Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Jesus and Why You and I Are Here Tonight: a Short Homily for Christmas Eve

Jesus brought us all here tonight. O, some of us might think we're here for other reasons, but if Jesus hadn't been written about and looked forward to for hundreds of years through all the Old Testament—if Jesus wasn't the hero and the point of every story in there, for example, Jesus is the salvation Isaiah wrote was on its way with reward and recompense in our first reading this evening (Isa 62.11); and when the time came (Lk 2.6), if Jesus hadn't been born a human baby, miraculously and supernaturally conceived in Mary, who was an actual virgin, I don't know what we'd all be doing tonight. If there had been no trip to Bethlehem, no inn, no shepherds and angels, no haste, no child lying in a manger, no miraculous joyful stories told, no amazement, no treasured and pondered words in a new mother's heart, no returning, glorifying and praising God because of the wonder of it all, and no Christmas—there would no trees at home, no seriously wound-up kids, no carols, no Santa Claus, either—the list doesn't stop there: no Easter, no Church, no salvation, no hope. Okay, maybe we'd have thought some other reason for the gifts and the turkey—Stanley Cup Day or Festivus, perhaps.

Jesus is the reason I'm here tonight—my twenty-third time as a priest. Jesus is The One through whom "the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared" (Titus 3.4) and made sense to me. One day the truth about Jesus was conceived in me and I was amazed that the good God and Father of my LORD Jesus Christ loved me—a rather full of myself, thirty something husband and father who made television programs for a living. If I, or any of you, are to be saved from the awful non-reversible effects and consequences of sin—our own and of others. If you and I are to be saved from death, Jesus is the only one who can do it for us. Jesus is the one who saved us (Titus 3.5). I also learned that Jesus saved me "not because of any works of righteousness that I had done, but according to his mercy (Titus 3.5). I couldn't earn it, be good enough to deserve it, be kind enough—all I could do was turn away from the sin and the self of which I was so full and turn to Jesus, The One who is the reason we're all here tonight. I started to treasure and ponder the words and the stories about Jesus and his miracles. I started to read the Bible and pray. I started going to church (following in the footsteps of Jude, my wife, who was already there) to learn more of Him, to worship Him, to pray to Him, to follow Him and try to live my life as if He were me. I'm not very good at that yet. But every day, especially in church on Sundays—any church, no matter what the music or the style—the goodness and loving kindness of God we heard about in Titus (Titus 3.4) helps me along. And the Holy Spirit which has been "poured out on me richly through Jesus" (Titus 3.6) empowers me to see things I can't see on my own, and to do things I wouldn't be able to do on my own. It hasn't always been easy, but it's been rich and good—something beyond mere happiness—joyful. It has set me deeper into life, anchored me. God's goodness, loving kindness and empowering Holy Spirit that Jesus brings to me are like spiritual winter tires (I know, guy image, but bear with me). As a result my traction is better, I am more sure footed, I am a lot less likely to spin out and off the road that leads me home to life eternal. I can relax and enjoy the ride.

I especially love the glory of the LORD that shines around us in radiant beams from the holy face of Jesus this holy night.  It never fails. Time after time I come to church, not just because it's my job, but because, like the shepherds, I want to hear again "this good news of great joy for all the people" (Lk 2.10) and "see this thing that has taken place, which the LORD has made know to us." (Lk 2.15) Like Joseph and Mary I want to make sure I'm registered in my home town—where Jesus was, is and will be forever. And that's where I hope you are tonight. Safely registered, having the found the child, amazed at what he means, treasuring and pondering the words about Jesus in your hearts, ready to return to your Christmas celebrations glorifying and praising God for all you have heard and seen, as it has been told to you (Lk 2.20).

If I'm honest I have to say I'd also really like you all to come back on Sunday to check and see if he's still here.

If you're not sure of your registration, or feel the need to confirm it, there are prayers to help inside the front cover of your bulletin.

Merry Christmas!