Summary: Sermon for Midnight Communion
The birth of a baby is both ordinary and extra-ordinary. If you are a couple expecting a child, or a doting grandparent, auntie or uncle then the birth of that particular baby is incredibly special. Life as you know it will never be the same again. There will be a new addition to you family. But babies being born are hardly headline news are they? They are thousands millions even, born every day. An ordinary event.
Yet this evening/morning, we are remembering the birth of a baby, a baby who isn’t a blood relative of ours, who wasn’t born in Yorkshire or even England, and who was born over 2000 years ago. How come we are still remembering? How come it matters?
The circumstances of the his birth were both ordinary and extra-ordinary. There is much in the story that regrettably is all too familiar, we could open the paper tomorrow and read about teenage pregnancy, homelessness, tax, power crazed tyrants, and asylum seekers, all of which we can find in the Christmas story if we look hard enough,
But it isn’t every baby that’s conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, usually birth’s are announced in the newspaper or with those little cards not by Heavenly Hosts sing to Shepherds, most babies sleep in cradles not mangers, and gold frankincense and myrrh are not your typical baby shower gifts.
But it isn’t simply the unusual circumstances that surround Jesus birth that make it so memorable. That was down to the baby himself.
The baby was both ordinary and extra-ordinary. An ordinary human child, born weak, fragile, dependent, needing fed, needing warmth, needing love. An ordinary baby… don’t be fooled by the carol Away in a Manger, of course the little Lord Jesus cried, it’s what human babies do when they are new and hungry. An ordinary baby, just like we all were once.
And yet Christians make the extra-ordinary claim that this baby is God. He’s God incarnate, God made man. Right from the earliest time they have believed this.
Tonight we have read from the beginning of John’s Gospel. Every Christmas we have this reading, yet John makes no mention of angelic choirs, or rooms at the inn, or mangers or shepherd. He would make a very poor basis for a nativity play. Instead he talks about some-one called the Word, and that this Word was there in the beginning of time and that this Word is part of God, indistinguishable from God, well actually just God really.
And that this Word has become flesh and lived among us. He’s using the term word as a symbol to talk about God, the part of God we sometimes refer to as the Son or the Christ. He’s God, he’s there in the beginning, he made the world, but now he’s become the baby Jesus
St John’s point is not that a baby was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger but that God became a person and that person was Jesus
Sometimes we can get really hung up on this. If God was person, who did every-one pray to during Jesus life time, who did all the God-stuff while Jesus was on earth? how could God be both outside of time and yet in it at the same time? Why is Ruth I asking such difficult questions so late at night?
Alfred Hitchcock, the producer and director of films such as Psycho, rear window and Rebecca, liked to take small cameo parts in his films. In Psycho he’s a man in cowboy hat, In rear windows a man winding a clock, in Marnie a man leaving his office. There he was creating this film and then he steps into it and becomes part of it.
It is quite possible for him to direct, and produce - do all the creating, yet at the same time take a role - become part of the creation. We might think that at Christmas God became a character in the human drama, whilst still being director, producer, writer.
But of course, like all parallels we make it is flawed. When God became a person it wasn’t to play a Cameo role. Jesus role was on such a Cosmic scale that it divided history two - AD and BC. Jesus’s role is the most important in the whole of history.
So the Creator of the world becomes part of his creation. What an extra-ordinary thing to do? But why should he do it?
He did it in order to shrink the gap that existed between human beings and God, ever since humanity first turned it’s back on God and strove to be independent of him.
He did it in order to seek out and save the lost, the good shepherd searching out the lost sheep, across all eternity.