Sermons from St
Fr John Reed,
Christmas Midnight Mass, 2018
Putting a big star. Six feet by six feet, lit up with 720 tiny lights on St. Faith’s tower was bound to attract some comment. At night most of the church is wreathed in darkness, from a distance it appears to hang in space like a real star should. I received a telephone call from a woman one morning; “Hello Vicar I hope you don’t mind me ringing you. Where did you buy that star from, we run a pub and would like to put one on the pub.” I had to gently explain to her that someone had made it for me, and it couldn’t be bought from anywhere.
Another comment was from a Care worker who was going to work in one of the homes in the area one dark wet night. I felt unhappy when I left home, and the journey was not inspiring, till I turned the corner and saw the star on the church. And then I was filled with hope!
Hope is something Isaiah speaks of in wonderful poetry. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and those who have lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.” This was the first lesson I ever read in church when I was aged 10, several practices with the Rector and then my Mum standing at the bottom of the stairs have burned those words in my memory. Words of hope to the royal court in a small country caught between the armies of rising and competing empires. And the promise of hope is a child. A prince of peace.
The letter to Titus refers to the child as the grace of God bringing salvation to all.
“Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty
Grace finds goodness in everything” (U2)
Grace is free, it cannot be bought or earned, banked or sold. Christmas reminds all this can be found in one tiny baby son of Mary and Joseph, two people of no consequence in the long list of important rulers and religious leaders that make up the start of Luke’s Gospel reading. They like all of the people are required to journey a long way on the whim of an Emperor in Rome. A census to feed his vanity about the size of a large empire covering many lands, with a hint of taxes to collect. “Christmas sets the centre on the edge - The edge of town, outbuildings of an inn; The fringe of an empire far from privilege”
The journey is nearly 100 miles, a heavily pregnant mother and a father, anxious what may happen as they leave their supportive community behind. There is nowhere to stay in the inn, so the baby is wrapped or swaddled in cloths and laid in an animal feed trough. Wrapped against the cold, and wrapped for comfort, wrapped in a mother and father's love.
Shepherds come calling, with tales of Angels singing in the heavens. Shepherds who were not welcome visitors in towns, but shepherds willing to leave the sheep on the hillside and seek a new born king. And were they surprised when they got there, no royal place or sumptuous home. A king born among the animals, just as they lived among the sheep. “Grace making beauty out of ugly things”.
Blessed art thou,
O Christmas child,
That thy cradle was so low
Poorest and simplest of earthy folk,
Could yet kneel beside it,
and look level eyed into the face of God.
God came as man, a weak defenceless child to bring grace upon grace to a world living with a glimmer of hope. A hope that things could be better, despite the human failings that continue to bring darkness to peoples lives. We live in age where there is great wealth, and we have the power to do great good, and yet people are buffeted by the greed and lack of humanity of others. God sent his Son to show us a better way, and yet we cannot see what is before our eyes.
“Kick your boots off before the step, and go in with open eyes ready to be surprised by God. Christ is with us.”
May we keep following the star that leads us to the Christ child.
May our lives and our prayers
be like lights shining in dark places.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
fill our hearts and our homes
With light this Christmas and in the New Year to come