Inevitably I think the end of 2016 will be thought about the end of all kinds of things. Post Brexit. Post Trump. Post truth.
It is as though we have reached the end of something and don’t know what’s coming next.
Time in the secular world stretches straight out in front of us. Time in the spiritual realm bends always towards justice.
But time in the liturgy just keeps on going round and round.
And so the liturgy reminds us of truths that we would otherwise miss.
Post referendum. Post US election. Post facts. And post certainty.
But in the beginning was the Word.
The liturgy brings us right round to what comes at the beginning, that which is foundational for us, that which cannot be argued with because it has always been so and always will be so.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.
A very great deal has been written about the effect of Jesus’s life and of course his death. People have debated, argued, even warred with one another about quite what difference it made that he came and lived and died.
But before that, is something that we should not simply pass us by just because we hear it on a dark, cold wintery night.
In the beginning. Before disagreement, before war, before strife, there was God.
And God looked at this world and loved it and wanted to be part of it.
Before the world began, this much was true – that God was there and God had compassion and God was love.
Before the world began, before not only our present darkness but before all darknesses, God was there and God brought life and light and truth.
Every year I wonder how to see something new to preach on for Christmas. Every year I wonder how to see something fresh in the story itself.
This year a friend told me a few months ago that his mother (whom I don’t know) was knitting me something.
Not a Christmas jumper or a Christmas hat. But the Christmas story itself.
I was presented with a whole crib scene made of knitting figures for the church. A knitted Mary, a knitted Joseph, knitted Magi and shepherds and sheep. And yes, a knitted Jesus.
It is a work of art, and I’ve no doubt a work of love too. You don’t put that kind of work into something like that for someone you don’t know without a lot of kindness in your heart.
And they sit here in church this year with an invitation to the children and everyone who is young at heart, to meet the characters afresh (even the sheep). I’m encouraging the children (and whoever wants to) to take up the characters and to think about what is represented there.
To take up Mary and ponder what it mean to bring to birth the creator of the universe who already loved us.
To take up Joseph and wonder what was going through his head as he stood by Mary. The love of the one who already loved us is known through such human kindness.
To take up the shepherds and encounter those whom the world might least expect to receive a revelation from an angel. Whom do you encounter whom you find it difficult to believe God would be bothered with. Trust me on this one, God is way ahead of you whoever it is. For God has already loved them since before forever.
To take up the strange Magi, knitted robes and knitted beards and knitted gifts and all and reflect on the fact that God’s love seems to extend to the kosher and non kosher worshippers alike. And to know that those outside our own definitions of belonging are already known and loved by God anyway.
To take up and cradle in the palm of your hand the Christ child who once cradled the dawn of time in his.
For in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.
Every year I wonder how to say something new about the Christmas story.
Every year, I eventually come to the conclusion that the only thing to do is to let the original story stand on its own two feet.
For in the beginning God was. In the beginning God came. In the beginning God loved.
And we are who we are because of it.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Not post glory. Not post grace. Not post truth.
The real thing.
Born amongst us. Born this night. Born in our hearts.
And with us, God with us, as time began.
And with us, God with us, as a baby was born.
And with us, God with us, right here and right now.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.