Christmas 2020 - Shine as a light

Christmas Day – 25 December 2020

Introduction and Call to Worship

Today we hear the good news that the Word of God is born into the world and lives among us. He reveals the light and glory of God and proclaims that all who believe in him are given the power to be children of God. So, we rejoice with the angels (even if we can’t sing as usual in church!) as we join with creation in God’s praises.

Today’s Readings

First Reading Isaiah 52:7-10

The prophet Isaiah proclaims a message of good news: good news of peace and redemption and the salvation of God which will be seen by all peoples.

Second Reading Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]

We are told that God has chosen to speak to his people in a new way. He has chosen to speak through his Son who in human form reveals to us the nature of God’s very being and redeems the brokenness of creation caused by sin.

Gospel John 1:1-14

John proclaims the incarnation of the Word of God who was present at the creation of the world and who is now taking human form to live in the world and redeem the world’s darkness by his light.

HOMILYThe Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14)

A few days before Christmas, a Vicar was out visiting a parishioner who had moved to a nursing home in a neighbouring parish. As it happened, he also needed to post a last-minute parcel, so he asked a small girl, who was the owners’ daughter, where he could find the nearest post office. She was brilliant and directed him, the priest thanked her and said, “If you ask your parents to bring you along to Church on Christmas Day, you can hear me telling everyone about the birth of Jesus and how to get to heaven.” The girl said, “I think I'll give that a miss, thank you. If you don't know your way to the post office, how will you lead me to heaven?”

Knowing the way is made so much easier these days with a little help from technology, for example our smart phones and satellite navigation systems in our cars. But finding our way through the spiritual challenges of life can seem quite something else when the world can seem a very dark and troubled place. For Christians, we have the most wonderful gift in Holy Scripture to inspire us, to as it were, illumine our path. And today’s Gospel for Christmas Day is all about finding our way through the darkness – for Jesus is born and new light shines in the lives of all people. But in John’s Gospel, instead of being presented with angels, shepherds, or even mysterious travellers from the east bearing gifts, (themselves following the stars of the sky) we are taken back in time to the moment of creation when God said, “Let there be light,” for “In the beginning was the Word.”

John the Evangelist begins his Gospel by taking us to a dimension outside time and space where there is only God and his Word, on a journey that leads to eternal life, if we choose to believe that Jesus, the Emmanuel who is God’s very presence among us. This prologue to John’s Gospel acts like a sat-nav for the rest of the book, with a deep insight into creation, of how a mysterious Word through whom all things come into being is the light of life, describing something that represents the mind of God, the meaning and purpose God gives to everything he creates and his relationship with his creation, especially with human beings. The climax of John’s story is that this Word of God himself takes the form of a human being to live alongside us – that person is Jesus Christ, born of Mary.

In Genesis, the first words God speaks are “Let there be light.” John proclaims that the Word who comes to live among us is that light, now shining in the darkness of a broken creation with an inextinguishable brightness. The light of Christ illuminating a road of travel for all people to be in relationship with God who made everything and loves us all unconditionally. This is the nub of the New Testament – a new relationship with God through Jesus.

Therefore, the birth of the Emmanuel child, the Christmas baby lying in a manger, is a moment full of light and hope – even a star shines down to illumine the scene, mirroring the light that came into being “in the beginning” when God created the heavens and the earth. Our outdoor lights and nativity this year have been just that, light in the darkness of this age of so much suffering and struggle, not least with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

So, this Christmas Day as we open presents and tuck into our lunch, how can we shine as lights in the darkness? How do we respond to this news that Jesus is the Word made flesh? Friends, we can, if we wish, look at our nativity scenes, sing our carols (in a socially distanced way!) and listen to the familiar readings without allowing ourselves to be part of the story they tell – which is a great shame. Or we can allow ourselves to be drawn deeper into the great mystery of the incarnation that John talks about. We can become aware of the light that enlightens everyone, including us; we can become aware that God’s light has come to shine in the darkness of our lives, our hearts, our mind, and our spirit.

Clearly this year (2020), indeed this Christmas will not be like any we have experienced before. But friends, God invites us through Jesus to bring all our fears, pains and sufferings, our hurts, failures and loss, our bereavements, missed opportunities and struggles into his light. For we can, if we choose, let this time of Christmas be a point of change for us, as we accept God’s invitation to be part of his redeeming plan, through our relationship with the Christ child, the light of the world, the Word of God made flesh. That invitation is to receive the power to become children of God, to be born in a new way into that spiritual dimension outside time and space where new worlds are created, brokenness is healed, tears are wiped away and each person grows fully into being the people God has created us and calls us to be. What an invitation.

So today, you are invited to make a commitment to walk confidently as a light in the world this coming 2021. To commit to being a full part of the life and worship of St Mary’s Church, Thorpe and to commit to follow Jesus anew, that you may know the light of life. All you must do is accept Gods invitation, says John in his Gospel; accept the Word made Flesh longs to draw you into a new relationship and transform your life that you too may shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God the Father. For when we choose to walk by the light of faith there is no darkness that can overtake us. Amen.

Father Damian Stewart Harrison-Miles, December 2020

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