Same Old Story

December 24, 2019

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Preached by Canon Andy Trenier at Midnight Mass on Tuesday 24th December 2019.

I don’t know about you, but I love the Christmas routine

And here we are again-

Had a bit of food and drink, wobble over to church, bit of midnight mass- same old story!  

But you know it wasn’t always like this!

When the brother Anslem visited the monastery here a thousand years ago things were very different to how they are now:

The cathedral scaffolding had all just come down after a major rebuild

And the market was in full flow

Attracting people from across the land

Despite the apparent wealth, in the countryside around Winchester many common people were without homes because of the cost of housing and- because of industrial disputes it would have taken an age to get to the capital important business.

The government of the day was far from the strong and stable rule that we know and love… though a new regime was recently in place

Promising to build, of our divided land… one nation under God.

Maybe- not so different after all?

In truth, the country was in turmoil- The earls were stoking up fear

of them frightful folk across the channel in mainland Europe.

The Scots were revolting, there was conflict in Jerusalem & war in Syria.

I don’t think Ladbaby were at #1   or that sausage rolls had even been invented but substantially- 1000 years on- not a great deal has changed after all.

There they were – bit of a disastrous year. Had a few jars… wobbled over to church, bit of midnight mass – same old story!

The monk Anselm was just like us who huddle in here tonight.

He came with friends to sing carols and taste the hope of that new morn

Something had drawn him in

Something about this story of God becoming man.

Something that he couldn’t put his finger on but couldn’t quite get out of his mind.

Long lay the world- so goes my favourite carol- O Holy Night-in sin and error pining,

‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

 

That thrill of HOPE….   The soul feeling its worth…

That’s what drew him. As I think it draws us.

He called it Fides Quarens Intellectum

Faith    seeking    understanding

He had come- in faith- hoping for clarity? Cur Deus Homo?

Why did God become man in a world like this?

And at the end of a hard year- we might ask the same.

What kind of a God comes into a land of debt and depression,

and body consciousness, and traffiking and homelessness,

and selfies, and climate change,

and materialism, and escapism,

and all the banalities of the secular age..?

 

There was a time when we were all promised that the summer of modernity was eternal but that age is fading before our eyes

And with it assumptions about the positive aspects of man thinking he is an island after all.

 

Who would have expected at the High Meridian of the New Atheism- just a decade ago- that strains of unease would emerge amongst Christianities cultured detractors

And that the many and various assaults on its moral vision would leave us with a public square emptied of the virtues of humility and grace, forgiveness and charity?

Over 1000 years have passed since Anslem but if you look around ou can see that he- and we- are not alone.

Over the centuries hundreds of thousands more have come to ask their questions to God…. And HOPE that he is still on our side.

The good news for us is that many many have found in Anslem’s answer- a truth that is simple, profound, and true.

 

We are lost

but

God is with us

x2

 

 

God is not worried, or anxious, or concerned, or afraid about being with us.

God in a manger doesn’t worry God.

He is not sullied or saddened by those things that make is afraid or ashamed.

He comes gladly to be with us and we are elevated because of it.

 

He knows our need, that carol continues:

To our weakness no stranger!

Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

We’re here because we want something

more than our limited, finite, world can offer.

 

We don’t want to be confined by what the world deems possible or thinkable.

So we come in tonight…. and instead of banality we are offered the sublime

The beauty of holiness – affirmation of our best selves

Because he came. Life is lifted.

Because he is God the mire is made meaningful.

Our confusions are calmed when God is alongside.

 

“In the incarnation of God”- Anslem wrote

there is no lowering of the Deity;

Instead- the nature of humankind is exalted.” 

Different times- perhaps.

 

But- thank GOD- it’s the same old story.

 

Look at that passage from Hebrews again:

It was written of a time thousands of years before even Anselm came here.

Look at the gospel- a mere millennium on…

 

That wonderful Same Old Story could have been written for us today.

 

The Word became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us

And to all who received him

He gave power to become CHILDREN OF GOD.

Different times- perhaps. But the same old story.

And again that Same Old Story put so well in Scripture

and then by St Anselm in his time

is also told well by another in ours

 

Mitri Rahem,

-the minister Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem City –

Writing this week reminds us that what is good news for us

Is also good news for all people everywhere.

 

When the fullness of time came, the time for the Word to be incarnated,

God did not choose Rome or Athens for Christ to be born at;

He chose occupied Bethlehem.

He chose to be one of those lost- oppressed;

He chose to be one of those terrorized.

When the fullness of time came,

God so loved this world with all its ugliness

God chose to encounter this world with all its might and terror.

He chose to challenge Herod with the face of an innocent child.

 

Surely we are lost      but he is with us”.

 

“Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;

 

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,

And in his name all oppression shall cease”

 

 

Friends- we are here to remember this evening a fact fundamental to us

And fundamental our history, culture, and future.

 

God did not leave this world to its difficulty and pain

He came and embraced it with both hands

and pulled it to his heart.

 

Different times- perhaps. But it’s the greatest same old story ever told!

 

2000 years ago the poor of Bethlehem re-found their faith in this story

Another 1000 years on and Brother Anslem found his faith-

becoming the 36th Archbishop of Canterbury

 

And in our time year upon year Mitri

and his congregation have to find their faith again.

 

AND WE CAN TOO.

 

I know it’s a cliché

Vicar at Christmas– the same old Story

 

But here it is again if you will open you heart for a second and hear it afresh:

 

God has come to you….to be with you and for you…this Christmas

 

And he has come every Christmas of your life so far

 

Don’t leave him here!

 

Our questions don’t phase him.

Our doubt doesn’t bother him.

Your life is not too burdensome or messed up

or perfect    or plain for him.

 

And there is no darkness so dark that he cannot make it bright.

 

Please don’t do what we all do every year-

 

Have a few jars, wobble over to church, bit of midnight mass-

Feel something stirring. Something magical….

A thrill of faith waking up again

 

And then we go home and forget it..

 

THIS YEAR LET THIS STORY IN FOR GOOD.

 

Behold your King!

And Before Him lowly bend!

 

Fall on your knees

Hear the angel voices!

 

This night divine!

 

This night when Christ was born.

 

 

(+AMEN)