Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Friday 24 and Saturday 25 December 2021.
• First Reading: Isaiah 52: 7-10 (Messengers of good news: Your God reigns!)
• Epistle: Hebrews 1: 1-4 (God spoke in ancient days through prophets but now has come in His Son)
• Gospel: John 1: 1-14 (The prologue of John)
Most of us will have prepared our homes for the Christmas celebration involving as many family members as is safe.
The food is prepared, the home decorated and quite likely there is a Christmas tree and a nativity set, showing the stable with Mary and Joseph, the farm animals, the shepherds and kings, and of course central to this is the figure of the baby Jesus lying in a manger.
And then after Christmas, maybe Boxing Day (or the feast of Stephen), maybe Epiphany or Candlemas, the whole display is put away and stored in a cupboard.
And so for some, thinking about Jesus is also put away, stowed in some recess of our memories, and He remains a baby in a manger.
He does not get out, or grow into a child, adolescent, or adult. He stays in that cupboard. He does not go about, proclaiming a new kind of life, pronouncing forgiveness, healing the sick and raising the dead, because He has been confined to that cupboard.
And so our lives of faith, or hope and love are diminished. Our prayers are those of a child, with no growth or depth. Our lives may be tainted by our connections with friends and neighbours, relations and colleagues at work, because there has been no real growing up.
Our faith, like the figure of Jesus, has been stored away in a box and has been put out of sight and kept out of mind. It is weak, and cannot cope with the moral and social and spiritual challenges of the day, it is easily swayed by the fashions of the time and the pressures to conform to them.
But our lessons have a different picture to offer. This is of God who came among us in order to live among us, and to know directly the pressures of meeting the family budget and of not upsetting those around us.
This is a God who earned His own living as a carpenter, paid His taxes to Caesar and all the others who demanded them, and the rent to the landlord, and yet kept His integrity. The lessons tell of hope and new beginnings.
Despite it all God is still in control, and the waste places of our lives can face a new future. There is the vison of peace – not just a wishful ‘Peace in our time’ but the depths of peace with God, the shalom of fulness and wellness and of fulfilled relationships.
God could have sent an angel – and angels are indeed part of the Christian story. He could have sent a prophet and prophets were sent, leading up to John the Baptist, all pointing to Jesus.
Instead, He came Himself in the form of His own begotten Son, to be the Word that speaks out and the light than even the deepest darkness cannot quench or overcome.
And this is not a promise of something yet to happen because it has happened already, and it is at work leading to its own climax.
And so we are offered choices and opportunities. We can imprison Jesus in a box in a cupboard, carefully controlled in case He breaks loose.
Or we can let Him grow in us and among us, we can let Him out of the manger, out of His own childhood and into an adulthood that leads us in our own lives.
This is where He can live in us: full of grace and truth.