Isaiah 9:2-7 Luke 21-14, 8-20
He is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace, Amen
We know the story
- of angels bringing messages from God,
- of a young couple travelling to Bethlehem to be counted,
- of finding there was no room at the inn when they arrived,
- of a very important and special child being born in a stable as Emmanuel – God with us
- and of that child being visited by shepherd, who were also in turn visited by angels encouraging them to go and find the baby wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger.
What aspect of the Christmas story we hear year in year out most speaks to our hearts? Maybe from what we have just heard as our gospel reading, or from the carols, or a nativity play we may have seen.
Maybe it is always the same thing that strikes us Christmas by Christmas, or maybe it is different things each year? What touches our heart is unique to us, and it is very appropriate to ponder and treasure the impact of this story in our hearts as Mary did all those years ago. Mary had a unique perspective of living it, we have a real need to live guided by this story and sharing the love we experience that came down at that first Christmas.
It would be lovely if a few of us today shared what is the most special aspect of the Christmas story to us this year? I’ll give us a couple of minutes to talk about it with those around us – and then I hope some will share a short thought as to what is speaking to us this year.
As I often am – I am struck by the angels proclaiming peace on earth – which is something we so need in various parts of the world today, and especially in the lands’ of Jesus life and birth. It has been hard to sing some of the carols which take us to places caught up in all this violence and bloodshed. We need to pray and pray fervently for peace to prevail and peacemakers to find ways of bringing the warring parties together in reconciliation and to the benefit of all.
This is a powerful story – and it is not remotely surprising that this story – for many deeply familiar from their earliest days – that we all see something different in it. It is a wondrous story we will still teach to our youngest, and part of the fabric of our heritage in our country. It sometimes seems to be getting a bit buried in the commercialism of Christmas in our times, but it’s authenticity and integrity speaks through all that direct to our hearts!
We also see different things, because God made us all different from one another, and deliberately so. Each one a special child of God’s and loved thoroughly as we are, with our unique place on this earth and our particular set of jobs to do, and people to connect with (in the way that only we can!)
This is a story with many layers and deeper meaning embedded within (and I think there is always something special for us as we mark how a child was born for us, a son given to us (as those words from Isaiah remind us).
Christmas comes and goes, and sometimes it meets us in a happy place when the going is good, and other times when we are hurting, grieving or unwell, where it can magnify who is not there, or what we can’t do! The essence of the message of Christmas is the same whatever our circumstances – and is a source of the deepest hope in the darkest or lightest of times in our hearts and lives. In happy times, give thanks for God’s love for us, in difficult times, lean into God’s everlasting love for us and feel God’s peace in our hearts through the child in the manger who went on to save us for now and for ever.
I want to end these thoughts with a Christmas prayer written by Robert Louis Stevenson
Let us pray
Help us to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the songs of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate, and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift, and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May thy Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson from the Advent Manifesto by Martin Percy (BRF 2023)
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1989, 1995 ©)