Christmas Sermon

One of the odd features of coronavirus time for me has been vivid dreams and disturbed sleep.

I know that I’m not alone in this, I’ve heard others speak about it too.

Particularly during the various lockdown experiences I’ve found myself suddenly sitting bolt upright at 3 in the morning trying to sort out my dreams from reality – something that hasn’t always been settled quickly.

Perhaps modern life normally gives me so much contact with others that I work stuff out in the course of my day and sleep relatively undisturbed by dreams or nightmares.

But these have not been normal times.

Perhaps that experience of social isolation leading to vivid dreams connects me somehow with an ancient world when dreams were taken with the utmost seriousness.

In the Christmas stories, God turns up at night as much if not more than in the day.

Joseph is told in a dream to stick with Mary.

The shepherds were famously watching their flocks by night when the news of the birth was told to them.

The Magi see the star by night which leads them to Bethlehem.

And then they in their turn are told in a dream to return by another road in order that the child be protected from wicked Herod.

Night time matters in the nativity stories and you can feel the participants each in their way trying to sort their dreams from reality.

What on earth were they seeing? What on earth were they hearing?

Disturbed nights and puzzling days are all part of the Christmas story.

For these were not normal times.

There was a census on to start with and many people were not where they wanted to be.

There was an occupation on by the Romans too and many people were not governed by those they wanted to be governed by.

The shepherds might well have thought they were best out of it up on the hills. Away from the crowded town and minding their own business as much as they were minding their sheep.

But into their world, the news of something far from normal breaks.

Into their world, the message of the angels – do not be afraid.

Into their world, the planting of a dream that has never died amongst all who have found the babe of Bethlehem.

Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favours.

That a dream. Not a reality yet.

That’s the dream.

The one we keep alive.

Over the last two years we’ve heard quite a lot about saving Christmas.

Boris saves Christmas! The newspapers have proclaimed joyfully.

Nicola says only a lockdown can save Christmas! The newspapers have proclaimed more cautiously.

But salvation isn’t about how many people can eat a turkey – notwithstanding how difficult our current circumstances are.

Salvation is that baby being born and a dream planted in people’s hearts.

Of a God who is good to know, wonderful and loving and here right now.

Of a world put right by those who dare to dream of peace on earth.

Of a world put right by those who believe in goodwill to everyone.

Of a world put right by those who catch hold of the vision of God’s intentions for us.

Of a world put right by a babe in a manger who will inspire, save, heal, comfort, challenge and bless.

Christmas only needs one saviour and it isn’t Boris Johnson nor any other politician.

These are not normal times. And there are dreams to be dreamed.

The coronavirus time has been a nightmare in so many ways. And we’re not out of it yet.

But right now, remember that it is part of God’s dream that we love our neighbour as ourselves and at the moment, that means getting the vaccines and the boosters and wearing our masks.

And there are dreams to be dreamed that are inspired by the babe in a manger that are well worth dreaming.

I dream of churches renewed so that people find the babe of Bethlehem in them and are as amazed as the shepherds and tell everyone about it.

I dream of good news of great joy in our common life. Of tyrants toppled. Of integrity in public life restored. Of time and space for all people to wonder.

I dream of joy. I dream of love. And yes, I dream of this pandemic being over.

Yet babies come in their own time.

Christ is born in a world that was hurting.

Christ is born in a time where disease was far more common than our own.

Christ was born when conflict was common and peace only a dream.

Christ didn’t come at a time when it seemed as though the world was sorted out enough for him to appear.

He came into a world where people were sad, tired, grieving and in pain.

And he came to them. And for them

He comes this year into a world where people are sad, tired, grieving and in pain.

And he comes to us. And for us.

When I look into the manger, I start to dream of a world put right by God and those inspired by the message of the babe that I find there.

It is a dream worth dreaming.

For the Christmas story is not merely a collection of dreams to put behind us when daylight comes and sleep is over.

The dream is worth dreaming for God’s love is a reality.

And that love is here, and everywhere. In this world. And in human hearts.

And is lying in a manger.

 

 

Here Comes the Sun

Rejoice, rejoice! The solstice is past.
Here comes the sun.