Thursday, 25 December 2014

Homily for Watchnight

I asked my folks for some bales of hay to get the 'feel' of a stable scene so we could do some
all-age, interactive worship on 4 Advent...this is what they came up with! :)

Really love the U A Fanthorpe poem - especially 'haphazard by starlight'.
Also really loved conducting Christmas worship for the first time as a shiny new minister.
Shattered, but ... wow!
And now, back to cooking Christmas dinner.  Happy Christmas folks.

Homily for Watchnight

Primary reading: John 1:1-14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

BC/ AD - a poem by U A Fanthorpe:

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.  ...  ...

We gather together tonight, and as we gather,
we stand on a threshold...
this is the moment,
the time of the year
when we look back and remember
another moment:
the birth of a child long ago,
in a land far away.
A longed for child -
longed for by a nation...
to rescue
and to restore them;
A child of promise and power
and yet, a prince of peace.
A child, who according to our reading from
John’s gospel, bent the dimensions
of time and space -
for this child -
the Word made flesh -
was there in the beginning...
was there before the beginning of all things...
the Word, speaking all creation into being.

This is the moment when we gather
to remember the birth
of this child...
who was - who is - the light of all people,
the light which shines in the darkness
and has never been ...
can never be    extinguished.

In this     threshold moment,
amidst tinsel, and glitter, and twinkly lights,
(pointed to stable animals in display)
not to mention a flock of sheep,
a decent herd of cows,
and possibly more camels than you can
poke a stick at, 
we remember and celebrate
the child who was,
who is,       God.

It’s a moment in time
that changes time forever:
for after the birth of this child
things can never,
will never,
be the same again.
The meanings of words will be redefined,
as the Word of God breaks into the world
and the kingdom of heaven
is established on earth
in a backwater village called Bethlehem,
in a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire.
Real power will be seen in vulnerability,
not might...
all-powerful God
breaking into finite human time and space
as all-vulnerable:
a baby in a manger -
God, dependant on the hospitality
of the human heart to take him in.
Old systems and structures,
old ways of doing things that benefit the few,
while oppressing the least,
will be challenged by the God-child born in the humblest, the least likely of dwellings.

Moments collide:
past and present -
and future,
for this child - and all he represents,
is still longed for:
there’s still rescue and restoration that’s needed;
there are still places in the world -
places in our hearts -
where peace has yet to come,
where the light must shine more brightly
to bring hope to those who see only darkness,
and where life-sapping, dehumanising structures
need challenged.

We stand on the threshold,
and as we do
the light that was coming into the world
is one who shows all people a new way of living -
even now:
a new way of living that is life-affirming ...
for the child we wait for
is God’s love-letter to the world:
the Word who says
‘do not be afraid’
the Word who is a comfort to the weary,
consolation to those who grieve.
God becoming one of us
knowing us completely
feeling our pain, our joy;
sorrowing, celebrating,
laughing, weeping.
Feeling the dust on his feet
breathing the air we breathe...
God becoming one of us,
God being for us
and with us
God giving us the right to be his children
his own -
his beloved.

That is the message of Christmas:
in one word -
love -
as the old hymn goes:
‘Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
star and angels gave the sign’.
As we wait, poised to welcome the Christ-child
once more into our world,
and into our hearts,
the message of Christmas
is that we are loved by God
beyond our wildest imaginings,
and called by him to live in that love,
and to love others -
to bring light into the darkness,
to live life in all its fullness
‘Love shall be our token,
love be yours and love be mine,
love to God and neighbour,
love for plea and gift and sign.’

It is this love -
God’s love    for us,
and our response to that love
that has the potential and the power
to heal and transform;
to restore and renew -
our neighbours
the world.

It is this love,
shown in the child in the manger,
that enables us, in this moment -
together, with shepherds, and wise men -
to walk, haphazard by starlight
straight into the kingdom of heaven.


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