Text: John 1
I have a confession to make. I
like the Muppets’ version of A Christmas Carol.
It’s one of my innocent pleasures at Christmas time.
the singing of a street corner choir
home and getting warm by the fire
wherever you find love it feels like Christmas”
As you all know, I’m sure, A Christmas Carol tells the
story of three ghosts, visiting the old miser Scrooge. They confront him with some realities, and
they set his path on a new future of joy, hope and love. Scrooge’s inner-humanity is awoken by a reawakening
his sense of connection to his past in a happy community, making him feel
guilty about the poverty of his workers in the present, and by terrifying him
into realising that no-one will mourn his passing in the future.
Of course we all love the scene at the end, when a repentant
Scrooge changes his ways, and joyfully showers Bob Cratchet and his family with
long-overdue love. ‘God bless us,
everyone’ indeed. But is that it? Is that the message of Christmas? That happy childhood memories, a dose of
guilt, and the threat of a lonely death, might encourage us to put our hands in
our pockets for the poor?
Perhaps that is enough. After all, the poor of the world can
certainly use our help. And if it takes
a bit of tugging on the heart strings to get us to release some of the wealth we
hoard, then so be it. If some mistletoe
and wine gets us to think of others for a while, instead of ourselves, then it
is to be welcomed. I’m sure that
Rotarians the World over can see nothing wrong in that – with their motto of ‘service
above self’. But I ask again, is that
Interestingly, according to Charles Dickens, Scrooge’s
radical transformation happens without any
recourse at all to the origin-story of Christmas itself. There is no manger, no baby, no God, in
Dickens’ Christmas parable. And this, I
suggest, should make us wonder…
You see, I fear that A Christmas Carol, and all our
many traditions of Christmas, are in danger of scratching the surface, without
ever penetrating to the heart of the Christ Mass. We can all enjoy some mince-pies and
present-giving. I always look forward to
the Dr Who Christmas Special. But unless
we penetrate the heart of the Christ Mass, what are we achieving. When the decorations are taken down and boxed
up, and the gym memberships soar in January, what actually have we achieved?
The Christ Mass, which we will mark at 11pm on
Christmas Eve, is the most Holy Night of the year. Together, we will gather here in the dark of
the night, to declare that the Light has come.
In the words of John Chapter 1, we will remember, and celebrate, that “the
Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Amid the turmoil of a world being ravaged by
a pandemic, in which markets are collapsing, old alliances are crumbling, 100,000
Russian troops are poised on the edge of Europe, and 5 billion human beings are
living in poverty, we will declare the coming of the Light. We will announce,
celebrate and assert that the darkness WILL NOT overcome the Light.
[Turn off the lights]
Look what happens in the dark. The light of the few candles we have lit
tonight penetrate the might of the darkness.
There is darkness all around us…but even one candle would not be
overcome. The darkness cannot put out
the light. The light shines in the
[Turn the lights back on]
The light, of course, is a metaphor….for the coming of
Jesus Christ into the world. We are
asked to take a step of faith, a leap into the darkness, in fact. We are asked to trust that God has a plan for
the world, a plan which finds its greatest expression in the birth, life, death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It’s a plan which we see unfolding, in a thousand tiny
lights, every day, here at St Faith’s.
Whenever someone visits a lonely housebound parishioner, or when someone
is helped to move forward with a Discretionary Fund gift… When an alcoholic finds support, or a
sufferer with dementia experiences love… When a youngster finds their creative
spark through Dynamo, or a homeless person finds warmth and care… In these and
a thousand other ways, light shines in the darkness, in the name of Jesus
Christ in whose honour this place is built.
Jesus, you see, is the antidote to the darkness. In a world which valued imperial power and
mighty palaces, Jesus was born in a stable to demonstrate that there is another
way, the way of simplicity and humility.
In a world which took sickness for granted, and blamed the sick for their
own illness, Jesus offered healing. In a
world in which education was the luxury and privilege of the elite, Jesus
offered teaching and wisdom to all.
Then, in a world which used violence to put down dissent, Jesus offered
no violence in return, but transformed the violence into resurrection
Ebenezer Scrooge found salvation, of a sort, by being
forced to reflect on his life, his choices, and his future. Shame, and the fear of death were his
motivators. But Jesus offers us
salvation through focusing on his
life, his choices, and his future.
In Jesus, our shame is wiped clean, and our future is assured. His light shines in the darkness. He invites everyone to his table, at the
Christ Mass on Christmas Night, and every Lord’s Day after that. I hope you’ll hear his invitation. I hope you’ll
come too – not just to the stable at Bethlehem, in its warm soft glow. But to the refining fire of a life of faith
in the Word made flesh, the only hope of the earth, and the Saviour of the
World! Now that’s a Christmas Carol
worth singing! Amen.