A light in the darkness

The following is my sermon for Midnight Mass at St Michael’s Parish Church, Landrake. As you will see, I concentrate on the reading from St John’s Gospel:

Loving Lord, as we meditate on your Word may you be once again born in our hearts that we might shine as your light in the world. Amen.
 
John starts
his Gospel
with poetry.
I’d like to start
tonight
with
a story.
 
It’s not my story,
I didn’t make it up,
I’ve stolen it
from a TV programme*,
and I’ve no idea
where the writers
got it from,
but nonetheless
I associate
this story
with Christmas
because
it comes
from a Christmas episode.
 
It begins
with a man.
And this fella’s walking along the street
when he falls down a hole.
The walls are steep
and he can’t get out.
 
After a little while
a doctor walks by.
“Hey, you”
the fella shouts up,
“Can you help me out?”
The doctor writes a prescription,
throws it down the hole,
and walks on.
A while later
a priest walks by.
“Hey, Father,
can you help me out?”
The priest writes a prayer out,
throws it down the hole,
and walks on.
 
Sometime later
a friend walks by.
“Hey, Joe,
I fell down this hole,
can you help me out?”
At which point
Joe jumps down in the hole too.
“What you doing?”
the man asks,
“Now we’re both in the hole!”
“Yeh,”
replies Joe,
“But I’ve been down here before
and I know the way out.”
 
Most of us,
at some point
or other,
find ourselves
in a hole.
The kind of hole
may vary:
its depth,
the angle of its sides,
its width or narrowness,
may be unique.
Nonetheless,
we find ourselves
in holes,
sitting in darkness
of some kind
or another.
 
The story of salvation
laid out
in the Jewish
and Christian
scriptures
up to the point of the nativity
is the story
of God
doing what you’d expect
a friend
to do:
sending help.
Moses,
David,
Isaiah,
Jeremiah,
and many others,
men and women,
whom God sends
to help his people
see the light.
 
But in Christ,
God does the unexpected.
In the birth
of Jesus
God jumps down
into the hole itself.
God refuses
to remain
remote.
 
In the birth of a baby
God enters
into
the messiness of the world.
An unmarried mother,
a fiancé who refuses to call off the wedding,
farm workers kept apart from their own people
by the rules,
and foreigners from well outside the faith community:
it is these who,
in the stories
told
of that amazing birth,
play a vital part.
It is these
who show
the darkness
into which
the flickering,
glorious
light
comes shining.
 
And the world God
enters into
in Christ
is still dark.
We still
find ourselves
in holes.
Maybe you can see it
in your own life.
If not
you can certainly see it
on the news.
 
Yet,
while the darkness remains,
while those steep sides
seem as unclimbable as ever,
the light remains also.
The darkness
has never,
will never,
overcome it.
 
That mysterious,
glorious
light
that first shone out
as the eternal, almighty, self-sufficient
God
entered the world
as a baby,
“little, weak and helpless”,
is still
with us.
No matter
how deep
the hole is,
no matter
if our eyes are so
closed in pain
that
we cannot
notice its
presence,
still the light
comes to us.
 
It comes to us
in the cry of a newly born baby,
the cry of anguish upon a cross,
and the speaking of a name by an empty tomb.
It comes to us in bread and wine,
the helping hand of a stranger,
the quiet whisper of a friend
who may not understand
what we’re going through
but will not desert us to face it alone.
 
The Word became flesh,
made his home among us,
and walks with us still,
his light and glory
available
to all who walk
in darkness,
that we might walk through
the darkness
knowing we are not alone.
For Immanuel,
God is with us,
both this night
and forever!
Amen.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, whether it is a time of high joy or deep sorrow, may you travel with the blessing of the Light that lights the world.

Shalom,

The Nomad

*This story appears in “Noel”, the Christmas episode in the second season of The West Wing, and is told to Josh Lyman, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff who has just been diagnosed with PTSD after being shot, by his boss and mentor, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
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About MendipNomad

I'm a nomad both physically and denominationally, but I'll always call the Mendips home. Currently a Methodist Presbyter (Minister) in Cornwall. I love sport, film, tv, socialising, politics (both US and British), and, yes, being part of the church.
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