Another wonderfully atmospheric Midnight Mass at St Mary’s Avington this evening. Over 40 of us made the journey to St Mary’s after dinner parties and long journeys home to worship God on this Christmas morning. Always a delight to have the chandelier lit for the occasion – thank you so much Charlie Bullen for going to that trouble.
Alex Pease preached the following sermon:
I have always had a romantic view about this birth – Jesus of Nazareth, from nativity scenes; Nativity plays at schools; children with towels wrapped around their heads.
But what would a birth be actually like in working stable of overflowing inn?
Some of you may have been to the wonderful nativity at Wintershall, Surrey, in a real stable with all the live animals on a December night acted by Adults – Jesus a real baby with nursing mother: horses, sheep and cattle –cold of night – hot breath – stamping- its just amazing! Please do take your children there one year.
But there is one thing they save you from – they clear up all the POO!
If you imagine working stable of inn lots and lots of it – horses of soldiers – donkeys of Jews –sheep and goats. Not to mention the baby Himself – no disposable nappies! The mess, the dirt and the smell, it would have been overwhelming!
And yet it was into this grimy smelly mess that 2000 years ago the Creator of the Universe, God Himself, chose to be born, as Jesus of Nazareth. And the world was never the same again.
We want it to be perfect. But Life is messy. Any birth is messy. Jesus’ birth was messy and painful. We want it all to be perfect but Life is messy and painful…..
It struck me the other day that the reason that the innkeepers might have said ‘no room in the inn’ is because they knew who Mary and Joseph were and they knew that she was already pregnant and that they had not yet got married. ‘Oh we are full’: those words must have rung down the ages to all sorts of people who were not wanted on the premises….From people who wanted only to associate with the perfect….not the messy. But life is messy.
In Matthew 2:25 we discover that Joseph gave the baby the name ‘Jesus’ as the angel Gabriel had instructed. But we sometimes miss the key point that by doing this, in the culture of the time Joseph was effectively adopting Jesus as his own child.
But perhaps everyone in that tight knit community knew that he was not his natural child. Gossip travels fast. If so, we can imagine how growing up Jesus was seen by his contemporaries, by the other people in Nazareth, (all of whom would have knownabout him) as the product not of Mary’s obedience to the angel, as we know it to be, but, in the culture of the times, the product of her disgrace, and probably the subject of mockery.
In 1955 there was a brief encounter between two young people which produced a baby, unwanted because of that disgrace. That baby was adopted also.
That baby was me.
Life is messy, but Jesus stepped into a messy world, despite its messiness for us!
Just lets focus on this point once more: the creator of the universe stepped into a world and shared in that messiness, a world in which he will have experienced growing up in disgrace…. he will have experienced the pain of rejection for reasons which were totally outside his control.
Life is messy. God came into that mess for us…..There is nothing that we can do, there is nothing that we can be, there is no mess that we can make of our lives, which will make him love us less. He loves you so much! Despite the mess you may have made of your life, because he has experienced living as a product of that mess, he understands when we appeal to him, however much of a mess we have made of our own lives. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect to enter into a relationship with him. All he asks is for us to open our hearts to him in prayer and to ask him into our lives and cast everything that we have done, everything that we have allowed ourselves to become, everything that others have made us, to cast all those things on to him in sorrow and repentance, so that we can start again, so that we can be adopted as his son or daughter; an adopted son or daughter of the Creator of the Universe!
Don’t delay! Do it now! Make this Christmas the time that your life is transformed
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Jesus Is Named
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 2:8–21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.