A few weeks ago, you might remember me saying I came up with my sermon on a Wednesday. And I felt smug. And then, on Thursday something happened that meant I had to do a total rewrite. I think I even said something like ‘that’s the last time I write a sermon as early as a Wednesday again’. You would think, wouldn’t you, that with this being so recent, it might’ve taught me a lesson? You would think that, wouldn’t you? so how come, by Wednesday this week, I had churned out 3 sermons. Then, on Thursday morning, I went along to our meditation session, and the Spirit, or Peter, or both (in holy cahoots) shot me clean between the eyes with a new stunning truth that I simply must preach, so here it is…
Peter shared with us some incredible words from Fr Richard Rohr and his community – Fr Richard is a Franciscan roman catholic priest who writes extensively and beautifully about contemplative spirituality, and he writes this…
‘When we speak of preparing for Christmas, we’re not simply waiting for the little baby Jesus to be born. That already happened two thousand years ago. We’re forever welcoming the Universal Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is forever being born in the human soul and into history’.
Friends, today, we celebrate the birth of a real-life baby, born in Bethlehem, in the City of David. Born more than 2000 years ago, but also being born and reborn, down through history, and born here, today.
And this morning, our gospel reading tells us one of the fuller accounts of the Christmas story. And the thought that the Christ might still being born now, led me to consider…if Christ is still being born today, that means the holy nativity is not just a time and place in history, but it is an event, a process, that IS happening here, in Beaconsfield, as it did in Bethlehem. And if that is true, and I believe it is, then which role might you be, in this gospel account…so I invite you to suspend all you know of this story as we ask God’s Spirit to reveal it afresh to us, here and now.
First, we meet joseph. Faithful, afraid, confused but diligent joseph. Are you like joseph? Not quite sure what it is that God wants from you, but just placing one foot in front of the other; trying to hear from God and trying to do whatever it is that God might ask. Always trying to step back so that Christ gets the true spotlight but pottering away and serving as if your life depends on it. Because it does. Are you joseph?
Then we see precious Mary, blessed Mary, carrying the Christ in her body and being willing to present him to the world. Bold, fierce, Mary who dared to say, ‘here am I, God’s servant, let it be to me according to your word’. Mary who allowed Jesus to change her body, mind, soul, will and life, in order that the world might be changed. Are you, like Mary, in with both feet? Past the point of no return. Pressing forwards to live entirely for God, unable to do anything other than show Christ to the world – even if it costs you all you are? Are you like Mary?
And then we have the shepherds, living in the fields. Shepherds, in first century Palestine, were regarded as dirty, untrustworthy, lawbreakers. They were excluded from the temple because they couldn’t keep the purity laws. Their word was inadmissible in a court of law. They were unbelieved and looked down upon for not being at home at night to care for their family. Having a shepherd as a son or husband was a bit of an embarrassment. Can you resonate with them? Do you feel like you too are out on the fringe somehow? Like God would never want to know you? Like you’ll never quite be enough? Well, if you are one of the shepherds, hear this: it was to you that the first announcement of the birth of the baby was made. But of course, it was! God favours shepherds, these cant-be-trusted, can’t-be-believed, dirty shepherds. The angels told them they were to be given good news of great joy, for all people. So, they went and found Mary and Joseph, and the child. And then they told the world; they told anyone who would listen, about this new-born baby AND ‘all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them’. Who’s not listening now? If you feel like a shepherd, you are favoured!
Or are you an angel? A messenger of God, giving glory to God; an evangelist, a spreader of good news. Can you not help but tell others about Jesus? Are you an angel? Is that what is being born in you on this nativity?
And then there is Jesus. Wow. We can’t possibly be Jesus, can we? Except isn’t that the point? To grow more and more into the likeness of Christ and the likeness of who we are created to be? Well, this was the real kicker, and for this I need to return to the words of Richard Rohr who dares to suggest this… ‘God [is] waiting for us to wake up! You know, as if we’re asleep in the manger, not Jesus! Jesus is alive in our midst…’ he says, ‘What if we’re in the manger and God is already awakened in our midst and we’re so fallen asleep, we’re so unconsciously asleep that God is sort of looking for “someone [to] get up and help bring the gifts into the world?’ Could we, could you, be Jesus – not asleep in the manger, but fulfilling the will of God to bring the gift of life and light to the world, here and now?
So, whether you relate most closely to a member of the holy family, or one of the angelic choristers, or the fringe-dwelling shepherds, may the Christ be born and re-awoken in each of us today. Let’s awaken to what God is doing in us and what God is seeking to become in us. Alleluia, amen.