Christmas Sermon 2015
by the Rev Canon Dewi J. Ll. Roberts

We all have our favourite carols.
One of my favourites is "O Holy Night."
I cannot help but be moved by this carol.

"Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
  Oh night when Christ was born"

Is tonight a holy night for us?
The world is weary and hurting on so many levels
- but this carol speaks of a hope and joy
that uplifts our weary spirits.
"A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,"
Do we know this thrill of hope?
- Do we know this rejoicing within our souls
at the birth of the Christ Child?
- so that Christmas truly is a holy night for us.

If, when we are presented with the image of Christ, born to be our Saviour, we do not first know an earnest pining concerning our need then we are not ready to enter the experience of Holy night.

If the source of our rejoicing is not Christ our Saviour and we seek comfort and delight only in the material realm then we will not know the joy of Holy night.

If we let the divine mystery of God dwelling in the flesh pass us by as though it matters not to our real lives - then we will miss the thrill of Holy night.

When I was about 5 years old I woke my parents up at about 4 o'clock on Christmas morning carrying a pillowcase full of presents on my shoulder, or more likely I was dragging the pillow case along the floor, but saying in an excited voice -- "he has come!" - "he has come!" -- "mae e' wedi dod!" - "mae e' wedi dod!". I was not referring, of course, to the baby Jesus - but to Father Christmas. But my parents managed to get me back to bed - and I woke up again at a more sensible hour and was then able to open my presents. But at 4 o'clock in the morning I was excited that he had come.
Of course, the story of Father Christmas is exciting for children.
But far more exciting and thrilling , for our lives, for our joy, for our blessedness and well being , for our hope and destiny - is the coming of Christ - He has indeed come!
By God's grace we glean that the coming of Christ
is not an invention of man
- it is not of human origin
- but it is of God.

The Scriptures tell us :-
"In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the world."

"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"

Our weary world is perishing - but Christ has come - we no longer need to be weary - we no longer need to strive for what does not satisfy - we can now be thrilled and uplifted by the good news of Christ our Saviour. If people were half as excited about the coming of Christ to our world as I was at the age of five at the coming of Father Christmas - we would have a great spiritual awakening on our hands. There would be shouting from the housetops.
Up and down the land people would proclaim
-- "He has come! - He has come!"
We only need to catch a glimpse of the significance of Christ's birth for a moment, and we will know a new spiritual dawn - and a sparkle and a joy that will be infectious and radiate hope, a hope that we all need in this weary world of ours.
May we never regard Christmas as just a holiday to have a bit of Christmas cheer, with the birth of Christ relegated to a nice story that is associated with Christmas but bears no real relevance to our lives. Christmas is far more than a bit of cheerful mood.
The child -- he is the one who counts today. The important figure in this holy night is the child, the one child, the Son of God, and his birth. Everything else about this feast is based on and quickened by this, or else it dies and turns to illusion. Christmas means that he has come. He has made the night bright. He has turned the night of our darkness, our incomprehensible night, into Christmas. The terrible night of our anxiety and helplessness is now a holy night. This is what Christmas tells us. Through this feast, the moment when this event took place once and for all should also become a reality in our heart and should remain there to shape it and
brighten its destiny.
And no one is excluded - He is able to come to all of us - He is able to be born in all of us - and as one pining Christian heart wrote so beautifully :-
"I am very glad Jesus was born in a stable because my soul is very much like a stable filled with strange and unsatisfactory longings, with guilt and animal-like impulses ...tormented by anxiety, inadequacy, and pain. If Christ could be born in such a place, He can be born in me also. I am not excluded."

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

The world is broken. It is suffering. God in Christ comes into this suffering and brokeness to be with us - to give us a new dawn, a new hope. This is the true meaning of Christmas - to be with us, to know our suffering, our emptiness - and to lift us up and fill us with a bright new hope.
I love this quote from St. Augustine which sums up how intimate, gritty and personal was God's connection with the world in order to be our hope and our Saviour.
St Augustine wrote :-
"Man's maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother's breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die."

That Life with a capitol L is our Saviour. The baby born in Bethlehem and laid in the manger had a name. The name Jesus means "God saves." He is our Saviour. May God save us from being weary and discouraged. May God save us from striving for things that do not fulfil. May God save us from only watching the story unfold and not taking our place in it. May God save us and lift our weary souls so that our hope is rekindled - and we know a thrill beyond words and a rejoicing in our spirit, and truly worship the One whom the angels adore.

"Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
     Oh night when Christ was born."



*******************************************