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He came. He comes. He lived. He lives. - Christmas Day

Christmas 25th December 2011

25 December 2011 00:00 | Fr Roderick Leece

How silently the wondrous gift is given. What gift? What are we here to celebrate? What sermon would you preach to yourself today from the pulpit of your inner mind? How silently the wondrous gift is given. Let’s listen…in a moment of silence to our own sermon…(pause)

Everybody wants Christmas. And whilst we may think we hear again the message…are all those nativity plays nothing more than a kindly panto about a baby?

Who really wants God? Everybody loves a party. But who wants the birthday boy? How hungry are we for love…for the love of God?

My spirit sinks, slightly, when I read reports about Christian moans at this time of year. The BBC already is headlining the Pope lamenting (their word) commercialisation…and the Archbishop of Canterbury lamenting (again their word) the abuse of trust. The time for lamentation is in Lent, and I’m sure both Pope and Archbishop went on to preach hope. Now is the time for joy. Happy Christmas!

Christians can be dour about Christmas, repressing the impulse to party, to take delight. We all know that strictly speaking people should have really waited in the darkness of Advent until today. But if the magic of candlelit buildings is to be caught…there is a need to relax and enjoy. And join in. Couldn’t we even describe Christmas as God’s joining in…fixing in us his humble dwelling?

The gift of Christmas is more than peace on earth…more than goodwill to all…and more than joy and glory in the highest…these are the by-products of the gift itself. The gift of God. He came…He comes. He lived…He lives.

And if God is God…and if Jesus is Lord…then it follows that all other Gods must be dethroned. If God is God…then Caesar is not.

The wondrous gift is given (of course) whether it is received or not…for this is the nature of God…the nature of love. The world knew him not…and his own received him not.

In the end…not only is the gift not received…but it is returned. On a cross.

And there are many gifts we return. When I was a boy, the only things I can recall returning were the R White’s lemonade bottles for a penny…and clothes at Marks and Spencer that were the wrong size. These days we live in a culture that returns gifts for any reason at all. In fact there is not even a requirement to have a reason to return things to the shops.No questions are asked.

There are, as well, other gifts we return…or we mess up…for we all make mistakes. What about the gift of a good upbringing…thrown back in parents faces as their children become rioters? I know the streets of Tottenham well having served there nearly 15 years…my former parishioners were both frightened…but also very VERY angry about the behaviour of their children and grandchildren.

What about the gift of marriage…abandoned/returned when things get difficult? What about the gift of protesters on the steps of your Cathedral? We all make mistakes. And we return so much.

But the wondrous gift has been given…once…and for all. For all. At Christmas and Easter. He came. He comes. He lived. He lives.
I only really thought about the words of the last verse of Wesley’s hymn Hark the Herald Angels Sing last year. And realised that we celebrate not only the birth of Christ…but his rebirth too…in the resurrection…the rebirth of all humanity. Risen with healing in His wings.
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! 

Hail the Son of Righteousness! 

Light and life to all He brings 

Ris'n with healing in His wings 

Mild He lays His glory by 
Born that man no more may die 

Born to raise the sons of earth 

Born to give them second birth 

Hark! The herald angels sing 
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ is born…but born as always risen…risen with healing in His wings.

Fr Roderick Leece
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