Sunday 30 December 2012

Christmas Day, Luke 2v1-20

Lighting of Advent Candles

Why are you bringing this candle?

We bring this candle as a sign that the Light of the World is coming. And we are hoping.

Why are you bringing in this candle?

We bring this candle as a sign that the Light of the World is coming.  And we are waiting.

Why are you bringing in this candle?

We bring this candle as a sign the Light of the World is coming. And we are preparing.

Why are you bringing in this candle?

We are bringing this candle as a sign that the Light of the World has come. And we are rejoicing.

The Old Testament prophets spoke of a return to God and to keeping Gods laws as a basis for living in peace, peace with God, with one another and themselves. When God’s people wander away from their true calling, and forget the plight of others, they become aimless and empty, and their souls are not fed. Only God can satisfy the hungry soul, and so Gods prophets cry in the emptiness and chaos, because in their hearts is a dream which refuses to die. Isaiah speaks of a light in the darkness. Its an everlasting promise, there will be light in the darkness for Gods people, because as the prophets goes on to say, a child will be born who will save the people. And so like the rest of the church throughout the world we have been waiting this Christmas time for that child to be born again in our hearts, in our lives, in our communities, God with us. Immanuel.

The Christ Mass festival has been celebrated since about 400 AD, Christ' means 'Messiah' or 'Anointed One' - the title given to Jesus - and 'Mass' was a religious festival. Today if you visited Britain from another planet you would be forgiven for thinking that Christmas was a retail festival! This Christmas we have rushed around fulfilling the need to buy presents for our loved ones and friends. But this is not what Christmas is about.
On Christmas Day we remember the birth of Jesus, chosen by God and given birth to by
Mary, a young girl possibly a teenager, who suddenly finds herself pregnant and visited by angels. It could be a bad hair day!  This child she has carried is destined to fulfill the prophesies concerning the Jewish Messiah. He will change history and be a beacon for those who are oppressed, a standard for all to live by in opposition to the standards of society. Jesus was born to a homeless couple in Bethlehem, taken to Egypt as a refugee, where they had to go to escape the soldiers, and to the cross, where he would die.
The Song of Mary, the Magnificat is in the form of a hymn of praise directed to God for his kindness toward Mary, with particular reference to remnant Israel and reflecting the Old Testament sense of God's covenant loyalty and loving kindness toward Israel, his hesed, Heb., "his faithful love", to those who acknowledge God's position and authority. His mercy extends to all people in all ages.  .

Mary knew what her son's birth was meant to bring and I wonder how our journeys as Christians and as a church measure up to the message in the Magnificat sung by Mary as she carries the baby born to be such an important person in human history. The song gives us hope too of material relief from poverty. However we have hear that an angel comes to Mary to tell her she will be pregnant before marriage. We also know from Matthew that Joseph, thinking the worst, plans to divorce her. It's a story with ominous beginnings. A story of crisis. 

So the Christmas story begins with shame, the shame of a pregnant unmarried mother and an imminent divorce. It goes on to release its power through the childless, the dumb, the poor. This Christmas they are all with us. Those we despise because of their situation. Those who are vulnerable because they are women or young or powerless. It is to these and many others that the Christ light gives hope, lifting up the lowly, proclaiming release to the captives. For many of us our materialism and our busy lives stifle us and we will find it more difficult to recognise the spiritual. God with us.

This week if we can take time and space to be still before God, take time to look at our priorities as we approach the end of another year and take time to put right relationships around you as far as is possible, take time to give to others less fortunate than yourself then the God of Hope will be with us and we will know it by the peace in our hearts.

Light looked down and saw darkness
I will go there said light
Peace looked down and saw war
I will go there said Peace
Love looked down and saw hatred
I will go there said love
So he the lord of light, the prince of peace, the king of love came down and crept in beside us.



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