Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Midnight Mass Sermon

As I write, I am sucked in by the ad for tomorrow’s Eastenders - ‘Who is the daddy?’ Only a little while to go and we will know, perhaps!, the truth about the parentage of Roxy’s baby, Amy. I am not a fan of the soap I have to say, but it’s the sort of thing that Alex irons to and that I will half watch if I am in.

Nothing is ever simple in Walford. Families are never ordinary or normal. No 2.4 children. No happily married for 30+ years. It’s all fiction I know, and so do you, but I wonder, was Oscar WIlde right when he said, ‘All that I desire to point out is the general principle that life imitates art far more than art imitates life?’ Perhaps nearer the truth is American singer/songwriter Ani Difranco when she says, ‘...Yeah, art may imitate life. But life imitates tv...’

I am not trying to suggest that tv soaps lead the way that society lives, but I wonder whether to a degree, the media in general becomes a mirror that we can hold up and view ourselves, our famillies and our neighbourhoods in. Speaking personally, I don’t much like what I see in that mirror at the moment.

More than 70 teenagers have been violently killed this year alone. Some 3000 people have died from the Cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe. Unemployment in the UK has reached nearly 2 million - an 11 year high - a direct result of the Credit Crunch...

It is into these stories, that God, ‘the Word made flesh’ speaks. Into this world, God comes.

But St John does not tell of an arrogant Creator God, who slaps the corporate wrist and puts back everything the way that it was. John reminds us of what we celebrate tonight - God becomes flesh and blood like us, weak and needy like us, and lives among us. John literally says that God pitches His tent among us. In other words, he doesn’t move among us like some sort of ghost - in the world but not part of it. God comes into our world, living among us, as a vulnerable baby.

We celebrate the birth of that baby tonight, but that in itself is not miraculous as many babies are born in UK hospitals and homes every day. The baby we celebrate born tonight is born in poverty, but that in itself is not miraculous as many babies are born and survive in similar situations all over the world today. Tonight we are reminded of the parentage of this baby - he is God’s Son. Even that is not the Christmas miracle that we celebrate tonight.

The Christmas miracle that we celebrate tonight is that this baby grew to be a man. Through this man, God spoke and demonstrated what it means, how it feels and what it costs to love and be loved by God and each other. Through the life, death and resurrection of this man, we can not only know about God and His

ways, but we are welcomed as members of the family. The Christmas miracle we celebrate tonight is not that God becomes a human being. The Christmas miracle we celebrate tonight is that through this baby human beings can come to God.

The message of Christmas challenges our complacency an our prejudices and our misconceptions about God and humanity. For this baby was not born amongst the wealthy, the intelligent, or the powerful, but rather was born in the poorest of situations, to parents who were not formally educated and who in the eyes of others had no influence or status. God values the humanity of the ordinary man or woman so much that he chose to come amongst them, trusting them for love and life. In return he offers us as ordinary men and women love and life, and he trusts us to share it with others.

The Christmas miracle that we see and hear tonight, celebrates a God who embraces our humanity completely and sees every single one of us as a potential stand in for him. As potential stand-ins for God therefore we each need to be treated with value, dignity and respect: the God who comes to us in humility tonight as a baby, later as a man speaks forcefully to our pride, our economic and social status, our sense of justice and the importance of our sheer human worth, and calls us to simply love each other. As such, in the killing, raping and

looting fields of Darfur; in the broken nation and a broken people of Zimbabwe who have been forcefed with injustice and can swallow no more; for the unreconciled children of Abraham in the Middle East - the Palestinians without a viable state they can call home and Israelis hungry for peace and security; for the refugees, the homeless and people caught up in human trafficking; in the walls of silence the abduction of Madeline McCann, the murder of Rhys Jones and the failure for any to take responsibility for the Omagh bombing – God is being daily violated and blasphemed.

Through the birth of Jesus, we are reminded that the tragic human plight that we see and read through the media, is God’s plight. Through the birth of Jesus, we are reminded of how much God loves that ordinary humanity, enough to make it his own. Through the birth of Jesus, we are reminded therefore that apathy to horrendous news stories is no longer an option. It is all to easy to change the channel to avoid them, but because of the birth of Jesus, those stories are not about ‘others’, but about men and women like us, amongst whom he was born, whom he trusted for love and life, and who he continues to trust to love.

Tonight we are reminded that through the birth of a baby, God clearly demonstrates the depth of his love for ordinary men an women by being born

vulnerable and helpless amongst us, trusting us for love and life. Tonight we are reminded that through the birth of a baby, God longs for each of us to be loved by
Him, to know that in the midst of complicated family life that he is our Father. Tonight we are reminded that through the birth of a baby, that we are worth loving and so should love each other in turn. Amen.

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