God with us: a Sermon for Midnight Mass
Well its almost midnight, and if you haven’t done the shopping and the preparing already – I have to break it to you – it’s too late! Even for me who really is Mrs last minute about these things!
I put off Christmas shopping every year –I vow Im not going to set foot in the shops after October, when they suddenly start getting frantic, and I do my best to do what I can online, but inevitably I find myself in West Quay, or Winchester,..
One of the reasons I can’t stand it is the music – endless cheesy Christmas tunes –
I’ve yet to find a shop that will play me a mix of Russian orthodox Christmas liturgical chants and Rage against the Machine –but online I can choose!
One of the songs that I dislike the most – and I apoloigise if its anyone’s favourite, is that Chris De Burgh perennial –a space man came travelling
It’s one of those songs that sounds pretty , and then you try & work out what it means – spacemen & aliens, and the mother & child, and a star…? God as an alien? Christmas as a sort of Close Encounters experience?
Suffice to say its really not my favourite!! and I don’t know about you though but on a bad day I look at our world and think that any alien worth its radar scanner system would probably take one look at our planet and leave well alone…
We only have to turn on the TV, flick through Twitter, half listen to the conversation at the next table in Starbucks to realise that our world is a pretty messed up place,
whether its international politics, wars, and fighting, disputes about land and identity, with the resultant thousands of refugees and asylum seekers:
Whether it’s poverty in our cities and our villages, the ever growing need for food banks, the increase in rough sleeping, drug and alcohol abuse,
Relationship breakdown, gender & racial abuse,
Disaffected youth, eco devastation, natural disasters & climate change…
All of which illustrates the natural human inclination to stuff things up,
We’ve seen it, we’ve experienced it, we know it in our own lives
The world is often a broken hurting place.
The human inclination to stuff things up really messes with life.
At this time of year, the brokenness and the hurt can seem harsher and more hurtful –set against the vision of Christmas perfection that assaults us from every multi million TV advert, or magazine article.
But the message of Christmas we see through that lens is one that has been distorted and made into something it was never meant to be.
Christmas is not, was not ever about perfection & polish, despite what John Lewis & Marks & Spencer want to sell us.
Above all Christmas is the story of how God, the creator of the universe and everything within it, looked at the hurting world, screwed up by the human inclination to stuff things up, and instead of ignoring it,
leaving us to stew in our own juices and starting again on some other planet,
or punishing the whole lot of us,
or concocting some super hero style rescue plan.
what God did was to become part of the broken hurting world
He came, to live with us, in us
To transform the world, to recreate, to restore.
The Creator of the world came to be a part of his creation.
Not with fanfare or with pomp & ceremony, and a manifesto.
But the same way we all come into the world.
Growing secretly, and entering life in a mess of blood and pain.
Not even in a palace or a high tech medical facility
But born of a teenage unmarried mother, who had probably spent months in fear of being stoned or set upon by the respectability police
Who went off into the countryside to visit her cousin, to avoid the gossip as much as anything.
And who now travelling with her man, who against all the odds had stuck by her to his home town finds herself ostracised by family and instead of the guest room is given the animal shed.
How many young mothers across the world have suffered in the same way?
In this way, God becomes part of his world,
To transform it from the inside,
To take solidarity with his creation.
To sit in the shit with us and give us hope
This baby, God incarnate, -the hope of all the world, not because of what he will do, or what he can do, but because he is there, living with us, pitching his tent with ours, walking our road, broken and painful as it is.
This Jesus, God come among us, who knew displacement of home & country, fleeing genocide, who knew poverty and fear,
has come to live with us and in us.
His presence brings us hope, and peace,
we can know that peace, like the child who is scared of the dark, who knows that the parent sat with her in that dark is worth more than a light switched on, because it is the relationship that matters.
God’s plan to give us hope in our broken, human stuffed up world, was simply to come & be with us in it,
To point us to what can be,
To the light & peace that transforms our world as we meet with God within it.
That transformation in us & in our world began the moment that the Creator became part of his creation, part of everything that he had made –a profound moment that we celebrate and embrace tonight.
We come to this table, to remember with bread & wine the path that this child, God with us, was to take, his solidarity with our pain even to death, but his conquering of that darkness and the human inclination to stuff things up when he rose again.
Tonight, and every time we remember with this bread & wine, God once more reminds us with his presence, that He becomes part of his own creation, with us in the simple elements of feasting & celebration, of life and living. With us in the pain & tears, and the joy and luaghter.
God, with us, in our world, in our lives, in this meal.
The Word became flesh & lives among us – We see his glory.. full of grace, and truth.
God with us is no alien visitation, or remote divine intervention.
It is Jesus. The baby, the boy the man.
God with us and in us
God in our world and in our lives
This Christmas, I pray we are all able to open our eyes and our hearts to see God, without fanfare, without pomp,
Transforming his world from within.