Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for the evening of Sunday 24 December and morning of Monday 25 December, 2017.
I once drove a friend on an errand, I forget just what it was. But his words to me were wholly memorable: “You drive, I’ll pray. I don’t trust your praying.” Yes, he had placed his safety in my hands – and was wondering whether this was such a good idea.
But we do place ourselves in other people’s hands: the doctor who examines us and prescribes treatment, the train or bus driver or areophane pilot, the IT expert who restores out computing and internet problems. And we sincerely hope that they are fully qualified and were not appointed to fulfil some kind of quota.
And yet what we do in small things, God has also done on an eternal scale. While we may place our safety in another’s hands for a while, God had committed Himself with utter abandon.
First, He had selected Abraham, a wandering herdsman, to be the father of His nation, and then He had given that nation more of Himself in the laws and the prophets of the land.
But for this self-giving to be complete He would have to live among them, feeling their insecurity and hearing their resentments and suffering their humiliations. Seeing the petty injustices of the world, paying the taxes and heeding the demands of small-time regulators.
But even this was not enough, and in Jesus God accepted the whole burden of human wickedness, stretching from the dawn of human moral choices to its dusk, and leaving no betrayal or self-love or petty oppression unaccounted for.
And so He committed Himself to Mary as she bore Jesus and then mothered Him during the years of His own need and vulnerability. He would learn to pray from her, and He would learn about brothers and sisters in her home.
But this sense of self-giving is what God does and it is what love is all about. It was never going to be about self-regard and self-promotion.
It was always going to be about choosing to be vulnerable when He could be all-demanding and all-powerful.
And this sense of self-giving and self-commitment has never ceased. It is with us as we read the scriptures to which He committed His revelation and it is there in the sacrament in which He physically places Himself in our hands and in our mouths.
O yes, there will be a time when all things will come to their conclusion and there will indeed be an accounting. And we will be pressed with how we received Him when He came to us in weakness and dependence, putting Himself into our hands.
But more than this, God in Jesus has put Himself into our hands in order that we also may step out and put ourselves into His. He has given His life and being for us so that we also may not fear to offer Him our lives and our sense of being.
In short, He came that we might have life and life in its fullness; peace beyond understanding and joy in its wholeness.
And that is what we see when we look at the nativity scene of any crib, or in any painting. Even the nativity scene before you, here.