Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:15-21 Oremus Bible Browser

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

The naming of our Lord, which is the feast day of the first Sunday after Christmas, really in this year, just hinges on the last line of the gospel reading, just about, because it’s also important that the story is still told. So today we’ve actually heard the bit about the shepherds. There are other parts of the nativity, the Christmas story, that are going off all over the place and I guess one of the things that we lose in our modern culture, because we no longer take time at night to sit by the fire with the candle going, reading through the scriptures, we miss some of those other bits and pieces that are flying off.

Earlier this week one of the days which the readings align to is the Day of Holy Innocents, which is that part of the story where again, another angel visits, this time to Mary and Joseph, and says, ‘Flee to Egypt’, and they flee, while Herod kills all of the children in the land aged two years and younger, in the hope that he will kill the child that is the Christ. Then next week, next Friday in fact, we’ll have the Feast of the Epiphany, another part of the story - those wise men are still walking. They’re still on their way; they’re still following the star. So there’s actually a lot happening in that story.

The account that we have today takes us eight days into the life of the child, where the child is given a name. And I guess the opportunity is there for us to stay with the story. It’s amazing to think, if we don’t, then we actually follow the story in the same way as Myers do it. They were with us all the way through Advent, Myers were, every time I walked in there – no, they were - they had stars everywhere, and their motto this year was ‘The Star of Christmas’. It’s amazing to think that the whole Coles-Myer empire had thought that they would follow our journey, share it with us through Advent. But they get to Christmas, and ‘let’s get it packed up’. The day after, all of the signs and the symbols of the story were actually on sale at less than half price. You could actually buy Christmas cards at half the price you could buy them the day before. The funny thing is, I wonder whether we don’t, because we’re a part of that culture, whether we don’t do the same. When we tidy up after Christmas, when we tidy up after the year, with all these promises about to be broken that I’m going to start this year with a clean desk, as we do that tidying up, do we put all the symbols away, discount the story by at least fifty percent, and just get on with what it was before? The idea of staying with the story is to fight against that worldly gravity - to stay with the story that was given to us, that was handed on, the story of light, the story of blessing.

The readings today are stunningly short so we don’t have to spend too much time with them. Pick up what they say though. The first one from Numbers, talks of the handing on of blessing; it speaks of blessing, the place in which we have the opportunity to live. We have the divine world and we have the profane world or the world that is not divine, the dark and the light, and we have the overlap. Let’s not pretend that we all live in the overlap; we enter it, we go in and come out of it. We see the light and then find ourselves in the dark. The place that we are called to through Christmas is that overlap, the place of blessing.

When we go into the Galatians reading what we see is not so much the handing on of story but an opportunity to glance where the story goes. So where does Christmas take us? In Numbers it’s what is the process of Christmas – it’s the handing on of blessing; in Galatians we look to where that’s heading: ‘You’re no longer a slave but a child, if a child, then also an heir, through the Divine’. Our future, all future, hinges on the child of Bethlehem, and on us not being a slave but a child and also an heir. ‘Spoken into being by angels’. Why did God reveal Godself as a child? What does that reveal in us? Is there, is there actually a revelation within us taking place and if not, if not, if Christmas has not yet dawned, if the light is not yet shining within, stay with the story: perhaps you’re still with the wise ones, perhaps there is still a bit more of the journey that needs to be completed. We don’t all have to cross the finishing line on December 25th, that’s why we can hear in the story, ourselves and our location somewhere.

The gospel narrative, again tries to hold the story open by letting us know that there is a response to the story and perhaps asking of us, what is our response to that story. In verse 18, ‘all are amazed’; in verse 19, ‘Mary thinks deeply, she ponders’; in verse 20, ‘the shepherds rejoice’.

What’s our response, so close to the event, to all that has taken place? Because it will be our response, our passing on of the story and our orientation towards where that leads, that will shape this year. And in shaping this year we have great power, because a lot of the world have no idea that that can take place; they have lost track of the notion that we are the shapers of time and space - no idea. That’s the place of blessing: time and space are given to us in our hands.

The Lord be with you.

Peter Humphris

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