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Sermon for Christmas Eve 2014

Reverend Canon Charles Royden

David Cameron said that Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us -- a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead. That is absolutely right. At Christmas we do have an opportunity to be different.
Quite often people are nicer at Christmas, we try to think about others and we wish them the best. We might as we have done at St Mark’s raise money for people less fortunate then ourselves and this year we raised more than ever at St Mark’s for Emmaus which helps homeless people. But the point of Christmas is not to have a time of the year when we are nice.
When Jesus was born he came to came to set for us an example of a way to live differently, not just a celebration of his birth.
That is why the Pope has been speaking with such remarkable criticism of his church leaders. He admonished them and called upon them to live differently. There have been a lot of people rubbing their hands at what the Pope said but as I read the sins which he identified these seemed to me to be the same which we are all guilty of

Being rivals and boasting
Wanting to accumulate things. 'When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he'll feel more secure.'
Having a "funereal face" and being too "rigid, tough and arrogant. He said how much good was done by having a healthy sense of humour.
Committing the 'terrorism of gossip.' 'It's the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people's backs.'
Being indifferent to others. 'When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him. It's dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.
Working Too hard Yes he even criticised things which we might tempt ourselves to think are qualities, people who work too hard, people who don't take time off to be with family are overly stressed, and those who plan everything to a "T'' don't allow themselves to be surprised by the "freshness, fantasy and novelty" of the Holy Spirit. 'Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously.'

The Pope accused his clerics of ‘Spiritual Altzheimers’, forgetting what led us here
There is for all of us a possibility that we might from time to time lose sight of what it was that brought us to this place, the possibility that the day to day busyness of being human might cause us to get our priorities wrong. It isn’t just Cardinals who need reminding about taking a step back and evaluating what we are and what we are doing.
One of the most poignant phrases of the Gospel stories was that there was no room for Jesus.
Either because they were too self righteous, or too busy, or too religious, or too whatever
So this coming year let us seek to be a people of joy, who pursue things of real and lasting value. May we reject the temptation to be preoccupied with ourselves and be willing to give to others our time and our energy. And in so doing may we know the promised peace on earth which the angels promised.