Sermons from St
Rev Denise McDougall, Christmas
Basil Hume once wrote,
Every year at this time we are asked to escape from the tumult of our hearts to put aside our weighty cares, to leave our wearisome toil to enter for a while into the inner chamber of our souls to listen to God’s Word. The Word calling us through the mist of ignorance and apathy to be silent, to listen to the sound of stillness and to see in the Child born of Mary, the Word who became flesh.
The busyness is over, the preparations complete and the world is hushed and we are gathered now to share in the real meaning of Christmas. We are invited through our gospel reading to enter into those well known but difficult words in the Prologue of John. There’s no mention of Mary or Joseph, he doesn’t refer to Bethlehem, shepherds, or stables; there’s no Nativity story that so many young children act out each year and captivate our hearts but as we enter into those words we all become part of a much bigger story. We already know the crucial role that Mary played in the story having said ‘yes’ to God’s call and enabling the Word to become flesh but we too can conceive the Christ Child by faithfully believing and trusting that God will fulfil his words in each of our lives. God can change us from within if only we let Him, and say YES to God as Mary did.
Those strange circumstances of the Christ child’s birth do not set Him apart from us but they identify Him with us as he shares all the frailty and insecurity of our human lives. The culture over 2000 years ago may be very different from the world we know today of today but it was neither more nor less harsh than now. Yet on this Holy Night we are all invited to share in the mystery of what Christmas really means, especially as we struggle to make sense of our world in this 21 century.
John’s words remind us that God’s will was active at the beginning of everything but the Word is the heart, it is the origin of all that is and life itself emanates from the heart of God piercing the darkness with light. This light is far more powerful than the darkness – that is the darkness of global violence and terrorism, the clashing of political powers, religious extremism and so on because the Word, is a God of love, a God of hope, newness, transformation and illumination. The light that came to earth as a human being who knew what was in the mind of the creator and who would grow up to understand and share with us, our joy, sadness and suffering. Jesus the Logos presents himself to us and invites us all to receive him; and when we do we become recipients of wave after wave of divine generosity, God’s Grace and truth are offered in abundance and The Word works constantly to change us from within.
In the mystery of the holy child breathing in the manger we are reminded that the coming of Jesus who brings a new spiritual birth, he can restore our self-esteem and can also enable us to become channels for bringing his love and hope into the world for others to recognise.
It is horrendously clear that darkness continues to be an integral part of our world even though the light of life and truth is offered to us in Christ. But the promise of John’s Prologue is that the darkness despite its best efforts, has never been able to extinguish the light.
Jesus who was crucified to rise again brings new beginnings and fresh hope, of course this certainly doesn’t answer all our questions but it is where our faith needs to be rooted. If we trust in God who shares our suffering and endures the darkness of evil then He will carry us through the dark nights of the soul and help us find new hope and new beginnings. Our ultimate hope should lie in the future, in a kingdom that dawned with the cry of a baby. However like so many who have gone before us we should never tire of striving to bring hope, healing and dignity to the needy and provide a glimmer of God’s light and love to shine in their darkness. Sadly at Christmas time there is often a greater need than ever to offer help to the lonely, the vulnerable and the sick. In his book on light David Park writes, ‘Light is enfolded in our words, our habits, our mental image of the world and as that image changes, light changes with it.’ Christ’s light is not just enfolded into all our actions it perfects them as well. Of course our responses can’t always be used to minimise the problem of evil and suffering but they will demonstrate that hope and love will not be extinguished, despite all that conspires against them. We are called to live out the love and goodness of God just as Jesus was and if we reflect and store God’s Word in our hearts and treasure them then we will come to know The Way, the Truth and the Life.
If our thoughts and our actions show love we are in some small way bringing God’s Glory and kingdom a little closer to us here on earth. Yes Christmas is about a great gift given to world through Jesus - but also through us. That is an awesome privilege and huge responsibility.
I pray that this Christmastime we will all allow God’s illuminating presence to break our hearts open in love for the world and all its people and we will share afresh the light of His Glory. Wishing you all the peace, love, joy and hope that this Holy Night brings.