Christmas Day Homily – 25th December

Luke 2:8-20 & Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:8-20

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Titus 3:4-7

4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life

One of the things I notice about now being well and truly out of the ‘young up and coming pastor’ category in ‘church world’, is that I need to cope with those who are very much in this category. Coping with this is to be done within my own family with two of my sons now “up and coming pastors’, and in this congregation every time we get a vicar to support. (a vicar is a student pastor doing extended filed work as part of their preparations).

I noticed that at St petri events, whenever I was with the vicar walking into a room, no-none really wanted to talk to me! They went straight to the vicar. People would give high praise the vicar’s sermons and probably not notice mine!

Same goes for my two sons. They will increase and I will need to learn to decrease, as John the Baptist obviously did with Jesus.

So, I have to cope with a new ‘star’ shining bright in life.

I am wondering whether this kind of thing has happened or is happening for you. A new ‘star’ has appeared at work or in the family or in the club or team or group and you have to cope with this new bright star; a new boss at work, a new captain of the team, a young daughter or son taking up the family business or farm, a new neighbour making their presence felt in the street……

There are couple of ways to cope with a new star appearing. They depend on how you view that star – a threat or a relief, a friend or foe, a person for you or a person who will help you shine brighter or a person who will outshine you leave you snuffed out like a smoking extinguished candle.

You can ignore the star, minimise the star, undercut the star or welcome the star.

What are you doing this Christmas for the Star of Christmas?

You can ignore this Jesus as some fictional character or forgotten hero, and simply drop Jesus from the story and the sharing and telling.

You can minimise the Star by speaking of him as little as possible and relegating the words about him, and the words he says of himself as old and outdated and irrelevant and maybe even untrue.

You can go on the offensive and undercut the star and kill that light with the introduction of other stars as much as possible. There are alternative fictional characters to speak of now. You can switch to them alone and drop the Star of the show out. Everyone else seems quite happy to do that!

Or, you could welcome him and feel the relief and the release and know the hope and the light and see where his Star it leads you.

I guess it all depends on what you believe this Star of Christmas to be – friend or foe, support or threat; star shining light and life or just another fallen star disappearing across the sky of world history.

If he is friend, support and enabling light and life, then you would welcome this Star with open arms because he will make you shine brighter and last longer and push back darkness more.

If he is here only to expose you, shame you, show you up, catch you out or lead you into some lightless place of fallen hopes, then you would not.

Can this Star convince you tonight that he is both threat and support with the main goal of support?

Can I help you embrace this Star as the same one who flung all the stars into their places who shines grace like the noonday sun?

Yes, the Star of Christmas threatens your unbelief and failure and wrong and dismissal of him in your life, but only to make you shine, support you enough for you to know and give love, and gift you all his gifts of light and life.

Somehow those around the Star that first night seemed to get the message that this Star is both threat to their own way of seeing things and lasting hope for being made a new thing.

They were scared, for sure, but then they were not. They were even terrified of his bright appearing, but then lit up with hope and joy by his appearing – all in minutes and hours.

What can move you from ignoring, dismissing, undercutting to welcome and relief and release and joy today?

They can help.

I note here that these everyday outsiders did three things when confronted with the new Star of the show.

They hurried.

They had a look.

They spread the word about what they had seen and heard.

I don’t know how fast you got here today. But when they heard the messenger speak of but something got these people moving fast.

It was that announcement:

11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord

To us, if someone announced these words, it would not mean much. We don’t have any connection to Bethlehem (town of David), except that it is right where the current trouble is between Israel and the terrorist group, Hamas.

Maybe that word “Messiah’ or ‘Saviour’ means something to us. We can see the darkness of the world and we know our own weakness and darkness within. We might concede that we may need some kind of help to love and find peace and do a good job of raising our kids and supporting them with our grandkids, reaching our goals at work, making a good contribution to the world with the time we have…

But ‘Lord’? Do we need a Lord? Don’t we need less ‘Lord’s ruling over us?

Depends if the Lord or the Saviour or the tar of Christmas is for you or against you, I guess.

What if we need this Saviour and this Lord and he comes to us not as some self appointed alpha leader who has a saviour complex or domineering Lord who has the goals of manipulating us all to his will and achieving his self-appointed goals, but as this baby boy in this shed among these people and on that cross of wood and from that stone cold dark tomb to shine for all time?

What if this Star shines grace and upon grace upon you in all we know he goes on to do and say and achieve for us? What of his goal is not to dismiss you ignore you, undercut you but welcome you?

Friends this Star of Christmas is here with you to welcome you, support you; challenge you, yes, but for love, for grace, for life, for hope for a life well lived and a life continued in him beyond the darkest sky.

Paul tells his friend Titus just this. In this Star of Christmas;

4 … the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

The Star is shining his acceptance and love upon us again, Welcoming us into his light of life.

Those first witnesses would say, ‘Hurry to him”!

They would say.

“Have a look at him”. Look at those human feet, those little hands, that human skin, those eyes to God’s soul, those ears hearing and mouth breathing God’s breath. There is hope of the world, light of the world, God in the world, your creator now your Saviour to be your Lord here to make you shine.

And then they would say to all baptised into his Spirit, Speak! Speak what we were told. Speak what you are told.

The kindness and love of God has appeared.

What will you do with Star of Christmas?

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