The Creation – To See Truthfully – Christmas 2018

Sermon for Midnight Mass 2018

Hebrews 1:1-4
John 1:1-14

‘The Creation’

‘For we live by faith and not by sight’

As human beings we have a problem. For our most powerful sense – Sight – is also the one most easily taken hold of and deceived. We live in an age where visual stimuli assault us at every turn, increasingly so that we can be sold things. To compound matters to a significant degree, we now carry devices with us pretty much all the time, whose power over us is rooted in this weakness to have our attention stolen, to the point that we often find ourselves looking at our cell phones for no reason whatsoever.

In this age as much as any other if not mores, our Sight needs to be returned to us, that we might See truthfully.

So as when we seek to heal someone of an unhealthy addiction, we take the desire that is distorted and for a while put it to one side. To use a Christmas metaphor, we go cold turkey 🙂 When we want to speak of things that are outside the realm of our physical seeing, indeed perhaps to remind ourselves that there are things beyond the realm of sight, or better to our Sight so that we might behold the true nature of all things – there is perhaps no better time than in the depth of night.
For as the sun hides the stars and the entire Universe from our gaze, and our cell phones seem to rob us of the ability even to see those around us – thus the created lights of the World hide from us The Light, the light of Life. The Truth of our existence.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness

The Light shines in the darkness

The Light which is the Life of all people. The Light by which we Behold the Truth of our own existence – The Light by which we See clearly, by which we Behold All things – Everything.

For the message of Christmas goes well beyond anything that we might care to consider – out into the depths of space and time – filling them and completing them,

Here in the depths of the night we listen to words of John, coming to us from ‘the beginning’ When John wishes to speak to us of the coming of Jesus into the world, he opens his account ‘In the beginning’ In speaking of what we like to call The Christmas Story, John wants us to pay attention to the story of Everything. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the Earth . . . and God said . . . Let there be Light, and there was light – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God . . . in Him was Life and that Life is the Light of all people

Whilst it is true in some very limited sense to speak of the birth of Jesus as occurring 2000 years ago, that is only a fragment of a much greater truth – that the birth of Jesus, the story of Bethlehem and shepherds, and Mary and Joseph, and Angelic announcements in the night, is the Revealing, the Appearing of that which is true ‘from the beginning’ and also that which is true ‘to the ages of ages’. It is the Revelation of the entire work of God in the World . . . To See truthfully, to see Truth in its entirety, to See all things, our gaze must be restricted, drawn to a single point, a pin prick of light in the Universe, in the sign that is a child lying in a manger – to recover our sight we need to begin in the darkness in order to see Jesus

If the physicists are to be believed, and being a physicist myself I guess I have to declare an interest in physicists being believed, were we able to stand outside of the universe – an impossibility – we would see all of space, and therefore all of time. We would in a moment see everything from East to West, From North to South – from its beginning to its end. All space, all time – but we do not need to take a space ship to get outside of all space and time – for to Behold the Word made flesh is to begin to See all things – to have our sight restored, that we might truly be able to see all things

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it like this in speaking of the coming of Jesus into the World ‘in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.

For the One born to us in the depths of this Holiest of Nights, He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the Beginning and The End. ‘[The Word] was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.’ He is the Light that is the light of all people. He is in all and through all and above all . . . He Encompasses All things in His Being

One of the old Saints of the church says of God, ‘A circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere’ – This Word of Life which calls forth the entirety of Creation is revealed in the Centre of Creation, in the One who sustains all things

The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus we might say is the coming into the world of Centre of History, a Centre that is Everywhere and at all times. That has no boundary. A Love without borders. This is the meaning of History., the meaning of all things.



On the Feast of the Nativity

Reading for Vigils upon the Feast of the Nativity

‘Beloved borthers and sisters: Unto us is born this day a Saviour. Let us Rejoice!

It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life’s birthday, the birthday of that Life which, for us mortal creatures, takes away the sting of death and brings the bright promise of an eternal hereafter. It would be unlawful for anyone to refuse sharing in our rejoicing. All have an equal part in the great reason why we are joyful, for our Lord, who is the destroyer of sin and death, finding that all are bound under condemnation, is come to make all free.

For when the fulness of time was come, the Son of God took upon himself human nature so that he might reconcile that nature to him who made it; hence the devil, the inventor of death, is met and conquered in that very flesh which had been the field of his victory.

Let us give thanks to God the Father through his Son in the Holy Spirit, who for his great love wherewith he loves us has had mercy on us and has quickened us together with Christ even when we were dead in sins, that in Him we might be a new creature and a new handiwork.

Let us then put off the old nature with its deeds, and having obtained a share in the sonship of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh.

Be conscious, O Christian, of your dignity! You have been made a partaker of the divine nature; do not fall again by a corrupt manner of life into the beggarly elements above which you were lifted.

Remember whose Body it is of which you are a member, and who is its Head.

Remember that it is he who has delivered you from the power of darkness and has transferred you into God’s light and God’s kingdom. By the sacrament of baptism, you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not cast away this guest by evil living and become again a servant of the devil. For your freedom was bought with Christ’s own blood.

From the ‘Sermons on the Lord’s Birth’, St Leo the Great

Sermon for January 6 – EPIPHANY 2013

EPIPHANY2013 [Link to recording of sermon]

EPIPHANY 2013 – YEAR C – Text of sermon as prepared

Isa 60:1-9
Eph 3:1-12
Matt 2:1-12


Well I hope that you have celebrated Christmas fully – the whole twelve days!! 🙂 As I noted a few days ago, my weighing scales seemed to be measuring out the twelve days pretty accurately, if you count out time in additional pounds! 🙂 As we’re often told, we don’t know the actual date of Jesus’ birth, although if Jesus was born six months after his cousin John the Baptist then we can say with some certainty that Jesus was born in September. John’s father Zecchariah was on duty in the Temple at the time of the announcement of John’s birth and thus, knowing when his family would have been on duty as we do – Luke tells us Zechariah was of the order of Abijah – it’s merely a matter of adding 15 months which brings us to September!! So we were ALL late for Christmas!!
However many Christians are even later than we were. For Orthodox Christians, who make up about 1/3 of the world’s Christians celebrate Christmas today – the Feast of the Epiphany – so if you like a good reason for some more celebration – then conversion might be a good idea 🙂

Of course the reason that the Orthodox celebrate Christmas today is because it is today – the feast of the Epiphany – we remember the Revealing of Christ to ALL nations. The Magi, the Wise men from the East being foreigners – outsiders on the story of Jesus – who in some regards represent Us. We are so used to being Christians, we forget that we are latecomers to the story of God’s people. That as of old, it wasn’t our story.

Even that first Christmas story isn’t really ours – no matter how much we try and domesticate it in Nativity plays. We pay little or no attention to the fact that the events around the birth of Jesus are all Jewish. The gospel is first announced to the Jewish people – and then and only then to the Gentiles – that’s us.  Not only is his birth announced in this order – the Shepherds coming to Bethlehem long before the Magi – Jesus himself says ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ and he sends out the twelve saying ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. and first to the Jews is the way that the Gospel is proclaimed. So on the day of Pentecost Jerusalem is full of Jewish people – yes from all over the known world, but all of them Jews. It is only following Peter’s conversion through a strange dream that the Gospel is then taken and announced to God fearing Gentiles in the household of Cornelius. And so Paul writes to the Ephesians – I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – AND – Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone See . . . !

Listen to the words of the prophet, Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. 5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. 7All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall be acceptable on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house – These are words of promise for the Jewish people – ‘You’ here, is not us 🙂
If we remember the parables that Jesus told of the Kingdom being like a great feast, then Epiphany is a reminder that we weren’t on the original guest list! We are latecomers. And so perhaps celebrating Christmas at This time is a good idea. Not only because we have become so accustomed to Christmas Our way the comfortable way we’ve always known it, it is easy to forget that this message is not about Our ways. It is about God’s way. This Christmas story is as always meant to disturb us, to shake us out of our familar ways and to place us in the midst of something far greater – and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things

And what is that mystery?? Well our reading comes in a little late as well – it’s not just Christmas that is late – Paul puts it like this in the verses before our reading So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

God’s secret plan – the mystery hidden for ages – is that he desires once more to have a place to dwell upon earth and as I said on Christmas day, reflecting on the words of John ‘The word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us, that place is in and amongst his people’ ‘With Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone’ With Christ Jesus himself as the foundation – The foundation  – of everything . . . and as we know all too well here in New Zealand, mucking around with foundations brings buildings down – and so the house of Herod – the one who himself had tried to have himself made ‘King of the Jews’ by dictat – the house of Herod is shaken to its foundations ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?’ Such an innocent enquiry – and one that threatens everything – all that Herod had planned and built. But like any ruler always on the lookout for those who might usurp his power (partly why we can never expect grown up politics . . .) Herod announced himself ‘King of the Jews’ and ordered that his sons succeed him, but then had them executed!!1 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him

And so the Magi come to offer their gifts – Gold Frankincense and Myrrh – and knelt down and paid Him homage. Not paying homage to Herod – homage to the one who is the corner stone for the dwelling place of God

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another country . . . this is dangerous knowledge . . .

To know Him who is the cornerstone of the dwelling place of God is dangerous knowledge – as it remains today, at least where the church has retained the understanding that all knees must bow before him to pay homage . . . the understanding that actually We too are outsiders . . . that our obligations are not to the rulers and pricipalities of this age – but of those of the age to come

On an almost daily basis I receive from around the world news of the persecution of Christians – just this past week I read startling evidence that Christians are overwhelmingly persecuted for their faith over against all other faith groups. From our context here in New Zealand this must sound very odd – what after all is very threatening about being a Christian?? We don’t need to be warned in a dream not to tell folk about the one who has been born into the world to supplant all human rule and authority – we just don’t do it.

There is I think a very necessary strangeness in the visit of the Magi – those who come from the East. Whose focus is no human rule but one divinely revealed in the shining of a strange star. I think we too readily try to undo this story – try to make it make sense on our terms and when it doesn’t, then dismiss it – we fail to be troubled by it, in much the same way we have lost sight of the troubling idea that this Faith isn’t first of all ours – that we were only lately invited to become the people of God, and that the birth of Christ into the world really does challenge everything we are so accustomed to.

This is Not an easy story – and the life we are summoned to is not a life of ease. our reading from Paul stops at Verse 12. He continues I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory. This Glory that the angels announce – and that the Wise men behold will come about only through suffering and on our part, the chief part of that is the knowledge that in being insiders to to the mystery that has been revealed in Christ – we find ourselves outsiders in the world in which we ha learned to be so comfortable

In a sense I think that this is the great adjustment we need to make at this time. Most of us have grown up with church being a very ordinary part of things one way or another – certainly I did. But that is rapidly changing – once more we are coming into an age where to Know Christ is, as it is for so many of our brothers and sisters to be in possession of dangerous knowledge – But Life giving knowledge. In the early years of the church Christians met as they do nowadays in China and PAkistan, in Iran and many other places, behind closed doors. There as in the early days of the church, the wider world’s hostitlity was shut out as God’s people met in secret – to worship and adore – to lay their treasures before him . . . and the church grew like never before as it continues to in those places – so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Perhaps The great strangeness of Christian faith in this world today is that it is not primarily a set of ideas, an ideology, a way of life, it not about values. No it is about a person. We bleieve in Jesus Christ the only son of God eternally begotten of the father, God from God, Ligth from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father through whom all things were made. Our Faith is to Know ourselves to be His –  in relationship with Him, the Babe of Bethelehem, the King of the Jews, the Son of God most High. It is Only in and through worship and adoration that we like the Magi begin to comprehend what we are called into, and how Graced we are that we who were once far off have been brought home.