Christmas Eve – “Midnight” Communion
Tuesday 24th December 2019
Christmas Eve – “Midnight” Communion
Isaiah 52. 7-10
Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs
Tell me the old, old story…. I guess most of us come here tonight wanting and willing that old, old story to fall again on our ears. But how can we make it take root in our hearts and minds? How can we let it guide and influence us through the coming year ahead?
2020 – it is a significant number signifying perfect clarity of vision… But how many of us can claim that as we approach the New Year and a new decade that we can see very clearly at all what the year will hold in store for us?
So we take refuge in the Old, Old Story and the hope and promise of glory that it holds out to us – just as Mary and Joseph hold out their precious new born son to the visitors that come flocking to the stable. First the Shepherds of course – and I imagine some of the other visitors were those staying in the guest room upstairs. Because – shock horror – it may not have been ‘an inn’ at all! The word used merely suggests the guest room of a family home or compound. It was probably that of Joseph’s distant family in Bethlehem – but other relatives were already in possession of the guest or upper room – the sort of room where some 33 or so years later that Baby boy would gather with his friends to celebrate a final meal together the night of his arrest and trial. But all that is far in the future for now and our 2020 vision does not allow us to peer that far ahead just yet.
No, we are too consumed by the familiar story of the stable with the Ox and Ass and Sheep helping to protect and warm the Holy Family and we know that soon those shepherds will come knocking on the door with teatowels on their heads and a stuffed lamb under their arm – because that is how we have viewed the Nativity all our lives isn’t it? We know it all so well that we really do not have to listen any longer and our eyes cannot see beyond the expected, the obvious the old.
Poor Christmas and Poor Jesus – to be so easily made into nothing but gifts under the tree and stuffed turkeys.
But let’s pause a moment to remember that even on that first Christmas, there was an old, old story that Mary and Joseph and every other faithful Jew would have known… Inside out and backwards because they too had been listening to it for millennia. The story that God valued his chosen people and his created world so much, that he would – one day – send his anointed one, his Messiah, his Christ, to be their Saviour. It must have been a hard story to hear – a hard promise to believe when they knew the shame and despair of being a subject people. Their little land of Israel stood at the crossroads of many powerful Middle Eastern countries and Empires. They had been continually overrun by their neighbours – whether from the East, the North, the South and now the Romans had come out of the West. Imposing their own puppet ruler. Asking or rather demanding taxes and tribute. Trying to make them adopt an alien way of worship and flouting all their purity rules around food. Even at this time insisting on conducting a census of the people – (so that they might be taxed more efficiently) Empires depend on having an effective bureaucracy to make it all work.
But believe that little family did. Believe in God’s message – a clear and simple one: that Godself is unchanging, unbound by time, and that all the hopes, dreams, vision and purposes of God – beyond time, above time, before time – all is held together in God, and would be met in that little town of Bethlehem, two thousand and twenty or so years ago.
The message of Christmas is in its core that God speaks the world into existence and that, in speaking, breathing, loving, creating, the world itself in all its fullness – from creation to created – is designed to respond to God, to lean towards him, to praise, sing dance, recite, make things, celebrate who God is – and God- is-love. And this is the message that has been repeated and must go on being repeated and reframed over and over again – For surely eventually we will get it!
God’s final Word made flesh, God’s heir, God’s co-creating, exact likeness, only Son, is here. HERE HE IS! Can you feel him in your heart?
So an old story it may be, but it matters that we hear in a whole new way that this truth changes everything. This truth that Jesus is light and life; that in him God is showing us that God is for all the earth and is all about presence, with-ness, and his very being is about love. And this is the old story that prophets have declared to us since the beginning of time, whether through Isaiah’s messenger of peace, to John’s witness to the light. Christmas is a time of remembering that – however dark the world may seem, a son is born who will shine his light into every corner, nook and cranny until his light blazes forth! Glory to God!