Homily Christmas Eve/Day St Mary & St Peter 24/25 December 2021Year C
Isaiah 52v7-10 (Psalm 98) Hebrews 1v1-4 [5-12] John 1v1-14
On this Holy of (nights-Day), I wish to pose to you a question.
What do you regard as the most significant event in all of human history?
Would you answer with Genesis 1, ‘God said “let there be light”, or as a physicist I prefer to say, “let there be electromagnetic radiation”. Possibly, for without the big bang, the universe, you and I would have no being.
Or would your answer be with some great figure or grand event from history? Who or what would then be your response I wonder?
Or maybe you would respond with what we are here to celebrate on this holy of all (nights -days)? The pivotal and turning point of history, that time when God, the one who set our universe into being, compacted himself into the holy babe, born of Mary, in Bethlehem.
The incarnation, as we Anglicans like to call the birth of Jesus, is a far greater mystery than the physics of quantum mechanics for can you, can I, ever conceive of how God could become a human being? How could the ‘Word’, the way Saint John in our reading referred to Jesus, the Son of God, become a living human being?
Certainly God, as Genesis tells us, has amazingly created us in his own image, to be his ‘image bearers’ in this world, now there is a good topic to debate over Christmas dinner. Our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Church like to express it in this way, ‘God became man so that man could become like God’, created so we could share in the future glory of the God who created all things. Now that is another good topic for conversation. But how and why did God choose to enter into this his physical creation, and at that pivotal point in human history some two millennia ago?
We may not be able to answer the question how, but we can see why. God chose to extended His grace, mercy and love to us, so that we who have rebelled against His ways and gone off along our own paths, may hear the good news of our reconciliation. In our reading from Hebrews the writer described how God decided to send Jesus to speak to us and to make His plan for our reconciliation possible.
We read in the Old Testament prophets how God made king David, despite all his short comings, a man after God’s own heart, and a prince over his people Israel. So God made Jesus, that babe born this happy morning in Bethlehem, the city of David, a saviour for all humankind. But God will one coming day also make Jesus the prince and ruler over all the nations of the world, at the time when Jesus comes again as Messiah and Lord.
St John in his gospel tells us how John the Baptist told us how to prepare ourselves for that time of Jesus coming, he called us all to repent. Sadly there is inside us humans a rebellion to God’s ways so that we need to repent, to ‘turn about’, to seek God above all else. So can we this Christmas commit ourselves to following after Jesus in our everyday lives?
If so then I hope that as we sung in our carol, ‘O little town of Bethlehem’, the truth of the words ‘where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in’, will take on new meaning for each one of us.
What God longs to see in each of our lives is a commitment to follow Him, and His ways.
If you only grasp just one thing from our service this holy (night-day), may it be that God has a phenomenal purpose for each of our lives if we will but humble ourselves and trust and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Master. God has given to us brothers and sisters, a hope that transcends anything that we can possibly desire or imagine.
Some 21 years ago, on Christmas eve, I was in Manger square in that now, not so little, town of Bethlehem. It was full of hope and expectation of many good things ahead, and much investment was flowing into the Palestinian economy. Much of the infrastructure of the town had been rebuilt, the economy was growing, and there was reasonable freedom of movement both in and out. Then came the second Palestinian intifada, and all changed.
When I returned in 2005, entering Bethlehem was then through a gap in a 6m high concrete wall, and with greatly increased security. The image of ‘O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see you lie’, was in an instant shattered.
Since then those Christians who remain living in Bethlehem, where once the Christian population were in the majority, have become and feel isolated, as there has been an exodus of Christian families from within it. Where now is the hope, the peace and the goodwill between men heralded at the birth of that babe born within its midst?
Yet we as Christians know that it is not man who will dictate the final outcome of human history, and so we can take hope even through all that we see going on around us across the world. God has a plan of redemption, reconciliation, for you, for me, and for all the nations of His world so do not lose heart or hope at all the bad news in the media. God will finally make his purpose of peace and righteousness happen for all. And that through the return of the babe born this happy morn.
The God who said, let there be light, and flung the stars into the vast expanse of space, is still at the helm of His universe despite man’s best attempts to dislodge him. Pray through all the political correctness, that once again the will and purpose of the one true and living God may be heard and impact everyone’s life.
So let us join in with the heavenly host, with all the angels, and with our countless brothers and sisters around this world as today we praise God this joyful Christmas morn.
Let us thank God for his wondrous gift of the baby Jesus, so silently given in Bethlehem, God’s own son foretold by the prophets, and soon to be King Messiah and ruler over all the world.
Let us thank God for his free gift to you and to me of forgiveness for all our wrongdoings, and of a hope that we shall enjoy a place being prepared for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. But right now God has a job for you and for me, a job building his kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness in our stumbling society. Let us work to hasten the day when that transformation will be fully realised at the return of our Lord Jesus.
Yes, the birth of that babe, together with Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection, will for ever remain, the most significant events in human history, for they provide us with hope. Hope, not just for this night, but for all eternity if we but let the holy child of Bethlehem, come to us, abide with us, and be born in us today.
Now for a suffering, weary and war-torn world, that’s what I call a real Christmas present. Amen