Sermon Midnight Chrismas Service 2016

Christmas Midnight 2015 Isa 9:2-7 Tit 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-14

 Christmas is a great celebration and Christians join in with it all. It might have its roots as a party time in the bowels of rollicking winter drinking, looking forward to the new year when the sun wreaks victory over the dark night but so what?  That is just what we are taking about.  Life may have become dark but in the birth of a child who will stand for us all God has switched the lights on. Even the people immediately around Jesus in his lifetime had trouble understanding who he was. We stand less chance.
Jesus was God come into the world, ‘God with us’ – the Christmas word is the Greek, Emmanuel, he came experiencing all that it is to be human and showing us how that can be transformed into Godliness; picking up the mess we have made of it all and bearing its pain, beckoning to us with words and stories and signs.  That is what the rest of the year in our scheme of things is going to lay out before us. God in this Son is to be saturated with the life if God’s creation, pricked and punctured by the world, and then done to death. But the story will go on as the death of that Son signals not the end of it all but the beginning if a new relation with the God of making where the offending creature is welcomed and forgiven and offered another and yet another new direction.

When his followers asked him who he was he directed them back to themselves, ourselves.  Who are we?  A difficult question. When I look in the mirror what do I see? Is it a Celt or a Norman or a Roman?  Is it a self and sex obsessed animal? Is it an embodied intellect waiting to be filled with all the knowledge of the world? Am I part of the Body of Christ incarnate in the world or an idiot?   There are a few lines for Dostoevsky which help a bit as we try to see Christ at work in the world:
Dostoevskey, “The idiot does not keep himself apart, but clumsily causes offence everywhere.  He has nothing to do with the great ones, but with the children.  He is mocked, and he is loved.  He is the fool and he is the wise man.  He endures all and he forgives all.  He is revolutionary, yet he conforms.  He does not want to - but he draws attention to himself simply by being there.  Who are you? Idiot or Christ?”
Perhaps we are getting it somewhere near right when the world cannot make up its mind whether we are the people of God, the body of Christ or a bunch of idiots.  Those who are utterly convinced that they are God’s people and God has told them what to do are strangely repellent.
Time is elastic.  Today for one person will be interminable and for another gone in a twinkling.  Stuck indoors with no hope of going out or waiting for the benefit payment with no food in the cupboard today is a long long time.  Rushing about taking no real notice of anybody who gets in the way passes today in an instant.  Today is a very squanderable commodity and once spent it is spent.  My early training in hotel management taught me that accommodation in perishable.  If you don’t sell it tonight it is unsold and represents a loss. Perhaps that is why this baby we remember and celebrate was born in the night - a timeless time where the darkness always seems to go on forever and the light of dawn is always a surprise.
Who is the ‘us’ we are so fond of talking about?  Who shall inherit the riches of the earth?  A moments reflection will lead you to the problems there are in answering that one.  Who is ‘us’ in Syria? or on an inflatable in the Med or in the dark corners of our towns and cities? Who is ‘us’ in
Christ is here today for us.  He makes music with us.  We dance to his tune moving together in a close and complicated harmony.  Take away one part and the whole is diminished, the tune suffers.  Make one part dominant and we stop hearing the rest.  Remember the indebted servant? For the sake of the tune the good master forgave his servant’s debt.  The servant not at all mindful of the tune put the screws on his colleague and the discord was excruciating.  The just response was to punish the one who did not want to pass on the forgiveness.  Christ reminded his listeners who they were, who he was and the value of the day.
Our tunes are of antiquity and, please God, of today.   God is born today to the sound of these tunes in this splendid stable in PO10.  The setting reminds us of our riches.  Therein is the ‘field and fountain, moor and mountain’ the wise have to travel through to find the Christ. 
Here in the midst of the Christmas ‘industry’ we are well placed to re-birth God.  I found myself once on my day off watching, tea and toast on knee a television programme about getting itno debt at Christmas.  One mum on benefits was borrowing from several sources £1000 to buy presents for her children.  Quite right, thought many. Some favoured a more modest approach but still wanting to collaborate with the demands of fashion and peer pressure on the children.  It took an old black woman, whom they ridiculed with their laughter to remind them that it was all about ‘a child born unto them.’

© 2015 Frank Wright

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