Preached on Christmas Day at Croydon Minster. Readings, Isaiah 52.7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1.1-4; John 1.1-14
I wonder what your greatest priority is today? The turkey, the presents, the Queen’s speech, seeing family?
A few days ago the message from the Chief Medical Office was clear: this Christmas decide on your priorities. What a good question at Christmas!
So what’s your priority then?
Priorities are about what we put first. By being here today what we have put first is to come to worship God in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.
For Christians the number one priority at Christmas is Christ. We come to worship him now, as many did during the middle of the night too.
All other priorities flow from that. For it is God who created the world ‘in the beginning’, who gives us breath and life through his Holy Spirit, and who shows us the way to be the people he made us to be, sons and daughters of the Most High.
Our faith tells us that when all is stripped away we discover something deeply precious; this is what we call hope, the bedrock, the priority of our lives.
God’s priority at Christmas, is God’s priority every day: his priority is that we, his creatures, make him [God] our priority. The Church Fathers speak of this ‘Royal Exchange’: Christ humbled himself to share in our humanity, that we might share in his divinity.
The grandeur and majesty of God is revealed in a totally new way. God is made known in the child of Bethlehem.
Mary’s child, God’s child, is born like you and me, born naked into the world, vulnerable and entirely dependent on others; first of all his mother, Mary, and also his guardian, Joseph.
For now the naked child is wrapped in swaddling bands, and he starts calling, drawing and wrapping people around himself to become a community of willing response, obedience, love and adoration: his Church.
We gather today in the footsteps of shepherds and Magi, of countless men, women and children who have heard the call of the Child of Bethlehem, and made their response to that call their priority in life.
What Mary and Joseph gazed on was the fullness of God; the normal, expected trappings of divinity stripped away. They beheld the Word Made Flesh, and saw his glory. His glory would be seen again on the cross when all his garments are stripped away and we see his saving love.
Light shines out of darkness, hope and blessing abounds and, however gloomy things get, the darkness will not overcome it. As St Paul reminds again:
‘It is the God who said let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 4.6)
As our top priority every day, let us direct our gaze back to the Christchild, the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, for he is known as Emmanuel, meaning ‘God is with us’.