Sermon: Midnight Mass 2011

@liminalspace suggests that we only have six sermons anyway. On reflection my six are: 1) God loves you 2) Build the Kingdom. Here. Now 3) John 10:10 4) Discipleship is costly 5) Christmas is more than prezzies 6) Jesus is God. Mary is his Mother. Go to Mass. On one level, this year’s Midnight Mass sermon is just like all of them wrapped up together, nothing too original, but which I hope will be given more by delivery. Take from this what you need, for whatever its value, it comes from the heart: a heart fed by the Incarnation, the love of God and the power of the Eucharist.

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

<John Lewis Christmas Advert 2011>

Preach the Gospel, they say, using words only if you have to.

Tonight is a night for expectancy, for excitement, for breathless wonder.

Tonight is a night for the cynicism of the other 363[1 days of the year to melt away.

Tonight is all concerned with gifts. But not gifts received, but rather gifts given.

The world receives a gift wrapped not in gaudy paper and ribbons, but in blood and mucus and the messiness of a real birth: (I know that anyone who has been present or themselves have been through the journey of a birth will understand the visceral reality of childbirth and how far removed from the artificiality of the Christmas Card image it truly is).

Preach the Gospel, they say, using words only if you have to.

The Gospel – the Good News of the Incarnation – is proclaimed far and wide tonight, and not just on the lips of cherubic choirboys or drunken revellers, but in the enfleshment of God himself, in the involvement and participation of God himself in our midst.

The Gospel – the Good News of the Incarnation – is the greatest gift ever given: the gift of God himself, passionately engaged in our lives, in our affairs, in our very being.

This is beyond price. This is beyond importance. This is the very stuff of life. The Good News is that God gives of himself, enters into our world, pours himself into our reality and becomes one of us: sharing our experiences, fears, hungers, challenges: consigned within a short period after his birth to be an Asylum Seeker in Egypt, tempted and yet without sin, rejected in his ministry by many, turned upon by those who feted him only a few days before and dying: God on a Cross for us.

The visceral reality of a human birth ends with a barbaric death; and in the quiet darkness not of a stable but a tomb a new birth is seen: the first fruits of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life delivered to us by a God who overcomes sin and death on our behalf: this is the power of the incarnation which is made relevant by the sacrifice of the Cross: the Cross which is validated by the Incarnation. Yes, my friends, on this magical night behold the true Gospel – that Christmas and Easter are inextricably linked and one cannot, should not, will not have one without the other.

Preach the Gospel, they say, using words only if you have to.

The gift given tonight is perfectly wrapped, for it is wrapped in humanity, wrapped in humility, wrapped in love – both of the Father and the Holy Family. It was given with you in mind, and given selflessly as only God can give it.

The place to receive this perfect gift is not therefore at the foot of your Christmas Tree, but in your hearts. I pray that tonight as we share the sacraments of salvation, partake of the visceral reality of his body and blood in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, that you will receive and perceive the gift beyond all others, freely and loving given. To you. And you. And you. And me.


[1 I was thinking of Christmas Day and also Easter Day: the joy of the Resurrection.