Christmas past present and future.
A sermon for Christmas Eve Holy Communion.
He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter's shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he became a wandering preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of humanity as much as that One Solitary Life.
This evening we come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nathereth, The Christ, The Son of God. We do so remembering that this one solitary life brings together all things earthly and heavenly.
That things changed for good the night the angels sang the first Christmas carol.
I wonder for you what does this annual remembrance mean?
Charles Dickens in his book A Christmas Carol --- brought together 3 aspects of life … to get Ebenezer Scrooge to look back, to look at his present life and reflect on the future. By doing so life changed for him so incredibly
Is it a time to look back ? – a time to remember the past year or years … a time to think about happy times as family, a time of fondly remembering those things which you have enjoyed.
Christmas has always been for Christians a time of good news and great joy for all the people. However we must admit that at times the joy is sometimes marred with pain as we remember loved one who are no longer with us. As we deal with issues in families and with friends.
As years go on … the importance of remembering and looking back, of learning from our experiences is so vitally important. But we need to remember that the Birth of the child in the manger has changed things … has opened up for us a way to understand life and death, purpose of living and hope beyond the grave.
As we look back - Have we grasped the amazing message of Christmas … that in the Child whose birth we celebrate … it is possible to understand amazing truths of the triumph of Light in the darkness, hope over despair and life over death
Is it a time for you to look around now? - A time to enjoy the moment … tomorrow/ or today … a time filled with expectation, of loving those who gather at the table, a time when all will be well with your world?, a time of celebration, a time of relaxing and feasting.
And rightly so … In the gospels there is an amazing picture of the Kingdom of God as a feast, of enjoying life … life in all its fullness. Christmas is a time to remember … Immanuel God with us.
I wonder as you look around … where do you see God with you? … do you see God with you in your work … in your home … in your friends …wherever you may be. As we pack into this church this evening we do so as family of God in this little corner of Ireland … Not simply to remember an historical event … as historians remember, or to re-enact a battle as actors do … but we are here to worship the Living God, to receive strength and to commit ourselves to following through.
Christmas is a time when we gaze in wonder of the events of that first Christmas in Bethlehem … far from us both in time, geography and culture but it is a event which still challenges the powerful and the weak.
As you look around you this evening … who is Christ to you?
Is Christmas a time to look to the future? – In the angels message to the shepherds … the message is for all the people … we are included in this message … the question is what are we going to do with this message?
Are we content with simply seeing Christmas a nice tradition or are we prepared for the adventure of following this Christ Child … of taking his radical and life changing message and allowing this message to transform our thinking, our speaking, our doing not just for one or two days but for the rest of our life.
In the Dicken’s book Scrooge is given a bleak picture of what his life & those around about him could be like in the future if things did not change.
But he was given a chance to change … and change he most certainly did.
The good news of Christmas, the good news of Christians is that Change is possible … yes we cannot change the past, we can decide how we are going to react in the present and we certainly can change our future.
In his Christmas message the new Church of Ireland Archbishop said “In this Christmas season, we are each challenged to connect or reconnect with our family, friends and others who are without friends, but also to connect or re–connect our lives with a faith that tells us we are each loved in Jesus Christ, and that calls us to carry Christ’s love into the dark and lonely places of this world, near or far”.
This Christmas… it is my hope and prayer for all here that we enjoy this Christmas time but also that we allow Christ to change our hopes and mind, that we are able to change what needs to be changed in our lives … and live our lives for him.
Let us pray