24th December – Midnight Mass
Luke Chapter 2 verses 1 – 20
Maggie Cogan - Reader
In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit – Amen
The shops are shut – the shelves of the supermarkets are empty – if you have forgotten the turkey or the sprouts – Oh dear – you are in for a rough ride tomorrow. We are so lucky to have all the modern facilities not only for shopping but also for us ladies to give birth. Quite a few years ago I was in labour on this Christmas night but I was warm in a maternity unit – not like Mary searching for somewhere to give birth
Mary and Joseph have arrived in Bethlehem to be registered but no Premier Inn or Mill Hotel available for them. No late night Co-op to get a bite to eat. Bethlehem was full to the brim. Not a good situation when you are about to give birth. I think I might have felt the same if there had been no facilities for me when I gave birth to our daughter one Christmas Day.
Just what does Christmas mean to so many people today? Hard work - stores crowded with frantic last minute shoppers - Post offices overflowing with mail - crowded trains, full buses, over-booked flights and congested motorways - alcoholic revelry and holiday depression?
All during this season people go around saying, "Have a good Christmas?" How many times have we heard it said? But just what is a good Christmas to so many people? Good gifts - good food - good trading - good partying - safe traveling - festive family gatherings? A number of these things might be considered good in their own right, but just what do they have to do with the true meaning of Christmas? Is that what Christmas is all about?
Having a good Christmas should be much more than any of this.
A Christmas that focuses upon the fact that God loves us with all his heart. That he has given us the very best gift that could ever be given. The Bible gives us the only clue we need, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." In case we missed his meaning God had the apostle Paul to say it again, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."
A good Christmas should always include room for Jesus.
The inn keeper said, "There is no room!" What a great blessing he missed on that momentous day! Perhaps he thought there were many "more important" people in his inn. But the worldly elite and VIPS would all soon be gone and forgotten. He had turned away the Eternal One the one on the margins of society. Like so many people today – the many people in this town having to receive food from Storehouse through no fault of their own and many people throughout the world will be homeless tonight as a result of war or famine – no room at the inn for them
Does the world have room for Jesus today? Thousands of invitations and gospel messages have gone out this Christmas Season. Many are begged to make room for Jesus. But sadly, millions still say, "We have no room for Jesus - in our homes - in our nation - in our affairs - in our celebrations. Christmas with Christ, is like an engine without fuel, a tree without sap, heavens without stars, ocean without water or a garden without flowers. Without Jesus people only exist.
A good Christmas includes time for worship
Does Jesus deserve our worship? A banker can make a blank sheet of paper worth millions. An artist can slap some paint on canvass and make it priceless. A sculptor can take a slab of stone and create a masterpiece. But Jesus can take a worthless life and make it count eternally.
The first Christmas focused upon true worship of the King of Kings. The angelic hosts welcomed him with worthy worship. The lowly shepherds considered in those days to be vagabonds went to Bethlehem to worship him. The Wise Men travelled afar to bow humbly and adore him.
A good Christmas involves giving
Christmas is giving - but not the tinsel and paper sort. The wise men gave glorious gifts to Jesus - not to each other. Where is Jesus on our Christmas gift list this year? So many people give of their time to help others. Our Street pastors will be out during these Christmas festivities, ensuring our young people are ok and safe.
A good Christmas means sharing the message with others
We have the angels for example. For centuries hearts had hungered to hear the good news of the Messiah's arrival - They heralded the happiest message man could ever hear - An earth changing message.
At this Christmas time the message of salvation through Christ remains the best news of all! Otherwise why did he come to earth to be born in a stable and die on a cruel cross? Or why are we here?
We cannot stop the eradication of the Christian faith in parts of the world where people of violence have so distorted their image of God that they imagine that killing people is in accordance with God’s will. That has never been the case and it never will be. But we can ensure that we hold on to our Christian faith and pass it on, so that it is not overwhelmed or forced out of the world which God created, and loved so much that he sent his Son to save it.
We cannot heal all the wrongs that we see throughout the world today – but we can do something in our own communities to bring healing and wholeness to our communities by our supporting for those in need, by working for those who cannot help themselves, and by speaking out on behalf of all those who do not have a voice where it needs to be heard.
And above all, we can celebrate the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, by giving him the worship, honour, and glory due to his name. And as we celebrate the presence of Christ among us in the world this Christmas, surrounded by those we love, let us remember all those for whom this is a difficult time of year, and do what we can to let our love and joy in this wonderful world overflow to others who are less fortunate than ourselves – that the love which was the message of Christ to the world, is made known, is made real, is made present in our world today in our celebrations and in our giving and receiving this Christmas tide and always.
The Kingdom of God is already here within us, right here at St. Greg’s and within each of us! Our mission is the love of God as we give hope to the world through God’s vision in Jesus to make all things new, “on earth as it is in heaven.” To engage this work we find our hope in the One whose birth we celebrate this night, or rather, God born in us. God’s hope was made flesh in Jesus. Now it must take flesh in us. As a people of the Manger we are to remain unsatisfied with the way things are when they are less than God’s dream for the world. We seek to change it by participating in the great hope announced by the angels to the Shepherds. It is, by the way, why the building of walls, religious profiling and any other way we restrict God’s all-embracing love is not an option for a follower of Jesus.
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ, the Lord.” Speaking and acting this word of hope and love may be the most radical thing we can do. It starts right here in Sudbury.
May Cheryl and I wish you all a blessed and very Happy Christmas