Sunday, 26 December 2021

Midnight Mass - Christ at the Centre

 Preached at Midnight Mass, Croydon Minster 2021, readings Isaiah 9.2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-14



In the birth of Jesus Christ human history has a new trajectory.


In the birth of Jesus Christ, the inevitability of human estrangement from God is halted.


In the birth of Jesus Christ, and our new birth in baptism, we can now see ourselves, and our fellow men and women, as sons and daughters of the Most High.


Without Christ we find ourselves wrapped up in our own ego-dramas, the stories we narrate about ourselves with ‘me’ at the centre.


With Christ we are drawn into the Theo-drama, the unfolding mystery and wonder of God – with Christ at the centre - in which we have a precious place and cherished part.


If you connect in anyway with the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus Christ, you have joined the Theo-drama, a movement described by Isaiah: ‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined’. (Isaiah 9.2).


In embracing our place in the wonder and mystery of Jesus Christ we are walking out of the darkness, into Christ’s marvellous light.


That’s the Gospel! Gospel means ‘good news’.


It’s the message too of our second reading, from the letter of St Paul to Titus.


Paul’s is saying that, because of Christ, it is not inevitable that we get caught up in a self-centred play of the power games and manipulations of the world, and the assumptions that there is no God, no hope, no heaven. Rather, we find ourselves looking beyond ourselves to the source of all that is good and pure and true. It’s the move from darkness to light.


We have come here tonight, in the darkness, to rejoice in the light of Christ.


‘That’s great’ some might say, ‘but look at the world two thousand years on from the birth of Jesus: will things ever change? There’s lots of darkness’


Just look at the gospel reading tonight. There are parallels with our own day:


In the diktats of Quirinius, Governor of Syria under Augustus, the Roman Emperor, we see overbearing government regulating the movements and lives of the people: tyrants abound in the world today.


In the shepherds we see underpaid labourers, working what we now call ‘zero hours’ contracts, doing anti-social hours in dangerous conditions: oppressive labour systems still exist, not least in the form of modern slavery.


In Mary and Joseph unable to find decent shelter, we see a vulnerable family excluded from the warmth, comfort and acceptance of society: in the ‘global village’ today, people are excluded from having a voice and agency and live in grinding poverty.


We find that all shocking: now as then.


But it is only shocking because of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  


It has not always been taken as read in human history that we care for the weak and sick and frail, the unborn and the young, the excluded and isolated. In past times, and in some dark places today, all those groups of people are tossed aside as inconvenient and getting in the way of the ego-dramas of the privileged.


When you worship God and see God in Jesus Christ - the very presence of God, the Word Made Flesh, as a tiny vulnerable infant, worshipped by shepherds in a cattle shed - then you get an insight into how the world cannot be the same anymore for creation is renewed.


The birth of Jesus, as our gospel reading showed, connects the whole renewed creation: angels representing heaven and what is beyond us; shepherds, representing the poor and the exploited; the animals, representing all God’s creatures; the coming of the Magi, representing those outside God’s first-chosen people - all now gather around the Prince of Peace.


Before Christ, ‘peace’ had come to mean something like the imperialist imposed truce of the ‘Pax Romana’ of Caesar Augustus, rather than the shalom of God, that deep well-being of life in God. After Christ we are drawn into the peace of God which passes all understanding.


At Christmas we can’t go about our lives in the same old way. We walk now in the light.


Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, pondered all these things in her heart.


Tonight, this Christmas, may we ponder just who this child is. May we all continue to walk in the light and rejoice that we now share the divinity of Christ and he humbled himself to share our humanity. For when we ponder Christ, life and the world can never be the same again.

No comments:

Post a Comment