May Christ, born of Mary, be born anew in all our hearts this night. Amen
At the recent Epiphany Quiz Night, Christine and I wiped out when it came to Christmas movies. I think we scored about two points on that round. Over the years it is clear we haven’t spent much time watching Christmas movies. That said I have to confess some weakness for the Movie: Love Actually. It came out after we left the UK for Canada and stars Hugh Grant (as many of you will know), as an unmarried British Prime Minister who falls in love with one of his administrative staff. It also stars Keira Knightly, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, the late Alan Rickman and many others I could mention …
The movie isn’t a musical but has many songs, the highlight of which is the Mariah Carey 1993 song of All I want for Christmas is You.
I was reminded of the song last Saturday evening when I was taking two of my grandchildren to meet their mother, who was driving another car. We were headed to their dad’s place of work (he works for the District) as he had been called out for a water main break, which given the weather last weekend was hardly surprising. We had to have the Christmas Music channel on and of course, Mariah Carey was singing her song. Incidentally, as we backed out of the drive my 7-year-old granddaughter was explaining that I could use the back-up camera to see behind me and a little later the 4-year-old suggested I was going the wrong way. In my defence, I was trying to get Hannah’s car in reverse and so the back-up camera had not shown up yet, and although I might have been going the wrong way (which sounds like a line from Planes, Trains and Automobiles) we arrived before Hannah, and thus I might have been going the right but different way.
The Carey song is actually performed in the movie by a young girl (Olivia Olson). It was this car ride with my grandkids and a song linked to a Christmas Movie that started me thinking not about Christmas Movies but my Christmas sermon.
So from there, we move to a hillside outside Bethlehem where shepherds are watching over their sheep. It is dark, it is likely cold and the sheep, being sheep were probably messing around and being difficult. For two thousand years ago the only light came from fires or lanterns or the stars and so dark meant dark for the shepherds who were out on the hills probably huddled around a fire for warmth.
At once an angel or messenger came into their midst and frightened the life out of them. The angel said exactly what had been said to Mary (in the reading we heard last Sunday): ‘Do not be afraid’. Then the angel went on to tell them that good news was being shared with them about a child being born for them in Bethlehem, and this child was the Saviour, the Messiah; the promised one so long expected by the people of Israel. Then the angel told them that the child would be wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. This was extraordinary - the chosen one, the Messiah, was to be found not in a royal palace in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem, and not in palatial surroundings, but wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a trough from which animals would feed.
After the shepherd’s received this message, a multitude of the ‘heavenly host’ proclaimed: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom [God] favours.’
The shepherds probably still in shock and amazement, decided at once to go into Bethlehem, and found the child with Mary and Joseph. It was these shepherds who first witnessed the birth of the Messiah and they went and told everyone they knew what they had heard and seen. Mary, the child’s mother, remembered all that happened that night, treasured and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned to their sheep, praising and glorifying God for all they had seen and heard.
That night the shepherds heard a message that has been shared round the world ever since, and which on this night we gather to hear and share once again with our friends and family at this service and later with those we will see or meet.
For as the shepherds welcomed Jesus Christ into their hearts and lives that night in Bethlehem, we also once again welcome tonight Jesus Christ, the son of God into our hearts and lives. We welcome his light, his joy, his peace. Let us hope and pray that in spite of the challenges of the world, the challenges of our communities, and the challenges of our own lives, we may be encouraged and inspired to live our lives to the full.
I’m glad that Christine’s church is having a Quiz Night coming up and hope there will be questions I can answer as Quiz Night’s make me very competitive, but
I’m sure you’ve never noticed.
In the Mariah Carey song, the line that makes all the difference is: All I want for Christmas is you. It is both the title of the song and the last line of the song … All I want for Christmas is you.
Well with apologies to Mariah Carey, I’d like to add just two words to her song. For these simple words have and will transform our lives and give us hope and purpose in a pandemic. They will support us when we are facing the death of loved ones, or strained relationships in our family, or break-up with our friends. They will comfort us when we are feeling down or less than our best. They will be with us when everything is going well but still life seems flat. When our job is ended or we just clocked up another year of retirement. When we are in school and wondering what the future holds. When we feel lonely or alone. When we crave company when our bubble is small. When we are in quarantine again or can’t see our loved ones at all at this time.
And they will fill us with joy when we are on top of the world and everything is going just fine or just pretty good. There are two words for all time for every human situation we find ourselves in …
Those two words: well they are what Christmas is all about; they are the reason we have Christmas, why we give presents, and greetings and eat special food and take a break from work or routine.
Those words: Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ, All I want for Christmas is you.
Jesus Christ, All I want for Christmas is you.