"Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy. Today a Saviour has been born for you: he is Christ the Lord."

We have just heard from St Luke's Gospel how Jesus was born. Before that we heard the prophecy of Isaiah, who spoke of "a child born for us, a son given to us." In fact "the people that walked in darkness has seen a great light." God "has made their gladness greater, their joy increase." St Paul, writing to Titus, looks forward to the Second Coming, the return of Christ at the end of time. "We are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ." So tonight, we look back with rejoicing to the birth of the Messiah in a stable at Bethlehem, a child laid in a manger, fragile and powerless, while at the same time we look forward to his coming in glory to be our merciful Judge and to inaugurate once and for all the Kingdom of his Father. The Babe of Bethlehem, whom we adore tonight together with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the angels and the whole of creation, is the Saviour who died on a Cross, was raised from the dead and has poured out the Holy Spirit on all who believe him to be the Son of God.

The message of the angels, "Do not be afraid," is what we long to hear tonight, as fear grips the hearts of men, women and children throughout a world torn apart by war, hatred, persecution and terrorism, a world that seems to be spinning out of control and in which we often feel helpless. It was in such a world that Christ was born two thousand years' ago. Had Mary and Joseph not escaped into exile in Egypt as refugees, the baby Jesus would have died at the hands of King Herod in the massacre of the Holy Innocents. Why did God become man in the Virgin's womb? Why was he born, a man like us in all things but sin? Why his Passion, Death and Resurrection? Jesus himself gives the answer: "It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have come to call not the just, but sinners to repentance." We are all sinners and those words apply to us, yet we must look outside ourselves as well as within. It is right to prepare our hearts for Christ to be born again within us. We must commit ourselves to Jesus and the Gospel in a radical way, but he came not only for us, the chosen few as it were but for those who need him most.

Where does Jesus wish to be born tonight? Wherever there is fear and people are terrified, bewildered and confused. Wherever there is suffering and pain, wherever there is death and destruction. Wherever men have turned away from the love of God and hatred has taken possession of their hearts. Wherever there is a lost sheep or a prodigal son. Wherever hope is lost and the light snuffed out. Just as there is no room in the inn for Mary to give birth, so men's hearts are tight shut for fear of Christ knocking at the door and asking to enter. Even so, Christ wants to be born wherever his light is needed, and with it healing and forgiveness, God's mercy that can bring about reconciliation and peace. He longs to be born tonight in the heart of the terrorist and despot, the warmonger and murderer, as well as in the hearts of their victims, the innocent and pure.
Now if Jesus has come to call the sinner to repentance, then it is our duty as Christians to share in his work of forgiveness and compassion. Let us vow tonight, before the altar and the crib, to do all we can to bring the light, hope and peace of Christmas and the truth and joy of Christ's Gospel into the fear and darkness of our world. For God all things are possible: with the gentle power of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Spirit, nothing is impossible. Christ wants all men to be saved and he wants us to do something about it.

"Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy. Today a Saviour has been born for you: he is Christ the Lord."

On behalf of Fr Prior and the monastic Community, I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas.