Midnight Mass in St. George’s ChapelDecember 24, 2007 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Christianity, Christmas, Christmas Day, Equality, Equity, Faith, Frohe Weihnachten!, God Jul!, Gospel, Joyeux Noël!, Justice, Merry Christmas!, Nadolig Llawen, Priceless, Religion, Timeless | 1 Comment
My first Eucharist of Christmas 2007 was at the same time as the 4pm Christmas Pageant we used to participate in at our parish in California. As the children and I were saying “Peace be with you” to each other and our neighbours in the ‘naval’ seats on this side of the Atlantic near midnight, we were thinking of our friends on the Pacific coast of America entering church with their families, ready for their Christmas Eve celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Time itself is fascinating. Timezones are interesting. Timelessness and forevermore are qualities of God. We can only attempt to imagine what a life with a different time sense—or a timeless effect—would mean. Humans like to assign fixed numbers to things (including other humans!), and often we assume others interpret time, and assess the value of things, the same way we do. Travelling helps us realise that the world is not as clear cut as we’d like to think. Certainly, God is not limited in this way!
The same points made about time could be applied to our concept of value: it is fascinating, and human valuations of items are interesting as they vary with location, culture, circumstances and over time.
Our sermon tonight was on this business of the value of each and every human life, and these are a few points that I recall for you now:
Since this service of Midnight Mass was attended by people from all walks of life, our preacher drew us together on the one thing all members of the congregation had in common: pure joy at the safe delivery of a baby, and the desire to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without the birth of Jesus, our diverse community would not have been gathered together to celebrate at all—we are not members of a parish who would congregate regularly in this place for any other reason!
Coming to the centre of Windsor town, from near and afar, by car, coach, train and foot, we all had our own unique personal reasons for being in St. George’s Chapel this night. The common thread was that, just as people the world over celebrate at the birth of a child, God celebrates the birth of every human being too.
We do not wait to find out how the child turns out as an adult, and whether we judge him worthy of it, before we give him our love. It is natural to offer limitless love to newborn babies. Just as we manage to do that for those near and dear to us, God offers his unlimited timeless love to each and every human being, and continues that gracious outpouring of love—it is timeless, just like God.
Pricelessness and equality are honours that God bestows on each and every one of us, regardless of our situation, location, time, position, morality, power and wealth. Every human being that ever was, is and shall be, is priceless and, at the same time, of equal value to God. So, Christians need to treat every person with dignity, equality and justice wherever and whenever that baby was born, as a child of whomever in whatever culture, citizenship and faith he or she happened to be born into.
The Nativity sets the scene for the situation Jesus was born into: the bands of cloth He was wrapped in, and the manger He was laid in, were significant because they showed that His parents were not in their home at the time of His birth. They were travellers, due to Emperor Augustus’ requirement that all the world should be registered in their “own towns” which really meant their ancestral homes. So, Joseph and Mary (who was being registered with him) had to travel from their home town of Nazareth to the city of David, known as Bethlehem, because Joseph was a descendant of the family of David.
Here’s the Gospel we heard for Christmas Day, where ‘on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ means peace to every human being: not just the morally upright ones, nor the holy ones, nor the clever ones, nor the rich ones, but every one:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no placed for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’