Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

Christmas Eve, 2011
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

 

Let us pray: O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thine only Son Jesus Christ; Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

 

It is that time of year, once again, when we await the birth of a child. This is, of course, no ordinary child. But there are no ordinary children who are ever born into the world. Just ask any mother.

 

This child – the child we wait for - is also very special. But he carries a responsibility beyond that expected of any child. And he carries this responsibility from the first instant of his birth. He has come into the world bringing a very precious gift, a gift of boundless love, a gift of God's love.

 

What kind of responsibility is this, we wonder, to bring love and redemption into the world? Isn't it strange, we also wonder, that there seemed to be no room for Him at all in this world; no room at the inn, no room in anyone's home, no room in most human hearts.

 

In the dead of night, Jesus was locked out. And so, He was left to be born in a stable, a rough and filthy place, a place inhabited by beasts. We often romanticize that stable, making it more that it ever was, making it attractive, making it somehow acceptable. There are beautiful creche scenes, paintings by the most famous artists the world has known. There are simpler manger scenes that include all the basics, Mary, Joseph, cattle, usually some shepherds, often the Magi. And at the center of all this – at the center of every manger scene - is the child.

 

But no matter how beautiful we make this scene, there is no denying that it is a stable. And there, in the center of that stable – that ancient manger – is always the child. The only hope of a brutal and bestial world.

 

There is such an enormous contrast between the presence of God and the setting in which we find him.

 

But it says so much about us – and about God. The manger is so much a representation of our world. And yet, within this cold and uninviting place, God has chosen to be born. We can only wonder why. Why, God, have you chosen to do this?

 

We know the answer, though it is sometimes too much for us to bear. We know the answer: God has given of himself to us in our form, perfectly and completely. He has come among us to bring us to Him, to redeem us and to make us His own.

 

And on this night, it all begins. The great work of God starts in a quiet and forgotten place in our world. It begins, too, in our own hearts. And if we let God come among us, as He dearly wishes to do, we will know more and more of the mystery that this night represents.

 

The presence of God in the fullness of His love for us.

Amen.