Sermons from St Faith's   

Mary and Elizabeth

Revd Sue Lucas, Christmas Midnight Mass, 2015

When all in solemn stillness lay and night was in the midst of her swift course
From your royal throne O God
Leapt your eternal word.

Some evocative words; originally from the Vespers and Lauds antiphon for the 4th Sunday in Advent, reappearing as the Antiphon in the Mass in the saints within the octave of Christmas, they now form a daily punctuation to the season, as the Magnificat antiphon throughout Christmastide.

I think they have a particular resonance tonight. I am not, these days, usually awake at this time. I am usually tucked up at about 10.30. But tonight is different. The rhythms of the ordinary stop for a time, and the world holds its collective breath.

Mid night and midwinter. There is something charged about the time, and the time of the year, the year at its turning.

Night in the midst of her swift course. Night – not passive or empty, not simply for sleep, but full of possibilities.

Into the midst of a troubled world, a child is born. A child born to refugee parents, in an obscure but strategically important corner of a vast and powerful empire.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? For this year, we've seen swathes upon swathes of humanity forced to flee homes and livelihoods for the pointless wars of pointless empires.

We've seen, and been shocked by the vulnerable flesh of a child washed up on a beach.

And somehow this year we've circled back to another night when time stood still and enemies embraced one another to sing Silent Night in the eerie stillness of no man’s land a century ago.

Time this night stands still and also rushes by – as other nights in other times with other faces and other voices are somehow present all at once, those with whom we've shared Christmases long gone, but are strangely here and watching with us.

For this night, heaven touches earth and God is made man. God speaks no longer in the future perfect – the prophet’s tense – but in the present. And what a present! A present rich with the intertwining of history and possibility. For this night, the Word is made flesh, in the manger, on the cross and in the broken bread and wine outpoured of the Eucharist.

For this night, God speaks again – his promise moulded on the tiny frame of a child: God’s odd hope, strange justice, peculiar power, lying here, vulnerable amid the straw. 

It is easy, in the midst of things, to feel overwhelmed. To feel powerless in the face of so much that is beyond us and puzzling and difficult.

Yet God’s word continues insistently to speak in flesh, our flesh, and particularly  its most vulnerable and overwhelmed.

And that is why this night, in the midst of things, all is still; that we might discern God’s quiet, insistent purpose among it all; not in majesty and power, not in glory and splendour: heaven touches earth, God is made man in all our weakness; and in that strength made perfect in weakness, we behold his glory, as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.


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