Readings for Nativity of the Lord Christmas Day 25th December 2006 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

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Christmas Day Textweek

Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 96; Titus 3:4-8; Luke 2:1-20

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

The title of today’s sermon is ‘Hopefully just a few short words’, and as Christmas is a time of hope it’s good to be in touch with the things that we actually hope for. So I just want to illustrate our getting to this point and we’ll do by just asking Christabel to light the Advent wreath and the Christ candle in the middle.

I was wondering if you got what you wanted for Christmas: hands up those who wanted world peace. What about an end to hunger in the world, anybody want that? Anyone get it? Someone got a fish. I’ll rephrase the question: did anyone who wanted world peace and an end to hunger get what they wanted? No? So was it a disappointing Christmas? People look happy, though.

The journey that took us to Christmas was a journey through Advent week after week after week. During Advent what we talked about was waiting for Christmas and some of us don’t like waiting for things. We’ve also talked a lot about the coming of Christmas, Christ coming into the world.

But I wonder whether we’ve seen Christmas for many years just the wrong way round. If you’re in a railway station alongside another train and then one of the trains begins to move, you’re not sure which one is moving. So you’re not sure, are we moving and they’re being left behind or are they moving and we’re being left behind? You know? Now what if we’ve done that theologically with Christmas - when they talk about the waiting and the coming and just get the wrong train? What if it’s not our call to wait for Christmas – what if Christmas is waiting for us? And what if, with the coming of Christmas it’s not the coming of God into the world but it’s actually our coming into being - divine revelation in the world? We may have got it all wrong. And now we’ve got an opportunity to look at it again and to actually ask what is Christmas waiting for – what is it waiting for from us?

The coming of the divine into the world must have already have occurred. Think about it: just imagine if we lit this candle four Sundays ago and when we lit it we knew that God was going to deliver something in four weeks time. Imagine what sort of a god that is – ‘You light a candle and the day you do I’m going to let 40,000 children die of starvation every day for four weeks; then when you light the big candle I’ll come and sort things out.’ Doesn’t make sense, does not make sense.

No: the gift is given, always and ever. So Christmas is about us, it’s about us. And the thing that we practise at Christmas - giving and receiving - well, I think we need to have our understanding of the Christmas story shifted onto the right train so that we know what order: the gift has been given; it is now for us to receive and for us to give so that others might receive. Play with it, play with it and all of us look today for something new, a new way.

He is waiting, waiting for us, and the promise of Christmas is the promise of life, of growth, of wonder, of abundance, of peace - all of those are promises, waiting, waiting for us. As it said in the first reading we had today, ‘You shall be called, "Sought Out". Who is doing the seeking? Christmas seeks you out to become the true gift.

Peter Humphris