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Hope in complicated times. Christmas midnight communion 2022

We live in complicated times
There is much darkness. Evil is done
There are many alternative truths slopping around
“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalms 11:3

People are lost, confused, fearful; there is great suffering, pain and despair
As we celebrate a new roof, others have no roofs.
As we sit in warmth, others have no heating.
We face forces that threaten to overwhelm and extinguish us - and we have become acutely aware of our human foolishness, weakness and deep vulnerability

But this night is a night of good news

It is the news that God has not abandoned us, not given up on us, but come among us

‘The Word became flesh’

The One who was with God in the beginning, through whom all things are created, becomes one of us, and is - of all things - placed in a cattle feeding trough

When the angels speak to the shepherds, they tell them that there will be a sign that the child they see really is the Son of God. The sign will be - not that he has a halo (that would have been very handy), not that angels will be chilling in the stable - but that he will be laid in a manger.

God comes to us and shares in our vulnerability.
He becomes, in the shape of a baby, vulnerable to forces that are far greater than him.

There is an old fairy tale about an evil ogre. He is magical and can turn himself into anything. A huge giant, a mountain, a dragon, an army. And so nobody can defeat him. But he is also not very clever, and a cat tricks him into turning himself into a mouse - and eats him up!

Well, the Son of God, not because he was tricked, but out of love, becomes a baby. He makes himself vulnerable; He shares in our vulnerability.
The ruler of all becomes subject to human necessities: he is a baby. He needs feeding, dressing, changing and burping.
The ruler of all, out of love, becomes subject to human rulers, and their decisions. Herod, to secure his throne, wants to murder him; his parents flee taking him to Egypt.

Of course, that is just the start

It begins with the vulnerability of the baby laid in the manger and ends with Jesus Christ, hanging naked on a cross; with them jeering at him - saying, he saved others but he cannot save himself.

If you look at many icons of the nativity (and we will look at one tomorrow morning), you will see that often the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, could indeed be a body wrapped in linen cloths and laid in a tomb.

And God identifies himself with those who have no words

There are many times when we are silent because we are not able to speak, we do not have the courage to speak, we do not know how to speak, or what to speak - we are simply overwhelmed by the claims and counterclaims, by the fears and the passions.
And there are times when we are silent because there are no thoughts, or such confused thoughts, that we are unable to put anything into words. We are like rabbits caught in the headlights
But God, in his love, is also with us in our silence. The Son of God, even though he was the Word of God, was, for a while, with us without words.

God has not abandoned us. And for a while he sat with us in silence. Out of deep love, he came among us.

And it is good news because God has given us an anchor, a rock on which we can build our lives

John tells us that this child, who this night we remember is born in stable, is the eternal God

He does not just possess light and life, but is the source of light and life. He is light and life itself.
And he is full of grace and truth

He is full of grace: he loves to lavish good on us. He is like a good Father who longs to see his sons and daughters grow to their fullest potential, to become what they were meant to be.

He is full of truth. There was no disconnection between what he was and what he said.
His silence as a baby in the manger, and his silence as he stands before rulers before he is crucified – is truth.
His teaching is truth
His very being - his intimacy with the Father - is truth.
Truth is ultimately not something but someone. It is not ultimately about knowledge, what you know, but relationship, who you know.

And if we choose to build our life on this anchor, to secure ourselves on him, like a ship in a storm; if you choose to base your life on him, to come to him, to receive him, he will, as it says in our reading, ‘Give you the right to become a son or daughter of God’.

And yes, many may feel that it is dark and hopeless, but the good news this night is that God has given us light, hope

In that cowshed in Bethlehem, 2000 years ago, a flame was lit.

There had been light: there was the light of the promises of God, made at least 2000 years earlier, that he would one day send a Messiah, a ruler, a king who would save us
There had been the light of the prophets: speaking God’s words, God’s law, reminding people of God’s promise, declaring God’s love and justice and right-ness
There had been the light of those who were faithful to God, examples of faith, courage, resilience, of boldness and patience. Women and men who put their trust in the law and promises of God, who lived their lives in the hope that God is faithful.
One of the greatest inspirations in my life has been the example of Christian men and women in the Soviet Union who remained faithful to Christ, even though they faced persecution, imprisonment and death.

But that light was reflected light
Now, in that cowshed, the light itself, the source of light, the spiritual sun - is born and laid in a manger.

And this is a light that can never be extinguished.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. John 1:5

And so we have the hope that he is with us when we feel most lost
Hope that there is nothing that can separate us from his love: not poverty, not separation from those we love, not war, not exile, not imprisonment, not sickness, not death
Hope that he can use all things to transform us and change us, to bring us to our senses, to fill us with his love, and to give us the words to speak at the right time and in the right way.
Hope that he can and that he does work чуда, wonders, when we turn to him in our vulnerability
Hope that death is not the end, and that one day we will see the Kingdom of God.

And hope that one day the dawn from on high will break upon those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and guide our feet into the way of peace.


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