Sermon – Christmas 2

Here’s what I had to say in the pulpit yesterday:

Video first

When I was young, Christmas was pretty much the same every year at our house. The morning would comprise of morning worship and after that there would be lots of driving to pick up older relatives so that the family might be together at Christmas.

Eventually gathered together around a specially prepared festive table we would eat and manage to get through vast quantities of food before listening to the Queen at three o’clock. And then and only then, unwrapping presents.

The thing that I want to remember today is one of my older maiden aunts. Actually a great aunt, who was always with us at Christmas.

The thing I remember was something that she used to say as we prepared to tuck into the food, glorious food, that my mother had prepared.

“Do you know,” said that maiden aunt each year, “This is the ninth (or tenth or fourteenth) Christmas Dinner I’ve had this year!”

It was quite difficult to appreciate quite how this was supposed to contribute to the season of goodwill, particularly when the aunt in question used to tell us precisely what each of those dinners had been like and proceeded to compare them one by one.

Now, I don’t know how many Christmas dinners you had this year. (I had just one lovely Christmas dinner of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but couldn’t bring myself to cook it until Boxing Day).

I do know that I’ve been in church quite a lot since Christmas Eve.

I know that people sometimes think I’m mad to make so many provisions in the Christmas season for worship. Indeed, sometimes I wonder myself whether the Baby Jesus really does need worshipping yet again. By the time I take a few days off, I’ll be exhausted. Exhausted but happy and pleased, for this Christmastide has been a wonderful one and the love and joy and wonder has been very real in this place. A full cathedral of Christmas pilgrims is all a provost can wish for and it has been a joy to celebrate it all here.

Today though is the last day of Christmas.

For Christmas lasts a full 12 days in the life of the church. Tomorrow we think about it all in a different way.

Today we are still pondering the word made flesh.

I’ve just got one question to ask you this morning. Just one thing to think about.

And it is this. Never mind how many Chirstmas dinners you’ve had. How many Christmases have you had?

Thinking about the Christmas story, how many times has it been real to you?

How many times have you been aware of God dwelling in the manger of your heart?

How many times have you provided shelter to a holy family on the run?

How many times have you understood that the saviour comes to heal you and make you whole?

How many times have you gone looking for God and found God in an unexpected place?

How many times have you stood up to Herod?

How many times have you dreamed a holy dream of a world made new?

How many angels have you encountered unawares.

They ask us to remember that a dog is for life, not just Christmas. But Christmas is for life too.

The story of the incarnate God coming into the world is told through nativity pageant and crib service. It is told through carols and bells rung out. It is told in sermon and story.

But the joy of being in a church which keeps Christmas as a season and not just an event is that we get other reminders along the way of other God-comings.

On Boxing Day we celebrated St Stephen the first Christian martyr and thought about the cost of the Christchild. God was with Stephen. God came. God was with him.

We entered the glory of light then with the feast of St John the Evangelist. God came to him too. Christmas lives in his prologue, part of which we read again today. God came. God was with the writer in the writing.

And we kept the dark feast of the Holy Innocents. Remembering that life is a muddle of joy and hardship and that pain, wracking, intense grief is real and particularly sharp for many at this time of year. And we proclaimed the truth again – that God is there. Right in the middle of the pain, God is there for God came and shared in it.

How many Christmases have you known? How many times has God come to you?

For God comes in the kindness of a friend. And that is a Christmas. For Christ comes there.

For God inhabits the kindness you show to a stranger. That is Christmas too for Christ is still on the run from Herods the world over and when you help him find safety, God is there in you, in the stranger and Christmas happens between you.

And God comes when you take your faith seriously enough to want to know more about things that matter. When you learn about faith, probe the faith, ask difficult questions of the faith, wrestle with the faith, yes, in all these God comes to you and in each is a little Christmas.

I have long thought that the idea that Christianity is merely historical faith makes it rather trivial. The idea that it is simply faith in historical events (some of which seem, at face value deeply spurious) makes Christianity simply banal.

The question is not simply over whether Christ ever came. It is over whether Christ comes yet.

For our claim, our audacious, outrageous claim is not merely that something happened once upon a time in a place called Bethlehem a long, long way away.

No, our claim is that the Word is, is made flesh. And dwells amongst us.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Thomas says

    Thanks for this, Kelvin- I love the questions, particularly the one about standing up to Herod. I was reading earlier today some criticisms by Tom Wright (hardly someone who takes the atonment lightly!) of the way in which people often preach at Christmas about Christ coming in order to die and thereby save us from our sins- and the way in which they completely fail to cover the much wider and glorious truth of the Incarnation. Your sermon is a welcome corrective!

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