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Christmas Sermon

Midnight Mass 2016
Article posted on 24 December 2016 Leave a Comment

Readings: Isaiah 52.7-10, Hebrews.1.1-4, John 1.1-14

Well we’re nearly there! Only …minutes to go now to Christmas. Are you ready for Christmas? Have you got all the preparations done? Any jobs left to do when you get home? Maybe there’s still a Christmas stocking to creep into a bedroom with?

We are on the cusp of an epic moment. The Advent season of preparing, waiting, yearning, thirsting, hoping, is very nearly over. We’re here because it’s just not good enough to wake up tomorrow morning and dozily realise that, realise what??? I’ll answer that in a minute.

This moment is rather like a stumbling through the darkness of night down onto a beach. Sitting there in the gloom before dawn and looking out to the East. The sky turns from black to grey to silver and then suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, the tip of the sun peeks over the horizon and then the rays of light shoot horizontally across the sea and hits you. The waiting, the stumbling in the dark is over. It’s an epic, cosmic event. For how many billion years has the sun done this to the earth? And yet, in that moment on the beach, it’s magnificently, intimately personal and my body starts to feel the warmth.

That’s the framework for the beautiful prologue to John’s Gospel. Whilst Matthew, Mark and Luke begin their Good News of God’s incarnation in historical time and place, Nazareth, two millennia ago. John desperately wants us to capture something of the timeless, cosmic, mystery of God breaking into the world in a specific time and place.

Whilst Matthew and Luke’s birth narratives get turned into endless nativity plays and Christmas cards, John’s prologue cannot be so captured and caricatured, instead we’re left spellbound in awed silence.

In just the first handful of verses quite incredible claims are made.Firstly, he begins with the same words as the beginning of Genesis and is placing Jesus of Nazareth out of human time and with God at the very beginning of all things. He states that there would be no existence without him. He doesn’t use Jesus’ name though and instead a technical term, ‘The Word’ I think it’s a bit late at night for unpacking this one, but suffice to say that the use of this term for Jesus means many things including the manifested power, wisdom and love of God. And if that is not enough, in verses 4 & 5 we read,

…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

So this Jesus is a universal gift, offering life and light for all people. This Christ-mass present is a victory of life over death, of hope over despair, good over evil. John is saying that, in spiritual terms, the arrival of Jesus is that transforming moment when the sun’s rays break the horizon and shoot across the world. John is saying that the incarnation is on a par with the beginnings of creation, when God spoke the words, ‘Let there be light’. Both are epic, cosmic, transforming moments for the world. But is it an epic, transforming moment for you?

John has one simple but life changing goal in writing his Gospel, and spells it out just before he signs off his book. In chapter 20 he says,

these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that in believing you may have life in His name.”

I wonder what has motivated you personally to be here tonight? Whatever has brought you, I want to leave you with a challenge,

but not my challenge. It’s the challenge of each of the four Gospels. Put aside for a moment all the fripperies of Christmas and here and now in these last Advent minutes, in the darkness, on the beach as it were, are you ready to receive Jesus Christ as your saviour, as your light and life?

For Mary & Joseph, despite all the questions, doubt, vulnerable circumstances and public humiliation, spiritually and deeply profoundly with great trust in God they each individually did one thing, they each said ‘yes’. Such a short simple word but loaded with trust, obedience and surrender.

Jesus was not imposed upon them. That has never been God’s nature. It’s not a radio broadcast of his love for the world from the distant heavens, nor enforced, like an invasion. God offers his life, light and love to each of us personally as individuals. We can make all sorts of preparations for the celebration of Christmas, but are you spiritually ready?

I’m going to stop talking in a minute and I’m going to leave you with this question and challenge in the silence that follows.

Are you ready here and now to say ‘yes’ with Mary and Joseph and with John?

Jesus knocks on the door to your life. Are you ready to renew your ‘yes’, and welcome Christ again to dwell within you? Or, if you’ve never said this ‘yes’, are you ready tonight to say ‘yes’, and to welcome Christ into your life? Or, if you’re yearning for more in life but the doubt and questions are too consuming, might your ‘yes’ be a commitment to begin a search? Jesus said seek and you will find. If you’re ready to go looking, may I encourage you to consider the Alpha Course that we’re running from January.

The claims of John and of Christianity are quite incredible, ‘out of this world’, and yet ‘in this world’ too. And yet these claims come down to a personal challenge to each of us. If you are ready to renew, to begin, or to search, may I encourage you in the silence now to say in your heart,

Yes Lord Jesus, come and be born in me this Christmas. Or in the words of Mary, Let it be with me according to your word.

Revd. Paul Cowan

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