Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

Christmas Eve homily, 2013
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

Let us Pray:
We pray thee, O Father, that the holy joy of Christmas may fill our minds with thoughts of peace, and our hearts with a sense of thy great love: hasten the time when human conflict may be done away, we may love as children of God, and bring in the reign of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

There are so many thoughts and emotions tied up in Christmas. And when we experience Christmastide, as we do again this year, all the sensations, memories and expectations are with us once again. As Anglicans, we embrace Christmas with a great enthusiasm, a particular reverence for this season that is entirely unique in Christendom. Anglicans worship in great cathedrals and in tiny mission churches. And on this night, we celebrate a great mystery, a mystery sent to us by God; our God; the God who knows human heart better than we ever will. Because that same God who created all that has come to be, fashioned our hearts to know and to love Him. And on this night, He wishes us to open our hearts and greet the one hope given to all the world.

 

At this time, on this holy evening, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord. On this evening, we celebrate the Incarnation, the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. On this particular evening, we celebrate the reality of God in Christ: Jesus, who is perfect God, perfect man, complete and indivisible. That simple statement is one that every Christian the world over accepts and embraces. This statement is one of the most basic of all Christian truths. And all who accept the faith of Jesus Christ will know it for the truth it represents.

It is easy to say such things, but they are among the most profound and deeply moving mysteries that we will ever know. The birth of Jesus is partly a human event; the birth of a child. We understand this; the birth of a human child is a very common event. Even the birth of a very special child is a regular occurrence, for what parents have not considered their children truly unique, truly special. As indeed they are.

 

Why then, this child? Why then, this child? Because this particular child is also the child of God; not created simply in the image of God, but God Himself. This child is one with us and one with God. And he is born into this world. He doesn't come from some remote and alien planet, crashing into earth in some strange saucer shaped intergalactic space vehicle. He doesn't bring superhuman powers with him in his human form. He doesn't offer us any dynamic new formulae that will solve every technical problem human beings will encounter. He brings us something far more valuable.

 

Why, then, does he steal so quietly into a remote place like Bethlehem? Why there? Why not come to Rome itself or even Jerusalem? Why be so quiet about it? Why not announce his presence with great fanfare, processions and enormous spectacle? After all, that's what the emperors do.

 

But there are no great processions when he comes among us, no trumpets to announce his arrival, no crowds to shout out the name of Emmanuel, the God who has come among us. There are very few who welcome the presence of God in this tiny corner of a vanished empire. But God is with us, joined together with us for all time.

God comes to us in the quiet places in our hearts, the Bethlehem of our spirit. He gives us his love in a tiny place in our hearts, hoping that this love will grow, that it will embrace us, that it will become us so completely that we will reach out to embrace the God who has created us. And who comes to us this day as a child of light; Emmanuel; God with us.

 

A Blessed and Holy Christmas to you all!

Amen.