Christmas – Midnight Mass – Sermon 326

23rd December 2019 Off By Derek
  • Christmas – Midnight Mass
  • 11.00 pm Tuesday HC CW
  • 24th December 2019

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thought of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ                               AMEN


What do we find wonderful and exciting about Christmas? – The decorations – the party atmosphere – the rich food – the holidays off work – being with our family and friends? –

If you ask many families what they think makes their Christmas enjoyable and exciting – they will probably answer – the children – seeing their faces light up as they open their presents – giving and sharing time with them –

Having children in our homes can help make things special – having one child in particular – can change our lives

Point 1        The Shepherds and the Birth

Many Christians at this time of year turn to St Luke’s Gospel for the Christmas story –

Luke alone tells us the story of Mary and the Angel’s visit to her and gives us the wonderful Magnificat – the story of Simeon’s hymn of praise giving us the Nunc Dimitus –

And Luke alone tells us the story of the Angels appearing to the shepherds and how they visited the infant Jesus

And what makes it so amazing is that Luke is not a Jew but a Gentile –

All these expected events were unexpected and unique – and it’s the story of the shepherds and the birth of Jesus that our Gospel reading this evening concentrates –

Imagine then being a shepherd in the fields – bright lights suddenly appearing – singing everywhere!  What’s going on?

Most people never get to see angels – or at least those of the non-human kind – let alone hear them – but I would imagine that being ‘afraid’ or even ‘terrified’ would have been an understatement of what they actually felt at the time –

‘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

The people of Israel had been longing to hear of the arrival of the Messiah – the prophecies of Isaiah –  promised the Jews – that He would come – at a time when God would intervene –  on their behalf –  and the whole world would see God’s glory – 

and here the angel’s message – had proclaimed – to the shepherds – that this moment had come – that God’s salvation has broken into the world –

We can only assume that these poor shepherds – like other Palestinian Jews at the time – would have known what a Saviour –  A Messiah – a Lord –  meant – and that what they saw and were being told about – was not only something special –  but something they – would have – to act upon –

‘you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth – lying in a manger’ –

The manger of course – was a feeding trough – for animals –

Luke’s story and Christmas cards tell of the couple searching for accommodation in Bethlehem – and being turned away from the Inn and having to stay and sleep with animals –

The word for Inn in the traditional translation has several meanings – and although it could have been a stable where they stayed – because Jewish houses of the time – kept their animals in at night on the ground floor while they slept upstairs –it could also have been the ground floor of a house.

The manger – or feeding trough for the animals – would come in handy when Mary was looking for something to use as a cot for her new-born son –

There is no mention that the shepherds brought sheep with them – but seeing the child in that feeding trough would have confirmed to the shepherds – that this was the baby the angels were talking about –  and that what they were telling them – was the truth –

The arrival of the shepherds that night would also have been extra conformation for Mary and Joseph about who the child really was – which up to now would have been their own secret –

Unlike the other Gospels – Luke gives us these details – to remind us that the birth of this little boy – God’s Son – was in poor and basic surroundings – that he was to be looked after by an ordinary family who could only afford or find a place with the animals – who was heralded but recognized and acknowledged – not by Kings as in Matthew’s gospel – but by shepherds – 

The story with the shepherds – is also a link to King David – a shepherd boy – who became a King – and into whose dynasty – this child had been born –

He is to become the shepherd of mankind – his ministry would not be amongst the rich or wealthy – but the poor and marginalized –

He would bring salvation – not to those who think they can buy it- or have a right to it – but to those who are prepared to humbly kneel before God – and accept it – accept Him as their Saviour.

The shepherds made known what had been told to them about this child – and all who heard were amazed – They returned glorifying and praising God – about all they had heard and seen – as it had been told to them –

Point 2        Jesus came to save us all

Cast your minds back a few years now – to when an advertising campaign – was introduced which preceded the launch of the National Lottery – and which caused quite a controversy – at the time

A giant hand hovering over the roof tops – of a town – before finally – a finger reaching down to single out one household – as the lucky winner of the jackpot – ‘It could be you’.

The suggestion was that the hand of providence – might one day select us – to receive a fortune – but of course for 99.99% of us it didn’t – and most of us will have spent a considerable amount of money – with little or no gain from it –

Contrast this then with the events of Bethlehem –

here – is the promise of no money on earth – but riches in heaven – a prize not merely for this life – but for eternity – the greatest gift ever offered – 

And yes this is not a lottery – dependent on the whim of fate – the message of the angels – is quite simple – It’s not ‘it could be you’- but ‘It is you’

The promise of God in Christ – his gift of new life with everything that it means – is not reserved for the exclusive few – or dependent on any quirk of chance – it’s ours for the taking – It’s waiting there simply for us to claim it – for someone –to accept it –

How many times have we watched in amazement – as young children open their presents – at Christmas – take a quick look at what’s inside – and then start to play with the paper or the box –

Do we ever stop to wonder then – what God must think of us – when we – spend so much time playing with our Christmas wrappings – and sometimes ignore the real gift – the real reason – behind it all –

Some modern large glass buildings – have a picture of a bird in flight – on their large glass sections – to stop birds flying into the glass and killing themselves –

It seems that the only thing that will persuade birds to change direction – is to see one of their own kind – doing the same – 

Well – God wants us to change our direction – and follow His – and for years He has tried to communicate with us – through miracles and prophets – and has been ignored – Until finally God decided to come down as one of us – and helps us to change – 

God sent His Son Jesus – to come and tell us about Himself – and to show us what He is like and what He wants – us to become 

In Jesus God shows us too – that He is prepared to experience every aspect of our lives –

He came into the world as a baby – the most vulnerable time of our lives – and God chose a poor family – from one of the most oppressed peoples of the world – to bring Him up – it’s certainly not the start we would have chosen – for the King of kings –

Jesus came to be a true example of God’s grace –

an illustration of God’s nature – and a blueprint for us to copy and follow

He came to live – and experience – our disappointments – our failures – to help us to see God at work even in our most difficult times –

He came to express God’s love in the most needed places  – to heal the sick – give sight to the blind – enable the lame to walk – put His life on the line – in order to show us that He understands and cares for our individual needs –

Jesus was sent – to die for us on the cross – so that we can see the true cost of our sins – and to offer us forgiveness – paid for by His own blood

We celebrate Christmas and the gift of Jesus in a manger – but its not the manger that gives us the restored relationship with God – it’s Jesus Himself

Jesus gave everything for us – so that we could receive everything from God –

Point 3         What God wants from us

A little boy was with his Father – at church looking curiously at the Nativity scene – “Dad – look at the manger – is Father Christmas there? – “No” said his Father – it’s the shepherds worshipping Jesus – remember we told you – that Christmas is really about – a celebration of Jesus’ birth –  The boy thought for a moment – and then asked another question   Dad – “What are we doing for Jesus’ birthday this year?”

The shepherds were told about Jesus and came to see who He is – and the most important thing we can do for Him – this Christmas – is do the same –

In our Christmas celebrations – we might be warmed by the accounts of the Christmas story and Jesus’ birth – His life and ministry –

But God wants more – He wants us to be one of His people – and to become part of His Kingdom –     

In life we all draw our own – circle of experience and activity – And when we are asked to step outside that circle like the shepherds we can feel anxious – sometimes afraid – but we too must be ready to respond to the coming of the Christ child and let ourselves be used by God – for His purposes-

If God can change the world through one small child – maybe with His help He can make a big difference to our lives as well


So are we excited about Christmas this year? – will Christmas herald in a new beginning in our lives. 

Many people believe Christmas is about children – it is – it’s about the children of God – you and me – and our relationship with Him – God calls us –like the people in Luke’s Christmas story – to accept our part in His revelation – and to receive Him and respond in faith as they did – to tell our story and experiences of the Christ Child –

God’s gift of Jesus is an event that happened in our history – through God’s love – and grace – and for our salvation – and all He asks us to do – is – accept it with love and like the shepherds – to get involved and wonder at it all –

Prayer    AMEN