Christmas Eve Sermon - The Reverend Dr Sam cappleman
At this time of year there are lots of reviews in the newspapers and magazines about the year that has just passed.
Who were the notable people, who made the news what were the important events?
But all of the readings this evening, rather than looking back, look forward.
Nathan describes to King David a Kingdom that will come which will endure forever.
Paul describes the eternal salvation that has come in Christ
And Luke describes the dayspring from on high, Immanuel, who will come upon us.
It’s clear from all the passages, something big is about to happen. Something that will change the world. Something that will change the way we see God and relate to Him
Something big that’s offered to everyone.
The passage from Luke is often called the Benedictus from the first word of the verse, ‘Blessed’ and is a passage which is used each day in Morning Prayer.
It Zachariah’s prayer, the Father of John the Baptist who has just regained speech after declaring his son should be called John.
One phrase of it stands out as it begins to redefine how we see God and how He wants to relate to us as we look to the future.
‘In the tender compassion of our God, the day-spring from on his shall break upon us.’
It speaks about the tender compassion of God. God is not a vengeful God who wants us to get our just deserts… …He’s a compassionate God who loves all that he has made. For some who heard this it would require a change in thinking.
It speaks of a God who breaks upon us through the dayspring from on high. This God is not a distant God either but one who comes into our world in human form.
It’s interesting that 3 of the people who we hear about in Luke’s gospel are devout, but perhaps a little elderly, Jews who believe in the future that God has promised. Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. For them the coming of the Messiah was not an abstract theory but a current reality.
There would be others who we read about in the gospels, who saw the actual coming of the Messiah as a bit of an inconvenience to their views and understanding of the world. The coming of Jesus into someone’s life is often inconvenient.
It was inconvenient for the Inn keeper, inconvenient for the shepherds, inconvenient for the Kings and many of the Roman and Jewish rulers and governors. It didn’t make it any less true or unreal.
And as we await the coming of Jesus on the morning sun Zechariah (and Simeon and Anna) offer us some insight into what our response to the coming of Christ might be.
Because they didn’t just acknowledge the reality of Christ, they welcomed him into their world. They didn’t just accept or tolerate the fact of Jesus birth, they welcomed it with open arms and let the reality change their lives and the way they lived. They welcomed others as they would welcome Christ.
A measure of how much we welcome Christ may just be how much we let him change our lives when the dayspring from on high really does break upon us.
To guide us from the present darkness of this world into the light of His kingdom.
Zechariah also understood that it was through the coming of Jesus that the world could know peace, ‘…to guide our feet in the path of peace’ Not just for the peace of Israel but the peace of the world.
As we see the prince of peace born this morning so God invites us for our feet to guided in the paths of peace. To pray for the peace of Israel, but also to pray for all counties and regions where there is no peace. Where there are hostilities and wars.
Jesus, Immanuel, the God who is compassionate and not distant is the Prince of Peace.
We welcome Him as the day spring from on high who breaks upon us on Christmas day, and shines on those living is darkness, wherever and whoever they are, that as we feel the radiance of his brightness so our feet and the feet of all the world may be guided in the paths of peace.
The response which is said before and after the Benedictus during the Advent season which now draws to a close reads:
Like the sun in the morning sky,
The Saviour of the word will dawn
Like rain upon the meadows
The Christ will come down upon us.