December 25, 2019
Categorised in: Sermons
Preached by The Right Reverend Tim Dakin, using Isa 9:2,6-7; Luke 2:1-14 at Festal Sung Eucharist on Wednesday 25th December 2019, Christmas Day.
A Sign to Us: the Child
This will be a sign to you: you will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12)
Christmas puts one big question to us every year: Why did God become human? The audacity of the Christian faith is its claim that the Living God has shared his life with us in Jesus. God’s sign to us is the baby Jesus in the manger. This sign shapes our faith and puts a question to us, Why did God do this?
Jesus once placed a child in the middle of a group of his disciples to teach them something about faith. In doing this, he repeated what God first did through Jesus himself. God put a child in the middle of human history in order to say something to us about himself and about us. The baby Jesus is a sign to us.
I am going to say that God became human in order to do three things: to show us what he and we are like; to restore our relationship with him; and to bring new life and healing to each of us, and to all of us together.
A Baby in the House
How long is it since you’ve had a baby in the house? It was just the other day for me (my great niece). I’d forgotten just how heavy they are. I was struck again about how dependent babies are on loving care to meet their basic needs: food, sleep, and clean nappies. In Jesus God has shown us this kind of vulnerability. In Jesus God shows us that he combines a great divine vulnerability with great divine power, authority and glory.
The vulnerability of God in Jesus, the baby in the manger, draws from us a human response. Through our own response to the baby Jesus we are drawn into better understanding God’s deep love for us. We appreciate anew how this love expresses his vulnerability. The baby Jesus grew up, cared for others and gave his life for us on the Cross that we might live his life of love. By showing us who God is he shows who we are. That’s why Jesus came.
Communion with God
Apparently, more people are coming to Cathedral services. The combination of beauty and history with special events, and the option of remaining a bit anonymous, is attractive. Cathedrals can give us a sense of stability and open up the possibility of connecting with God and his relationship with us in Jesus. Perhaps the shepherds had a bit of a foretaste of the glories of Evensong as they listened to the angels sing before going into Bethlehem?!
You are here this morning. Whatever your reason for coming Jesus is here to welcome you and meet you in this Communion Service. We welcome you in his name and no other. He has united us with God and opened up a new relationship with God’s glorious vulnerability. God’s reality is as real as the bread and wine which Jesus gave us to remember him by. He made full atonement (at-one-ment) for us, making us one with God. That’s why he came.
The Healing we Need
We all know the power of pictures, especially images of babies. We joyfully share pictures of new babies. This is why pictures of a little boy lying on a hospital floor or a soldier carrying a little boy drowned at sea are so disturbing. Images of children stir us deeply. No wonder that we are moved by Jesus wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manager, the feeding trough of an animal. It’s powerful.
God places this vulnerable child in the middle of our societies and says to us, “This is me with you.” It is hard for us to hear this. We can immediately feel defensive or confused. If only we knew it was Jesus we would have done better. It’s a bit of a shock to admit that sometimes we have to put babies in mangers. Jesus shares in our tragedy and suffered adverse childhood experiences. He assumed our full humanity and grew through the stages of life. His health brings healing to our whole of life now and for ever. That’s why he came: to heal each of us & all of us.
So this year my Advent and Christmas charity has been Yellow Door. This is a charity that cares for those who don’t feel safe at home. It seeks to prevent abuse and cares for those who have suffered from lack of care or from abuse by others. The most vulnerable are, of course, young children. But we also know that women and other vulnerable adults suffer in large numbers. Whatever part of society we belong to, the figures and facts are similar.
One phrase in the Prime Minister’s post-election acceptance speech struck me in particular: “let the healing begin”. For those of us who long for this healing, not just across our political divisions and for the legitimacy of politics but across the whole of our society where vulnerable people suffer, a baby in a manger is a sign. Yet Jesus is also God’s sign that he’s healing his creation and that he is at work today. We pray for the healing of our nation.
Many of us know this is true but some of us long for real loving healing in our lives. For you, Jesus is here. The vulnerable baby has become our Saviour who is Christ the Lord, who brings new life. In dying for us, he has taken all that is destructive into himself, but he is risen and with great vulnerability continues to restore us. He gives us this Holy Communion to remind us of his broken body. It is also his gift of new, resurrection, life for our broken families and relationships. So receive this Communion for your healing. If you’d like prayer, please ask the clergy.