This morning we gather as God’s family in this parish and as part of the larger family of God throughout the world. We gather round the crib of our Saviour, the infant Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.
We welcome visitors.
If you are alone or lonely you are doubly welcome. Many of us are like that.
If, deep down within you, where others can’t see, you are unhappy in some way - be consoled, come and join us.
Perhaps you are struggling with something in your life - a demon, maybe. Or perhaps you are struggling in your marriage, in a relationship, family. The babe of Bethlehem welcomes you.
If you have some darkness within you - a guilt, a shame, a sinfulness, a mortal wound known only to you – whisper your sorrow to the child in the manger, he loves you and will not reject you - he stretches out his arms and embraces you.
Today we gather, just as we are, with all our hurts and sins and brokenness, around the crib of a little child. We contemplate his face. It is the face of God made visible in a human child - a God who calls us to repentance, healing and holiness. He came in human flesh 'so that sins might be forgiven'.
We don’t always appreciate that a baby is the greatest blessing that can ever come to earth - and the greatest joy that has ever come to creation is the birth of this baby - Jesus - the human child who brings us the life of God.
And so we gather around his crib. We are the people the prophet Isaiah speaks of in the first reading - The people that walked in darkness … those who live in a land of deep shadow. For us all tonight, whatever and whoever we are, a light has shone. We have seen a great light.
It’s a paradox, really, that this child, who is the light, can only be truly appreciated and understood by those who are in touch with their own darkness, their own littleness and need. But it's always been like that. Sinners understand forgiveness best, like sick people understand healing. They are the ones who, like moths drawn to a lantern, are truly able to appreciate the light they are being drawn to.
It was the tax collectors and the prostitutes, who lived in the dark, who were drawn to Jesus. The respectable ones were not. They were already bathing in the splendour of their own so-called light.
Today the darkness is all around us. Sometimes the world seems to be on the brink of disaster. But tonight is a night for rejoicing - and only those who see the darkness may rejoice - they are the only ones who have a reason to rejoice – because the light has come into the world.
God has come down into the world - not just to be with us - but that we might be with him. He is not here to be looked at and admired but to be lived. He does not want to appear in little cribs but in human hearts.
If you find yourself attracted to this child but are holding back because of sin, if you want so much to embrace him but know yourself to be unworthy somehow, then why not resolve here and now to do your best to change. Let the Sacrament of Reconciliation rediscover the innocent child of God within you. It's not hard. It's not hard at all. Look how effortlessly the light pushes away the darkness.
And then you can embrace him in Holy Communion and be entirely one with him again - two children, playing together.
In this child God's grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race, and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.
I wish you all a merry Christmas! May the Christ child reign in your families and in your hearts.