Summary: Do you come regularly to church .... regularly once a year at Christmas? Perhaps you are more committed to God than you yourself think, and perhaps God has things in store for you that you don’t yet realise.
Before the mass begins, projected on the screen are the words:
"Imagine God speaks to you tonight. What are you afraid he might ask you to do?"
I refer to this question and leave it hanging as I welcome people
liturgy continues as normal for Midnight mass, until the sermon:
Choose one of the following. which would you rather be asked to do?
A) To bring up somebody else’s child
B) To leave behind the modern conveniences of a wealthy prosperous nation to travel to a third world country
C) To accept without complaining demotion at work with somebody much younger than you being promoted over you.
D) To spend all your adult working life with people thinking you are crazy, not to be proved right until you are in your 80s
E) To have to flee the land of your birth and have to live as a refugee in a country where they don’t speak your language
F) To spend what is meant to be the most special night of your life in the cold surrounded by animal excrement
G) To suffer a severe disability for over 9 months
H) To tell your boyfriend (and parents) that you are pregnant and it is not his.
Before Midnight Mass started I asked you to ponder what you are most afraid that God might be wanting you to do. Now if I was really cruel I would be asking you all to put your hands up and tell me exactly what you might be afraid that God might be asking you to do. Or perhaps I might ask you to turn to your neighbour and share with them the scary thing God might be wanting you to do. if I did that - most of you would quickly make up something else rather than the thing you think God might really be asking you to do. Heck - if I was sitting in a service and the priest asked us “what God might be wanting us to do” I’d quickly make up something I felt safe sharing, rather than the scary thing I really felt God might be asking me to do. But I want you to hold onto the thing you really believe God is challenging you about … [speaking in an almost talking to myself manner] … so it’s probably best not to get you to share that thing out loud.of course before the sermon end, I might always change my mind..... But for now, hold that God’s challenge in your mind.
The Christmas narrative that you have chosen to celebrate tonight is not a cosy story. Each character is asked to do something that quite frankly I’d rather not be asked to do.
A) Joseph is asked to bring up someone else’s child
B) the wise men are asked to leave the comforts of civilised Persia to travel to the third world backwater of Bethlehem. Ask my wife what it was like to be made by her husband to spend three months in rural Africa without any running water, and you’ll know how the wise men felt.
C) Herod (the one character who doesn’t follow through … and look where that leads him) is asked to accept demotion at work, with a much younger person being promoted over him as King of the Jews
D Simeon and Anna are asked to go everyday to the Temple to wait for the coming Messiah - and it is not until they are in their 80’s that the baby Jesus is brought to the Temple and their prophecy is fulfilled
E) Joseph, Mary and Jesus are asked to flee the land of their birth to escape the massacre that King Herod has in store, and end up living as refugees in Egypt where no one speaks their language
F) Mary is asked to spend what should be the most special night of her life - the birth of her baby - huddled in the freezing cold in a stable, surrounded by the smells of animal excrement
Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, has to suffer a severe disability, completely losing the power of speach for over 9 months until John the Baptist is born
G)And of course - Mary is asked to tell her boyfriend Joseph (and her parents) that she is pregnant and it is not his.
[sing song voice] The lovely cozy Christmas story
[serious voice] in which every one of the characters is asked to do something I would rather not be asked to do.
A recent film out was entitled “Danger in the manger” - and actually that’s a pretty apt title for the Christmas story. Because Christmas is not safe and cozy.
As the Poet Annie Dillard said,
“when people come to church they should not be handed an order of service with a smile, but should be given hard hats and life preservers; because church should be a dangerous place, a zone of risk, a place of new birth and new life, where we confront ourselves with who we truly are and who God is calling us to be.”