Welcome to this service of Holy Communion on this most holy night as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The liturgy will begin at 8:00pm. Please download the bulletin and pray along here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xHxlhpkfVw3BqVWbBIMqWGiKITYzyXCv/view?usp=sharing
The service can be streamed at 8:00pm at www.facebook.com/stjohnscraighurst and will posted here shortly after.
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
On this very night billions of Christians around the world are celebrating what is according to St John Chrysostom our, “most holy and awesome of all feasts…the mother of all holy days”—Christmas. Our celebrations may look a little different this year, it’s true, but Christmas cannot be cancelled. After all, as a colleague of mine put it, “Christmas is always already the cancellation of all that separates us from God,” (The Rev’d Dr Kara Slade).
Christmas is one of those times of year that is so familiar to us that we can risk losing sight of it’s true meaning especially amidst all of the hustle and bustle and lights and shopping. Perhaps then one of the silver linings of Christmas in 2020 is the invitation to slow down and reflect. So, tonight for a few moments we enter the stillness of this church and ponder the true meaning of this holy night, along with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. Tonight we gather around the manger and as we peer into the face of this infant we discover in him the one who is the Saviour of the world. My Saviour. Your Saviour.
It all comes down to a birth. A birth that is at once like every other human birth and at the same time unlike every other human birth. Like every infant he nursed at his mother’s breast, needed changing and bathing, kept his parents up during the night, and contrary to one popular carol crying he most certainly did make.
At the same time this infant is unlike every other infant. In 100 years the world will have long forgotten my birth and probably yours too. But for 2000 years and counting the world has been remembering and celebrating the birth of this infant. For 2000 years this infant has been transforming individuals, and communities, and even whole societies. And he can and will transform your life as well.
So, who is this infant that you and I and billions of others should care? He is the one who the prophet Isaiah wrote about some 700 years earlier saying, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” He is the one who the angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds in the field saying, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.” He is the one who the Apostle Paul called, “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour..”
Let me just say it plainly. In the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem in a shelter made for animals, Almighty God assumed our flesh-and-blood and came to be with us. That’s why this birth is totally unique. That’s why we’re here tonight.
Why did he come at all? To save: “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.” A Saviour delivers people from their enemies and brings peace. Our gospel reading tonight began with a reference to the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus was known as the Saviour of the world because his reign brought nearly two centuries of peace to the Roman Empire. But of course as you and I know all too well worldly peace comes and goes.
Jesus, however, is the true Saviour of the world and he brings a peace that lasts. He saves us from the power of sin and death and brings the deep and abiding peace of God to the world, changing the way the whole world works. And he does this not by military might or government legislation but by self-giving love. Listen again to the words of the angel: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.” Everything that this child will be and do is for us. For all of us.
Last November, just before this pandemic took off, I was in Israel and had the privilege of visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the place where Joseph and Mary raised Jesus. All around and inside the church are different cultural depictions of the Virgin Mary and her infant—from Singapore, to Poland, to Mexico, and yes to Canada. Because for 2000 years the infant born this night has been setting the whole world ablaze with the love of God and tonight he longs to set you ablaze as well.
What would it look like for you tonight to take that next step of faith towards him? He was an infant so that you might grow up into the fullness of who God made you to be. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you might be set free from the bonds of death. He came to earth so that you might be in heaven. He became poor so that you might become rich. O come let us adore him.