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Fr David's Sermon for Midnight Mass/Christmas Eve

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

In the years since I was ordained, I’ve never before been quite so aware of the expectations of Christmas being so worrying for so many people. With foodbanks being overwhelmed in normal weeks with people struggling to put food on the table and not knowing how they will afford to heat their homes, many will get themselves into debt this Christmas struggling to provide a feast for Christmas Day, to make sure the house is decorated, to make sure the children have presents. Others will simply go without. With nothing left or already in debt, presents under a tree and a turkey on the table are things they can only dream about. As the country lurches ever nearer to national strikes with those who keep our health service and our infrastructure running begging for wages and conditions that allow them to both feed and see their families, this Christmas is a dark dark time for many people. For the growing number sleeping on the streets of our city, for those in Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine, sheltering from shelling and gun fire, for those suffering drought, flood and famine as they face the changes to their climate caused by richer nations, that darkness is all too real.

In that context, maybe it is easier than usual, as we gather here in Church, to remember that the meaning of Christmas is not found at the bottom of a plate piled high with Christmas Dinner or in the amount of money we’ve managed to spend in the shops. For into that situation, into that darkness, comes the Good News of the Christ Child.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

We are gathered here this evening, yes, to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere, to sing Carols, to see in Christmas Day, but most importantly to proclaim the Good News.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders, and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

As we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah, we await the time when Christ will return and God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness will be seen in all its fulness. But in proclaiming the Christ Child, we are proclaiming that that kingdom has already begun, it has already broken in.

Our psalm declares

Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king-- --he will judge the peoples with equity. He comes to judge the earth; with righteousness he will judge the world and the peoples with his truth.

We await the fulness of that righteous, generous, compassionate judgement, but we declare too that it has already begun, and this is what God’s judgement of the world looks like:

A helpless, powerless baby born in the mess of the stable and laid in a feeding trough.

I saw a cartoon this week of Mary and Joseph looking adoringly at their baby lying in the manger, while one of the animals declared sarcastically “yeah, that’s fine. You feel free to lay your smelly baby in the middle of my dinner”.

We too easily forget that reality. There was no room for God. Instead, God allowed himself to be born among us in poverty, in squalor: the King who comes to judge the earth, born among the animals and laid in their feeding trough. And in doing so he declares the value and worth of every person who today is without their own home, without a bed to lay their head, without fancy food to eat or presents to open. God sticks two fingers up to profit margins and share prices, to fame and fortune, to power and privilege.

How would we react today to the Christ child born among us in poverty? To the infant Jesus and his family fleeing the persecution of Herod? Would we lock him in a detention centre, separate him from his parents, try and put them all on a plane to Rwanda?

The child laid in the manger is God’s judgement on the world, God’s judgement on our greed, God’s judgement on our priorities, God’s judgement on the way we judge one another, God’s judgement on deception, dishonesty, inequality, and self-centeredness.

It says to the poor: Worth is not found in riches, your worth is found in me. It says to the powerless, the oppressed and the overlooked: Worth is not found in power, in fame, in being seen as important, your worth is found in me. It says to the troubled, to the depressed, to the stranger, to the outsider, to the outcast: Worth is not found in having it all together, or in belonging to the right family, having the right name or the right passport, your worth is found in me.

It says to each of us, whatever baggage and burdens we bring, whatever worries or guilt we bear: your worth is found fully and only in your being my beloved creation: among whom I came as a Child, Emmanuel, God with us.

God with us in the mess of the stable and the mess of our lives, God present in our reality: whatever that looks like, God alongside us, God for us, God in solidarity with each and every person, who lacks wealth, or power, or peace.

Well that’s all very lovely! But what difference does is make to the poverty, to oppression, to anxiety and warfare?

At the very least, I hope it reminds us what the things are in life that are truly important.

Perhaps it urges us to respond to the invitation of the Angels: to go and see this thing that has taken place. At our Crib service earlier I invited the families to leave via the Lady Chapel, to go and see the stable, the infant Jesus laid in the manger. To look and see.

Perhaps Mary’s example provides the next step of how we might respond.

Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Perhaps we’re not sure what to make of it. Perhaps we welcome the words of comfort but aren’t sure where to go from there. Tonight we are invited with Mary to ponder, to reflect, to treasure the truth and the comfort we have been shown. To ponder the infant in the manger and Christ made present for us upon the altar.

Another option is to follow the example of the shepherds.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen

As we come before God this evening in the sacrament of the altar, we come to worship the Christ-child, to know him revealed as God among us, to acknowledge his love, his authority, his judgement. Perhaps we’ve pondered long enough, and we are ready to see with greater certainty the invitation to a different way of life, the way of joy, of truth, of peace, a way of life where power, status and wealth don’t matter, only God’s love for us, and our love for God and God’s creation.

Perhaps we will respond to them all: to the invitation of the Angels, to the example of Mary, to the example of the Shepherds, and hopefully we will respond too to the example of the Christ-child, we ourselves will go and be a light shining in the darkness, or as our epistle reading put it: A people zealous for good deeds.

May we so know, ponder and respond to the radical, counter cultural judgement of God’s breaking into our world as helpless child in poverty, that not only will we know within ourselves the wonderful reassurance of our worth as found, not in possessions and privilege, but found in God, but also be so comforted, strengthened and challenged by that, that this Christmas we find ourselves renewed in our zeal to speak of other’s worth, to speak well of one another, to respond to strangers with kindness, to speak up for the oppressed and marginalised, to work for truth, justice, equity and the dignity of all.

Whatever the state of our lives, our families, our finances this Christmas, may we know God alongside us, with us, for us, and encouraged by that knowledge, be made ready to stand alongside those who need their worth, their dignity to be spoken and shown.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.


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