in whom, mercifully, we are rooted and grounded and in whom we find food for the journey.

May his love in us, overwhelm and overcome the darkness of creation… 

Thanks be to God.

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