It might seem strange to be celebrating tonight, with everything that is currently happening in the world. We keep our yearly memorial of the Birth of Jesus Christ with a variety of emotions this year: fear, anxiety, but also joy and hope. It is important for us to recognise, and to realise that it is perfectly normal and natural to feel this way. This is a Christmas like no other, when we cannot visit loved ones, or hold our normal celebrations such as the Village Nativity, which would normal have preceded this service. All due to a global pandemic which has claimed many lives, and sadly, will claim many more before it is over.
But, despite rising rates of infection, we can still be filled with joy and hope: not just because we have developed vaccines, but because Christ is born! No matter what difficulties we have to face together, what fears and privations may assail us, the birth of Our Saviour in Bethlehem is a cause for hope and joy in this world, and the next. God comes among us, as a baby, into a world of pain, fear, and misery, just as He did two thousand years ago. The God who made all that exists enters our world weak and helpless, dependent on others for food, warmth, shelter, and security. God takes a huge risk to save humanity and to give us hope for the future.
Tonight we see God’s healing and reconciling love made manifest: to save us from ourselves, from sin, selfishness, and greed, by this act of generosity and weakness, which does not appear to make everything better, and yet does. God doesn’t do magic, but He does do transformation, sometimes quickly, and sometimes slowly. Humanity isn’t always good at listening or paying attention. It is easy to become so wrapped up in our own anxieties and yearnings that we close ourselves off from God’s transformative power.
Perhaps surprisingly, there is fear in the Christmas story. When the shepherds saw the angels, the angel said to them ‘Paid ag ofni’ ‘’Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people’ (Lk 2:10). That good news is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. The love and peace which Christ comes to bring can still be made real and visible in our hearts and lives, and it still has the power to change the world, God’s kingdom can be even more of a reality, here and now. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, ‘deled dy deyrnas, gwneler dy ewyllys; megis yn y nef, felly ar y ddaear hefyd’.
The true gift of Christmas is the Good News that Christ is born, that God becomes one of us. Our humanity is reconciled to God in and through Jesus. God saves us, and sets us free to worship Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. A fourth-century bishop, Theodotus of Ancyra, said in a Christmas homily: ‘He whose godhead made him rich became poor for our sake, so as to put salvation within the reach of everyone’ [Theodotus of Ancyra (Homily 1 on Christmas: PG 77: 1360-1361) ]. Such is the mystery of God’s love for us. It is a love made perfect in weakness, yet with the strength to transform lives.
The most important event in human history happens tonight, and for two thousand years Christians have proclaimed its truth: God is with us, Jesus is born for us, to set us free from sin, to give us eternal life, and to pour out God’s love and reconciliation upon a world longing for healing and wholeness. Tonight, as the mystery of God’s love is made manifest, may we be filled with that love, and may our voices echo the song of the angels to the shepherds in giving praise to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.