Reveal among us the light of your presence, that we may behold your power and glory.
Readings (Click the links to see the readings)
Christmas Eve Luke 2:35
Adam's rib was Christmas Eve
Joseph's bride was Second Eve
The Christian Century 129.25, 12 Dec 2012, p. 10.
You gave your all to the world
Morten Lauridsen (USA, 1943-). O Magnum Mysterium from Matins of Christmas. Choir of Kings College, Cambridge.
Christmas … tells us that what matters to us matters to God. Most of us have deep-rooted instincts about all kinds of things—about our families and children, about the need for fairness and forgiveness, about honesty and faithfulness in private and public. A great deal of the world we normally live in seems to ride roughshod over many of these instincts. We get panicky about what our society seems to be doing to marriage and families, about the forward march of a technology that doesn't ask the moral questions, about the cynicism and brittleness of a lot of political talk and the celebrity culture.
Christmas reminds us of a God who is completely committed to the weakest, who uses power only so that human life can be fuller, more peaceful and generous, who gives us the help we need to make our relationships stable and faithful - and who requires of us a complete honesty about ourselves, and gently, steadily chips away our self-deceptions. Christmas tells us that our best instincts about human nature and what's needed for a healthy world and society aren't just things we've made up. They are rooted in the way the whole universe is shaped by God.
Often people demand 'moral leadership' from religious figures. Confession time: like others, I suspect, my heart sometimes sinks when I hear this, and I think, cynically, that it's just about people wanting religious leaders to tell them they're right.
But there's more to it than that: it's not that folk simply want bishops or vicars to lay down the law all the time. But they do want sometimes to be assured that their hopes aren't empty and their fears aren't stupid, in a world where things change so fast and so disturbingly. They want to know that there is a 'home' for their feelings and ideals, that the universe has a shape and a purpose. And yes, religious leaders will be failing in their job if they can't meet this need.
It's not just a need for words. It's a need for space where you don't have to struggle, to fight for your place at the table. You're just welcome for who you are. It's a bit of a paradox. We usually spend the weeks before Christmas in a feverish nightmare of anxiety and driven busyness, as if we were going to celebrate the festival by making our normal situation even worse! But then there comes a moment when we really have to take time out if we're going to stay sane. That's the moment when people start thinking about church.
We still have this half-buried conviction that church is a place where, at least at this time of year, we ought to be able to feel at home. We turn up, tired and overwrought, perhaps, still thinking vaguely about what we haven't done and need to do before tomorrow. And then the story unfolds. Yes, this is our story, and yes, we can for a moment believe that this birth makes a difference. Yes, God cares about the kind of world we want to see and his faithful love is the basis of what makes a really liveable life. And no, we don't have to do anything for this time except take it in. There are no entrance qualifications. The door of Jesus' stable is open and anyone can come in and sit down.
May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting. Amen.