Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 2015
St Mary’s Hadlow
Readings: Hebrews 1:1-12 & John 1:1-14
Heavenly Father, may the words of my lips reflect something of your written word and so lead us ever closer to your living word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Well. at the risk of starting with the obvious, Merry Christmas to you one and all!
It is absolutely wonderful to see you here for this midnight service but the fact that we are all here in the middle of the night in what is very nearly the longest night of the year does raise the obvious question of “why?” Why have we come out in the midst of all this darkness when we could be tucked up in bed or watching Netflix?
There are probably as many answers to that as there are people here tonight but let me suggest a possible answer of my own. We are conscious, somewhere in the depths of our souls, that despite the physical darkness of the northern hemisphere in Winter, and despite the frequent darkness of world events or even in our own lives, that there is a glimmer of hope, a spark of light to lighten the darkness.
Tonight, on this most holy of nights, we remember when the purest and brightest of lights, Jesus Christ, came into the darkness of the world and that he brings hope and life to us all:
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”
In the run up to Christmas, and especially at our carol services, we have been listening to the nativity stories in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. It is from those two gospels that we have the stories of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary to announce that she was to have a child, of Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem, of the Angels singing to the shepherds on the hillside (once again bringing light into the darkness), of the wise men following a star and, of course, of Jesus being born and laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn.
But the gospel of St. John, that we read this evening and is always the reading set for Christmas, takes quite a different tack. John does not talk about Angels or Shepherds or Wise men at all, in fact he doesn’t even talk about Jesus as a baby at all. The Gospel of John reminds us that the person whose birth we celebrate today was actually God himself:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
The very words “In the beginning..” echo the very first words of the bible in Genesis 1 which recounts the creation of all things and John makes the point even more strongly by saying:
“…All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”
And so the eternal and creative Word of God that was present at the creation of all things and was present with God the Father took on human flesh and was born amongst us as this baby Jesus.
The creator not only of this world but the whole universe who was entirely outside the constraints of space and time choose to be born as a baby in a particular place and time.
There are plenty of Eastern religions in which deities pretend to be human but don’t make the mistake of thinking that that was what was going on at the nativity. Jesus was a fully human little baby who was also fully the incarnation, the enfleshment if you will, of God. Although the nativity scene played by little children always looks very sweet and pastoral we should not forget that Jesus was born into real danger and only a short time later his family had to flee for their lives in order to escape Herod’s mass infanticide.
So why did God choose to give up eternity and to step inside a dangerous creation and to actually become a part of creation by becoming a person? Part of the answer to that question is played out in the events of Easter. Although it may sound a little morbid it is worth pondering the fact that the Jesus we think about being wrapped in swaddling clothes at Christmas is one and the same person who was wrapped in grave clothes on Good Friday but who left them neatly folded on Easter Day. Our faith needs to be joined up and we only celebrate Jesus’ birthday today because of what happened at Easter. We are not here to worship a cute baby, rather we are here to worship God stepping into our world at the risk of everything in order to rescue us from the darkness.
So that is part of the answer to why we are here tonight. And John gives us part of the answer too:
“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
If we receive Jesus as the light of the world and if we believe in his name then we have the power to become children of God. The God who created the universe doesn’t stand far off watching his creation through a telescope. Rather he entered into that creation so that we could become his adopted children.
God made his choice when he came into the world: he brought light into the darkness and the darkness will not overcome that light. But each of us still has a choice: we can receive that light and become children of God or we can remain hidden in the shadows. This Christmas I pray that each of us will receive the light of Christ and that the family of God’s adopted children will grow one soul at a time.
Tonight we celebrate the fact that the Word of God became the Son of God so that all humanity might become the Children of God.