Sermon for Christmas Eve, Holy Communion
By The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
A focus on Bethlehem
Tonight with all the Christmas preparations just about finished the focus turns to a small town called Bethlehem. A small town 6 miles south of Jerusalem and about 70 south of Nazareth.
A town that had been associated with King David for around 1000 years, 300 years by today’s date. David’s ancestor Ruth met Boaz there and David himself was anointed King by Samuel in Bethlehem.
But tonight was to see a very different King born in Bethlehem, a King of the line of David but a very different king nonetheless. Tonight was going to be different; tonight there was going to be a disjoint in history like the world had never seen, or has seen since.
Tonight not just a king, but God himself would be present in Bethlehem. Tonight in Bethlehem the world would see God incarnate.
Bethlehem was an old town. It name in Arabic (Bayt Laam) means ‘House of Lamb’. In Hebrew (Beth Lehem) means ‘House of Bread’.
Tonight the Lamb of God as He would become known, was born. Tonight the Bread of Life Himself would be born in the town named the house of Lamb and Bread.
Tonight, the good news was that mankind could have a fresh start. No more a God hovering over the waters as He had done in Genesis but a God who intervenes directly in the world by His incarnational presence out of love for the world. God united with the world of all humankind and the world of all humankind united with God.
Things were going to be different from now on as everyone was offered the opportunity of a fresh start in their relationship with God through the Messiah who was born in Bethlehem. This is the ultimate good news of Christmas.
This was a king born of the line of David but he was not known as the son of Joseph, but the son of Mary, because not only was he of the line of David, He was of the line of God through the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary.
It would take time for the world to understand the full impact of what was happening. There were ripples in creation which testified to this being a special night. An angel appeared to the shepherds, the lowest of the low and told them what was happening. A star guided kings from far off lands to the House of Bread, the House of the Lamb in an unprecedented manner. Tonight was different, but it would take the world a while to understand the full impact.
When we open our presents tomorrow, or perhaps even later tonight, for some of them will be immediately obvious what they are and what we do with them. Others it may take us a while to fully understand the instructions and get the most out of them, often that’s part of the enjoyment (or frustration) of them.
With Christ, the bread of life, the lamb of God, we can understand some of what he offers immediately, a fresh start and a renewed relationship with God. Other aspects will take us years to understand and work out in our lives.
We too should expect ripples in our lives as the incarnate God works in us day by day.
But we too will need to wait for a while, allowing God to work in our lives before we fully understand the full reality of God coming to live with us, starting off in a stable at the back of an inn in a town called by the Jews ‘the House of Bread’. As we empty ourselves of ourselves so we know more of His full union with us.
Tonight, as we eat of the bread of life as a memorial of what Christ has done for us, we remember the one born in the House of Bread so that through His life, death and resurrection He might bring the Good News of God salvation plan to us all. Giving ourselves to Him, as He gave Himself to us as the lamb of God and bread of life in the house of lamb and bread at Christmas.