Sermon for Christmas Midnight Mass of the Nativity 2013
To us a child is born, to us a son is given: and his name will be called the Prince of Peace. In the Name of Him who is the Prince of Peace in the Holy Trinity One God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
At this Midnight Mass of the Nativity…The First Mass of Christ…Christ…mass, we read the profound words from St. John’s Gospel John opens a window into the very mind and being of God:
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
These are very powerful words, some might even say, and I am one of them, that this opening of John’s Gospel is the most powerful passage in the whole of the New Testament. On Christmas day itself we will read a portion of St Luke’s Gospel and we will hear about the Shepherds coming to the manger.
In these two widely different Gospel portions the real sense of who Jesus is comes into very sharp focus.
In John we have a powerful explanation of Jesus as God…God incarnate, existing before the world began indeed we might even say before time as we know it existed; and in Luke we have the host of heaven calling from their flocks the most ordinary of mortals…humble and poor shepherds.
So on the one hand in John we have the absolute majesty of the infinite and in Luke the mundane.
John takes us back to creation and leads us profoundly to an absolute statement of might, majesty and power that overcame rejection. Who is The Word?…It is God himself.
In Psalm 139 the Psalmist says to God: Where can I go from your Spirit, Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there; if I make my bed in a grave, you are there also.
For God is everywhere and he says throughout our lives…I am here for you seek me out…God doesn’t exist in time and space… he is time and space…to followers of Dr. Who… God is the ultimate time lord…because he is the Lord of Time…he’s just there and always has been…When Moses asked God his name, God said…I AM; its as simple as that!
I am here, I am there, I am everywhere; I exist, I have always existed…I will always exist….because I am existence itself… and then that leads us on to –
“The Word became Flesh”. Put simply God, said I will go and live amongst my creation, but I will not go with power and might, I will put aside the infinite and I will go through the agency of a human woman to grow and live among my people
And the heavenly Host will not appear to the rich and the powerful, but to ordinary people.
Tonight, I’m not going to talk about the image of a nice and holy little child in the manger or about shepherds watching their flocks, nor am I going to dwell on Christmas being cosy and wonderful; nor the theology of either John or Luke, but I am going to talk about a gift, the greatest Christmas gift of all……..Jesus Christ.
Yes Christmas is rightly a happy time, and at this time of year we can be joyful, we can embrace each other in the spirit of love; but the world needs to remind itself why! For it is in Christ that we are taught to love, it is in Christ that we are taught to embrace all.
It isn’t wrong to make the most of this special time; we don’t have to go around with miserable faces like Scrooge, we can laugh and smile, but in the Christmas Carol by Dickens there is a poignant and very Christian message that we are all living in the world and must inter-relate with each other. The problem today is that so many of us don’t.
The secular Christmas now plays the biggest part in people’s lives.
Don’t you think that sometimes Christmas seems almost obscene; the Television adverts extol us to buy bigger and more expensive presents and for many this means getting into absolutely horrendous debt…….that’s not happy or jolly, because the price is too high, the debt has to be paid.
A lady called Rachel Simhon in the Daily Telegraph put it succinctly a few years ago, and I quote:
“ Have you ever wondered about that traditional song ‘the twelve days of Christmas’ When were the twelve days and where would they fit into the modern version ‘the 17 weeks of Christmas.
For no sooner do the adverts for ‘Back to School’ leave shop windows than we see the first Christmas Trees go up.
In religious terms Christmas begins on December 25th and lasts for 12 days until Epiphany. Nowadays we have lost any sense of that. There is an enormous build up beforehand, ending, not beginning on Christmas Day.
This I suspect, is what accounts for the terrible sense of anti-climax that often accompanies Christmas Day. It is never as good as you hope it’s going to be, and then it’s all over “.
What a perceptive comment. Perhaps if more people actually thought about God over Christmas, then they would not be so miserable afterwards.
Sometimes I suppose a part of me wants to say to the manipulators, go and find your own feast, and we’ll have Christmas back please!
you’ve contaminated it……but whatever you do don’t call your tawdry thing ‘Christmas’, because Christmas is a religious festival……it is the Mass of Christ…….
And isn’t it annoying when we see in our newspapers or on television that this council or that has decided that Christmas Carols or Nativity plays are off the agenda in case in might offend this faction or that faction. I honestly think, No I know, that Jews, Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus think we are quite mad when they see such nonsense coming out of the mouths of the politically correct. St John’s is on Facebook and so am I, and I have had messages from Jewish, Muslim and Hindu Friends wishing us all a Happy Christmas
One must accept that in say a school composed totally of Muslims or Hindus or whatever, it would be a little silly and to make such children take part in Nativity Plays and sing Carols; yet they need to be made aware of what the Christmas is all about. For Muslims particularly because Jesus is very special to them.
One sometimes hears Muslims say:
“Muslims honour Jesus more than so called nominal Christians do!
Islam has a fairly well-defined doctrine of Christ. Who is given is Aramaic name of Isa approximating to the Hebrew Yeshua. The Qur’an has more to say about Isa than you might think. Isa son of Mary is frequently called “Al-Masih” (Messiah) and is also referred to as “the Word of God”, “the Word of Truth”, “a Spirit from Him”, “the Messenger of God”, “the Prophet of God”, and “the Servant of God”.
The Qur’an tells the story of the angel’s annunciation to Mary that she would have a son and the story of His virgin birth, and attributes to Jesus miracles
It becomes offensive therefore when a politically motivated Council denies that Christmas exists, and it is just a holiday
Is it because we ourselves have made it what it has become, that ‘Christian Britain’ has lost its sense of wonder and thanks for the gift of Jesus and I back this up by quoting from a magazine called ‘Chat’ that my wife brought to my attention;
The article is called “ Jesus had a girlfriend like Barbie” and comprises the answers given by young children at a school in Wales to the question ‘what these youngsters of mainly 5 years old, thought Jesus was like as a boy…..the article says they had some surprising ideas’ ………indeed they did,
and whilst some were extremely funny; I really do wonder what children are being taught both in the home and at school…….these are some of the quotes:
First from Sam: “ Jesus lived with his mum and Dad in the North Pole, next door to Father Christmas. He helped Father Christmas deliver presents down chimneys”! Here Jesus is denied the central role and becomes a bit player.
It gets worse, or better depending on your viewpoint:
Joe said “ Jesus lived in a stable – but it was cold, so God put a radiator up. His favourite group is Busted, but God says ‘Turn the music down’ at least our young Joe got something right….he obviously knew about the stable and he had some idea of God…….but who are Busted!!!!
Oh, and then it does get worse:
Joanne comes up with the fantastic notion
“ I think Jesus had blue hair. He had a girlfriend who looked like Barbie. They’d eat Candyfloss until they were sick. He never married her.” I ask you !!!!
And then it gets terrible with this is from Toby:
When Jesus’ teachers told him off, he’d make himself disappear. If he were alive today, I think he’d get a gun and shoot all the teachers
I really do think that comment alone is a real indictment not of Toby, but of our society, for giving such an impressionable mind, such shocking imagery.
But is all redeemed by Jack who tells us:
“ Jesus was good at telling stories and Jokes. Stuff like ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ He could have had his own show on the telly.”
I think not!!!!!!
So after those rather depressing thoughts, let’s go back to the beginning:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And God’s Hosts appeared to humble shepherds in the fields; for the shepherds are us.
We are looking at something so momentous and awe inspiring that it really defies any other words than those used so powerfully by John and more simply by Luke
The angels of heaven sang for joy to the shepherds and this is the real meaning of Christmas, that love came down and lives among us, but love as the ultimate perfection, a love without pre-conditions, a love that is not wishy-washy and cloying but a love that is demonstrated by Jesus Christ taking to himself the sins of us all.
Here is no ritual sacrifice on a temple altar, but the bloody sacrifice of God on the altar of the world; the sacrifice is reversed. God is sacrificing himself ……. O saving Victim opening wide, the gate of heaven to man below.
I said earlier that Christmas is or should be a happy time, and it is not usual to talk about sacrifice at Christmas, but the Incarnation, is itself a sacrifice, because in the birth of the child in the Bethlehem stable, God commences the inevitable progression to the Cross.
That in choosing a young Jewish Virgin to bear a part of the Godhead, to be the Mother of God, God, rewrote the whole religious experience of humanity.
God sacrificed a part of his very being for us and for our salvation, and that we should never forget, but thank him with joyful praise.