I wonder which you prefer – travelling or arriving? Hope or fulfillment?Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
I’m very much a Christmas Eve person. I love this blend of candles and stars, of gentle music sounding across the years, connecting me with the long-gone celebrations of my childhood (when, it seemed to me, Christmas really only began on Christmas Eve so that all that fervour of expectant longing was crammed into one day, and one holy night)..The thrill of being old enough to stay up for Midnight Mass...Of going out into the darkness knowing it was finally Christmas Day
Alright. That suggests that maybe I just love both.
I’m a Christmas junkie – and there is nowhere I’d rather be tonight than right here at this moment.
But I wonder if there’s anything to learn from how we feel about those two states of being.
IS travelling hopefully always better than arriving?
I’m sure it didn’t feel that way for Mary, on that dark night in a crowded city.
She will have longed to arrive – and for her baby to arrive too.
And I wonder, too, how it felt to God then.
The moment of Christ’s birth, the climax of history... the fulfillment of the plan which St John unfolds for us
In the beginning was the Word
God waiting for the right moment to become flesh and step into human history to transform it by his presence forever.
It was a messy place to be, that world God loved.
It still is.
A place of violence, poverty and oppression.
A place where cold rejection is part of the deal, both for exiles in an unfriendly world and still, each day, for God’s Son
“He came to his own and his own people would not receive him”
A hostile landscape
A place where despite all our best intentions, we won’t manage the “perfect” Christmas…
I’m struck by how many clergy are battling with huge issues in the lives of their families, or facing serious illness in this week of all weeks when they were planning to share in joyous Christmas worship...and I know too many families where an empty chair at the Christmas table will leave this season overshadowed by grief.
Perfection just doesn’t happen because we live in a real world that is light years away from that offered by the media – or even by our Christmas carols.
“Away in a manger” we sing – and in four words consign the Christ-child to a place of stained-glass unreality, safely at arms’ length from our own everyday experience. This baby is not even allowed to cry! Nothing must spoil the photo-shopped illusion of the moment.
Small wonder, if that’s what we offer, that people struggle to make a connection between that baby and their own mundane, often messy, lives.
Truthfully, if all we have to offer as a faith is those moments, it is unsurprising that many people feel they can do quite nicely without it, thank you.
So, let me direct you to another carol (one we’ve sung tonight?) which sees things a bit differently.
“Oh holy child of Bethlehem, descend on us we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in BE BORN IN US TODAY”
In the first century of the church, a theologian named Irenaeas put the same message very well
“He became what we are, to make us what he is”
God became one of us, the Word made flesh in our broken grieving word, so that we can see what God’s life of perfect love is like, and seeing it, join in.
HERE is the destination to which tonight’s hopeful travelling must bring us . Here and nowhere else..
“We have seen his glory” - and, glimpsing that, are transformed into a new humanity.
“children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Imagine that made good in our lives.
The light of God’s love shining in even the saddest, darkest places.
Imagine Jesus born in us, and living among us daily.
Imagine a community transformed...and little by little, reaching out to change the world.
In a few minutes he will come to us in the Sacrament of bread and wine,- a gift that is part of the process of transformation as we pray
“O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel”
May the light of his presence shine in and through us, this Christmas and always.