Christmas Day Sermon 2009

You learn new things about Christmas with every one that passes you by. I learn new things about how to keep these festivals each year. One Christmas builds on another. Perhaps we learn more about the God who came into the world each year that we live in it.

About a month ago, we started to gather together the figures which build up our nativity scene. Someone went down into the crypt and found them all and dusted them off and got them ready.

The tableau is over on your left this year, on a windowsill. Mary and Joseph and the baby.

I like the figures to gradually build up. First come the animals, waiting through advent. Symbolic of the world waiting for then Christ to be born. And whilst they wait, the Magi set off from the East and wend their way from the High Altar, getting nearer and nearer to Bethlehem until they arrive at Epiphany. The Holy Family appear on Christmas Eve in the morning, the shepherds hover around waiting to rush to Bethlehem and the babe himself arrives on the stroke of midnight. I always worry about losing him and not having him on hand at the appropriate moment. Indeed, in my last church he was small enough for me to hide him in the chalice, so that I would remember him at he appropriate moment. Of course, I then stopped worrying about losing the Christchild and started to worry about drowning him in wine instead.

Anyway, as the figures were being gathered together this year, one member of the congregation saw what was going on and said to me, “Time to go and get the shredded wheat then.”

I think I must have looked a little startled. I had no idea what was meant. “Time to go and get the shredded wheat”, she said, “if you crumple it up it looks like straw for the manger.” Indeed, it looks more realistic than real straw does as it is just the right scale.

So, I gave instructions. Straw was needed for the manger. Shredded wheat was called for.

Unfortunately, in this part of Glasgow on that day, there seemed to be a shredded wheat famine for none could be found.

Last night, the Lord of heaven was born in this place at midnight and carefully laid in a manger. And lo! The manger was full of Weetabix.

And indeed, the animals and the shepherds and the holy family are surrounded by it. Its worth going to have a look at before you go today. Have a taste, if you must.

Now weetabix looks rather authentic too. But it does not look like nice clean straw – it looks like the mulch that would be on any stable floor. Dirt, straw and mess from the animals.

And into such a world was Christ born.

For the truth of the Christmas gospel is that God is born into a dirty, messy world and deals with messy, mixed-up people. God deals with us, as closely as a mother and child coming eyeball to eyeball with one another for the first time. And God loves us.

It is as simple as that.

One of the things that I’ve participated in this year is a project called the Glasgow Gospel. It was a DVD made to retell the stories of the gospel in the local tongue and using local people. Its hardly a new idea, the great Passion Plays of old were doing exactly the same thing.

But it raises a question worth thinking about as we celebrate God’s coming into the world. If you think that Christmas is about Bethlehem and shepherds and angels of long ago, you’ve only heard part of the story and you’ve missed the best bit. It is that God comes to your city, or town or village or hamlet or whatever place where you live. It is that God comes to the people you care about most. It is that God comes into your world. It is that God is come to you.

That’s what the good news is. That is what the fuss is all about.

When I was helping to make the Glasgow Gospel (in which I had precisely one line), the people making the DVD spotted something whist they were here and took photographs. It was the angels that are on display in front of the altar.

They told me that wherever they went in the city making this film they kept coming across angels and they were photographing them all. And indeed, when, in the film, we hear of the angels in the sky above Bethlehem, what we see is angel after angel from across this city. Sad angels from the necropolis. Glorious angels holding up the beams of the University of Glasgow chapel. And our angels are in that sequence.

Glasgow’s angels. They are all joined together in this film at the moment of Christ’s birth. All singing out the Good News that God is here in Glasgow at last. When I celebrated the moment of the birth last night, it seemed as though I could still hear them. Singing out the good news.

That Christ is born in Bethlehem. That Christ is born in Glasgow. That Jesus Christ is born in our hearts today. Amen.

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