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Sermon for Christmas 1

He shares in our humanity so we can share the life of His divinity

Sermon by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

This Christmas, as with every Christmas, we’ve probably sung lots of carols.  And quite a few carols can be quite long as they all try to tell the full story of Christmas.That’s not a bad thing.  But a very concise summary of the Christmas story is found in our Collect prayer for today.

‘…grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity…’

Many of the Collects we have are based on those written by Thomas Cranmer around the 1550’s – so they’ve stood the test of time!  Cranmer was an Archbishop of Canterbury and a leading figure in the reformation.  The one we use today appeared in the Alternative Service Book for the Sunday after Christmas Day, Year One.

Each Collect generally follows a similar format:

  • Introduction often with an specific address to God
    • Almighty God…
  • Acknowledgement of what has happened, our state, and the reason for our prayer
    • who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ…
  • Request (sometimes known as a petition)
    • grant that, as he came to share in our humanity…
  • Hope and expectation (often using the word ‘that’ and is expressed in the plural ‘we’, God’s people)
    • so we may share the life of his divinity…
  • Basis for request and acknowledgement of God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence
    • who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 

Today’s collect contains many if not all of these elements. 

…Grant that as he came to share in our humanity so we may share in His divinity…

We often sing and speak of Jesus coming to share in our humanity as Immanuel, God with us – but what does it mean for us to share in His divinity as we look at Christ’s birth in the stable or outhouse? It would seem that there are at least three elements we share.

Firstly, as we share in His divinity we share in His vulnerability.  You might have thought with the importance of the mission He was on, God might have chosen somewhere more secure for Mary to have her child.  Not only had she had to endure a long journey on the back of a donkey she was reduced to having her child in an outhouse which was normally used for animals. 

Sometimes we can wonder why what is happening to us is happening.  We find ourselves in places where we feel vulnerable and under prepared.  Like Mary, perhaps thinking that things shouldn’t be happening this way.

To share in Christ’s divinity also means sharing in His vulnerability and uncertainty.  God is in control, but that doesn’t always mean things working out the way we expect.  Neither we, nor God or Jesus are machines, computers that can be programmes with predictable outcomes.

Mary must have wondered at times what was happening, it had been some time since she’d had heard from the angel.  She shared in Christ’s vulnerability so that God’s will could be done.  Things were very uncertain and unclear.  When she acknowledged what was happening to her when the Holy Spirit came on her, she had no idea what that might mean and where it might lead, apart from the obvious, rather significant, short term implications.

Part of sharing in Christ’s vulnerability is to share in the fact that we may not know quite where that might lead.  It can be uncertain and not as secure in worldly terms as we would like.  God invites us to share in this vulnerability nonetheless.

As we see through the rest of Mary’s life, is not as if she had a hotline to God through the angels.  Part of that vulnerability was just getting on with life and being open to God as to where that might lead and what that might mean.  Living with the uncertainty but doing her best to live out a life to the best of her ability with the understanding of God and what was happening.

Secondly, as we share the life of Christ’s divinity we also share in His mission for the world, often shown as His care and concern for the world and all who live in it.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that it was shepherds that were the first to come to visit the stable.  A symbol of care and an image that would be used of Christ so often in His life and death.  As we share in Christ’s divinity so we are called to share in His ministry and mission. 

If we don’t then part of that divinity which is in us is denied.  We are called to reach out to others so that they can know more fully the Christ who comes at Christmas.

Mary was still quite to work out all that the shepherds were saying.  Luke tells us that all who heard what had happened wondered what was going on.  But Mary ‘…treasured these things up in her heart…’, or, ‘…she kept these things safe as she (pondered) threw them around in her heart…’  She might not know what was happening but she knew who did.  The shepherds coming and the story they told was confirmation to her of what she already knew and had lived in vulnerability for the last nine months. 

Sometimes, our vulnerability is not without its confirmations that God is with us even if we sometimes doubt.

Thirdly, as we share in the life of Christ’s divinity, so we share in His authority, rule Kingship, Kingdom and eternity.

As we reach out in God’s love, sharing in His mission, however vulnerable and uncertain we might feel, we do so sharing in Christ’s authority and Kingdom.  We are not powerless in our vulnerability and in our desire to share in Christ’s mission for the world.  God gives His Holy Spirit which empowers our words and actions, words and actions which are sometimes misunderstood or belittled by the world as they struggle to understand them, and the divinity which is in each of them.

If it’s not surprising the shepherds came to visit Jesus, perhaps we should not be surprised that Kings came to visit Him too.  For born into the world was the King of the Cosmos, ruler of all.  Kings came and knelt before Him, knelt before His authority.  They knew as no others that here was the true authority in the world, before whom all others knelt in adoration and worship.

Here was one whose authority above all others and who’s Kingdom was eternal.  Whatever was to happen in Christ’s lifetime, it was only a foretaste of the eternal to come.

As we share in Christ’s divinity, so we share in the eternal hope which He brings.  On this earth we may feel uncertain and vulnerable, like Mary, it might seem a while since God last spoke to us, but we are called to be part of His work on earth, which is bit a foretaste of what He has for us in eternity.  For as we share in His divinity, so we share in His eternity.

…as He came to share in our humanity, so may we share the life of His divinity…

 

Collect for Christmas 1

Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.