Midnight Mass sermon 2018


Midnight Mass Christmas 2018 – 11.30pm Castle Acre Yr C Joy to the world the Lord is come, let every heart prepare him room. Rejoice the waiting of Advent is over God has come among us, as one of us. Let joy ring out around the world at the mystery of Christ’s birth. It is into that mystery we come to partake this night. The mystery of birth and the mystery of the Lord’s holy meal – as Betjeman says at the end of his Christmas poem; And it is true, and is it true this most tremendous tale of all …..that God was man in Palestine and lives today in Bread and Wine. Mystery is the heart of our faith but often it is seen as an alien word and concept to our modern age. The world demands reason, explanation an understanding of why something has happened and often in some circumstances looks for someone to blame. Mystery stands beyond such reasoning and explanation – it deals in truths yet to be revealed; In awe and wonder at that which is beyond our normal grasp either physically or intellectually. That is not to say that we leave reality behind when we enter in – whether it be a stable in Bethlehem or the church in our community. For the mystery of which we gather to celebrate tonight is a mystery that speaks to, and is relevant to the world from which we have come and the world to which we shall return – once we have bent the knee before him whom angels and archangels worship before. T. S. Eliot captured the power of this birth to bring change in his ending lines of his poem the Journey of the Magi; Were we led there for birth or death? There was certainly a birth but something was different – they were changed – the old ways no longer satisfied them. What will be changed by our coming together to worship this night ?– for we come not as spectators but as those who are central to this mystery of seeking to understand how God reveals himself in human form – to live as one of us in order to redeem us – to set us anew on the pathway to righteousness; our journey with God and to God – as we travel towards journey’s end – our ending and yet our beginning – as we pass from this world to the next. On route we encounter many people and many experiences – some positive others negative. We can describe them as part of the rich tapestry of life – but in each moment and each person there is the potential to encounter an insight of God. With the carol - It came upon the midnight clear we may want to sing from the depths of our heart O hush the noise, ye men of strife and hear the angels sing Part of the mystery of this birth we celebrate is that we all to often surround it with images of peace and good will – of settled lives and yet the world from which we have come is often far from peaceful and of goodwill. Much has been made over these past months of the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War and famously that truce on Christmas Day when opposing sides played football before returning to battle the next day. We are part of the world that is tearing itself apart in Syria and the Yemen. We are part of the world that witnesses the emergence of a united Orthodox Church of the Ukraine seeking to defend its freedoms and we are part of a world that stands fearful of what our new relationship with Europe will be. As we gather and sing of O Little town of Bethlehem – we may desire to look upon a city that lies in stillness but the message that comes out from that town this year is simply this; In the present day city of Bethlehem there is little tranquillity. It is still under occupation; restrictions in movement and self-expression are maintained, we live with the constant threat of physical and psychological violence that has a negative effect upon human life, and works against the seeds of love joy and peace we wish to sow. In the streets of Bethlehem the birth tradition of Christ is followed by the death of the Holy Innocents – as Herod orders the death of all young boys under the age of 2. You cannot fully understand the depth of what is offered upon Christmas Day without also journeying in pilgrimage through the days that follow immediately on – of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the gospel mission of St. John the evangelist and the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents and of St. Thomas Becket. Of staying close to Christ in the midst of the suffering of these days reflecting a world in need of healing. They are days of deep contrast to this night of celebration but days that echo all too honestly with the world around us. In the days to come as we seek to get to grips with understanding what it means to welcome the Christ child into our lives; as Mary and Joseph went from door to door seeking shelter and security for the birth of their child – and heard again and again the reply No room in the inn - we are challenged to ask is there room in our hearts for God? As I have been sharing with the children in their end of term school collective worship - the message no room in the inn – invites us to ask is there room for Christ’s life, love and light to be born and welcomed in us – so that the world can be changed by our encounter with God this night. Part of the great mystery of our human existence is to ask the question when will the world hear and see the opportunity of change that this child of Bethlehem offers? – a sign of hope – that change for good is possible. Christmas – the mass of Christ’s birth cannot be packaged or tied down. In the mystery of this human birth we touch the eternal presence of God, a truth lying beyond our logic or analysis. Our response is to come and kneel in awe and wonder, to love him who is overflowing with Love and then to go and share that love in the world and amongst those we meet; for it is to the world he sends us and it is for love of that world that he will die – for God does not hold back his love as heaven stoops to earth and earth is raised to heaven. Joy to the world - The Lord is come - may there be room in your heart this night for him to be born in you Canon Stuart Nairn