CHRISTMAS EVE 2022 – Midnight Mass

Reader Christine preached this sermon at midnight on Christmas Eve. Here it is for you again.

What does tonight mean to us?   Is it joy, wonder or worry?

Christmas can be difficult for many of us as we are bombarded by adverts and demands that we should be having fun all the time and spending more than we have.  This then adds to the pressure of Christmas and can affect relationships when people are rushing backwards and forwards to the shops and doing everything else that goes along with it.

So, tonight let’s give ourselves permission to step back, to be who we are and create our own space for quiet reflection, a place where a space can be created in our world and a baby placed peacefully in a manger.  Let’s start a ripple effect of wonder.

The Shepherds were in their own space, peacefully watching their sheep until that astonishing moment the Angels appeared and proclaimed that the Messiah had been born in a stable and they didn’t waste any time getting there.  The ripple effect began.  Luke tells us they went with haste and you can almost imagine them saying, “Let us go now!” not later, but now, “to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place.”

Can we put ourselves in that scene 2000 years ago, perhaps as a resident walking in the streets of Bethlehem when some shepherds come rushing into the streets talking about seeing angels?  They’ve even left their sheep on the hillside.  I’m sure the people would be asking, what’s got into them? how can they be so irresponsible to leave the sheep and what’s this about angels?

If we had been there, how might we have reacted?  Would we have looked at them as if they were delirious, these down to earth men talking about hearing angels singing and about a baby being born who is the Messiah.  Or maybe, just maybe we too would have joined them in their search for the baby, but not just an ordinary baby, but the Messiah and so the ripple effect continues.

And a baby was found born in a stable that most artists depict as cold, with no working door or windows in sight.  However, the other side of the coin is that this may not have been a callous act, but an act of hospitality.  The place was possibly the quietest and most private place available, where a mother could give birth with the heat of the animals providing her with warmth.  This was not a bustling Inn with noise and crowds of people, but tranquil and serene, a place where peace was born.

The Shepherds went with haste and were probably awed at the sight of The Holy Family, gathered in the stable, but they were welcomed and Mary kept the words they said in her heart.  Joy and wonder filled their hearts when the light dawned on them and they realised just how special this baby was and we know how special he became.

They began the ripple effect.  The angels told them about the glorious event that had taken place.  They rushed to the stable as fast as they could and after they had seen Jesus, they may have gone back to their flock straightaway, but on their way, they would have told everyone what they had seen and had been a witness to.  They then became one of the first people to share the good news of Jesus’ birth.

It’s the same as when we received some wonderful news, we want to tell everyone we meet and the ripple effect begins as they then tell their friends and family.  Is this not how the Gospel of Christ should be shared.  Could we begin a Christmas ripple that radiates outwards to those we meet?

Tonight, we welcome this baby, the Messiah into our hearts.  Into our homes and into our lives.  We too can feel the joy and wonder the Shepherds felt knowing our Messiah came to save us, born as a human baby with all the implications that it brings.  He was dependent on his mother to nurture him, on his father to protect him and teach him and God chose those people very carefully.  God wants everyone to know the good news and how he loves and forgives us all.

The good news of Jesus’ birth should radiate from us, but with all the pressures of modern living, economic and world events that we face, we need to find our  “stable” our place of hospitality, our quiet place where faith can be nurtured and the ripple effect develop so the act of sharing with others can begin.

God searches us for our “quiet place,” he searches our hearts so that he can place that baby in the manger of our lives.

What does tonight mean to us?   It’s a wonderful, joyous occasion when God showed all mankind his love.  When he chose lowly Shepherds to be the first witnesses to share the good news and they made it known to others.  We too know the good news which can cause a ripple effect to radiate from us to all those around us, if we let the Christ child into our hearts and minds.

Let us pray:

Lord, we open our hearts and minds to receive the Christ Child into our lives and pray that the wonder of the Shepherds and the joy of the Angels be with us all this night.  Amen

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