This sermon was preached at St. Peter’s Midnight Eucharist on 24th-25th December 2014 – Christmas Day. The readings were Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4,5-12 and John 1:1-14
So, this is Christmas. And what have you done?
Are you hanging up your stockings on your wall? It’s the time when every Santa has a ball.
For every mother’s child, is gonna spy, to see if reindeer, really know how to fly.
Are you waiting for the family to arrive? Are you sure you’ve got the room to spare inside?
With logs on the fire & gifts on the tree, a time to rejoice in the good that we see.
Music, for good and for bad, surrounds us at this time of year, and it’s amazing how these songs have become part of the fabric of Christmas for so many of us, for society in general. But there’s one song we hear a lot, in many different versions – in fact that I heard being sung on this very spot at the Dame Dorothy Christingle last week – that I believe to be one of the scariest songs ever written.
I think you’ll all know it – a little ditty called “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” It’s a great Christmas song, especially the way Bruce Springsteen does it, but have you ever stopped to think about the lyrics.
“You’d better watch out. You’d better not cry. You’d better not pout, I’m telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”
I mean, that’s positively terrifying. Who is this fat bearded man & what is he going to do to me & my kids?!?! I really don’t think it does Santy justice to be fair. But however you look at it, the message is clear – he’s coming.
Now, this isn’t the only song with this problem – and it’s not just with pop music where we get caught up with the tune and the feeling we get from the music without taking stock, thinking about, the words we’re singing along to. Jerusalem, anyone?
John, in our reading tonight, is reminding us that there is power in words. But, more than that, there is great power in The Word. As you read through John’s gospel, there are occasions where Jesus spells out who he is to those around Him – particularly in the I Am sayings, also in other things He says & does – but still they didn’t get it.
“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
The religious people, even His own disciples, missed things that, to us, in hindsight, seem obvious. Or do they? We talk about a lot of Jesus life in church, we sing about it, read it in the liturgy printed in our service sheets, live in a society whose laws and customs and public holidays are primarily built around the teachings and life of Jesus – but do we actually get it. Do we want to get it?
Some carols suffer from the theological equivalent of the Santa Claus is coming problem – to be fair, some are not the most accurate description of the nativity accounts, of the coming of the Christ-child. But as we sing along, the message is clear – He’s coming. He came.
God became man; the Word, present at the beginning of the world, who set all things into being at the dawn of time, became flesh, walked among us and remains with us today through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Are we willing to take these words, this Word, on board? Because Jesus is not just for Christmas. As we follow His growth from baby in a manger to crucified man to resurrected saviour through the Church year, do we have the courage to follow Him in our daily lives, to make room for in our hearts & not try and keep him parked in the stable round the back, to be visited at Christmas and on our terms, but not allowed to make a huge impact on our lives, like an awkward relative.
As He said himself, Jesus is the light of the world. Dare we allow that light to brighten our lives, to brighten the lives of others, this Christmas?
Dare we give the gift of Christ to our friends, families, communities this Christmas, this coming year, this lifetime? As Isaiah says,
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation”
Do we dare to be that messenger?
So sing along loudly to your favourite tunes this Christmas, but as you belt out the words, take a moment to consider the Word who became flesh; a helpless, vulnerable bairn in a barn, for you – because he loves you.
Who lived and died and rose again for you – because He loves you. Because He loves us, loves me, loves you.
So hark now hear the angels sing, a king was born today. And man will live forever more because of Christmas Day.