It’s dark outside… The darkness, for some a place of fear… What fears do we carry on our hearts tonight?
For ourselves (health, job, relationships, school)
For our family and friends,
For our nation and world (ebola, global warming, ongoing war, terrible scenes from Pakistan in the last week)
Fear can be a prison, trapped by it yet fear can also be a positive thing…
The Christmas Story doesn’t bypass fear, think Mark, The Shepherds, Joseph
Encounters with God always seem to induce fear
Big moments in life can be a mix of fear and excitement…
when a baby is born… bundle of life… fear of what to do next, when it coughs or cries or whatever…
yet excitement too, sense of awe and wonder and the hopes expressed in that miracle of life
We all have fears, we all have hopes too
What about your hopes? maybe hopes that it will all be ok, that things will work out differently in the next year, that the child we worry about will be happier more fulfilled, that once tired relationships will blossom again.
Maybe simply that the Turkey and the lunch will work out these are some of the hopes and fears we all carry…
Christmas a time when we think of them more
Google ad-stuff about what’s been most searched, the first two words were hope and fear… sound familar?
My Christmas Card from the Crypt Echoes Carol (O Little Town) ‘The Hopes and Fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’
What hopes and fears do we bring this holy night?
We come with a sense that somehow that the God represented in the crib is one who is interested in us, speaks to us, speaks to our hopes and fears.
Not in such a way that they won’t come along, that if only we believed that bit more those hopes and fears will disappear, rather in the sense that the baby represents that we face our hopes and fears with a God who is there in the midst of them.
In some ways that’s frustrating but faith isn’t about answers it’s about living This precious life as fully as we can in any given moment.
Not some sort of fearful shadow life but real life, and faith in the Christ Who began as we begin, weak, vulnerable and fragile gives depth and meaning to that living.
There is something magic about this time of year, its not FC, Slade and Bing Crosby, those things are fun but passing and after a bit exhausting
There is something about the infant Jesus that is eternal and deeply deeply refreshing that breaks through our defences, melts our hearts, Gives us hope and reminds us that when we so often think otherwise,
its ok to be vulnerable,
its ok to look weak,
its ok to not have all the answers,
its ok to be afraid for all our hopes and fears are met in the Christ-child.
Reading a book ‘Interrupted by God’ seems a good title for Christmas and the incarnation, when time was interrupted by God and we see our humanity transformed forever…
An infant cradled in your arms doesn’t really know about fear, they know their needs (hungry, uncomfortable and without thinking they get on with living.
Maybe we sometimes need to be reminded to get on with living, not the perfect life but embracing whatever limitations age, infirmity, sadness, loss,
whatever we bring tonight we’re invited to see Christ in the midst of it all and where thereis Christ there is always hope.
Through Advent we have prayed for Christ to come to us so we do pray that he be born in us today for our hopes and fears are met in him this night and always
Tonight we worship the God of Holy Interruption, may we as we go through this year, with all its hopes and fears, be more open to the God of interruption, present in a baby in Bethlehem and present in each other as we go through this life.
What was he thinking? Surely if you wanted to write the story of the birth of God’s son, you could do better than being born to a single mother, out back in the shed, surely you’d spin it better?
In a world of power and money status and so on, then and now it makes no sense, it’s a coming that gives as many questions as it does answers, yet the questions are intriguing and enticing.
I suppose one question might be did the birth of Jesus happen in this way?…
Well maybe, it does gives us some wonderful stories, yet I can’t say I’m terribly worried about it, for me the specifics, the shepherds the wise men, the following of stars, memorable though they are don’t really matter, what matters is the message.
As I’ve thought of it this year, It seems amazing to me that by the time Luke got down to writing something he had grasped an essential truth that Christ the least likely king ever was just that, the king, the son of God.
Luke put pen to paper knowing the story and to record a beginning that in would match with the end-the crib meets the cross.
It is a remarkable testimony to the power of the story that it has endured and though it can be tempting to see this time of year as all tinsel and turkey, presents and plonk, Santa and family and friends (nothing wrong with any of those things)
but there’s more than that it’s a time to revisit a remarkable story of no sense, of holy nonsense – but to return to my question – why not make it more obvious?
The answer is all about the God of invitation, a God who invites us into a relationship of love, and in faith, day by day we work out that for ourselves, Christmas is all about capturing not compelling our heart, experiencing the truth of God revealed to us in a baby.
Faith is never really about boxes to tick and explanations to give Those things don’t really give faith any validity – though It can –
For me That truth is experienced in worship here Sunday by Sunday –
Author Marilynne Robinson been my companion this Advent wrote ‘We worship to enlarge our sense of the holy, so that we can feel and know the presence of the Lord, who is always with us’…
Emotionalism-maybe but also in the quiet… Christ comes to us at the strangest times… interrupts our regular patters…
For me the life of faith is lived by putting myself in that place. Where I can receive the gift… to give my heart… In these times (as well as in others) I realise it’s not nonsense?
So what of those other ways to know its true, well to return to the infant king, maybe Christmas is a helpful reminder that the things which make no sense are the very things in which we see God at work.
The reckless and selfless act of giving to another, the words of love when all the rest are of judgement and harshness… (echoing the crib)
Is it just me or could we do with more holy nonsense in this world, acts and words of love that seem strange and odd, rooted in the image of God revealed in the crib and not undertaken with some a hope of some great reward but simply for the sheer joy of it.
The birth of a child brings forth feelings of great joy so maybe a question to ponder is to ask ourselves what stops the acts of nonsense in us for through that nonsense the incarnation becomes a living reality as Christ takes hold of us and we mirror something of the Father’s self-giving love.
So perhaps we might ask whether we have all become far to sensible and lost our imaginative and spontaneous heart?
If the earliest believers in Christ had been all calculating and sensible we wouldn’t be here, they had been caught up in something new, something they knew to be true in their hearts
And to the surprise of those around them (after all it cost them their lives) they proclaimed the nonsense of God, present in the crib, present on the cross, present (most amazingly of all) in the garden. It makes no sense.
Of course there is another side, there are things that make no-sense, things we don’t understand, 2 days ago a funeral of an 8 year old girl, theres no sense in that – yet what I directed them to wasnt answers but to the crib where we encounter the God who comes to share our lives…
Come on, let’s be reckless this Christmas proclaim with wonder and joy the God who makes no sense, proclaim the holy nonsense that God is made known to us in Christ.
We don’t fully know what that means but I’m sure we’d all rather live lives with a bit of holy nonsense than without for as we do we grow just that little bit more in the likeness of the God whose very nature is to give.