Christmas Day 2017

"From his fullness we have all received grace in return for grace, for grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ."

This morning we come together to thank God for the birth of his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, begotten of the Father before time began, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, a man like us in all things but sin. We have prepared for Christmas by faithfully keeping Advent, the season of hope and consolation. We have heard the message of the prophets. We have prayed earnestly for his Second Coming. We have longed to celebrate the feast of his Nativity, praying that he prepare in our hearts a crib in which to lie and there fill our lives with grace and truth. Today we see lying in the manger "the radiant light of God's glory, the perfect copy of his nature," that's how the letter to the Hebrews puts it, he who "sustains the universe by his powerful command," who having "destroyed sin, has gone to take his place in heaven at the Father's right hand."

The new-born babe we kneel to adore is God made man, in the words of Charles Wesley's hymn, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity, pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel." In Jesus, God is with us in a new and unexpected way. St Irenaeus wrote, "The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He Himself is." God's plan for us is far greater than we can hope for or imagine. It's totally mind-blowing. That God should become what we are in order that we might become what he is, shows us the unfathomable riches of God's love. In the Incarnation, God opens his heart to us and Jesus reveals the naked truth about God: that He is love and that his love for us is absolute and unconditional.

At this season, of course, what with cards and cribs, Nativity plays and carol services, it's easy to get sidetracked into a romantic haze about Christmas without any real theological or historical depth. This is not a criticism, for such things do contain elements of truth. The real poverty of the Child in the manger, for example, has little to do with the picturesque circumstances surrounding his birth. Rather it is the fact that this Child is God, God who lays aside his divinity to take upon himself the condition of sinful humanity, the Lord who becomes a servant, the Creator who enters fully into the fragility of creation and throughout his life on earth experiences the vulnerability and precariousness of human life, from being a foetus in his mother's womb and a new-born baby in swaddling bands to being taken prisoner, tried, scourged and condemned to death, crucified and buried in a tomb. All this he did for love of us, to save us from eternal damnation; to reconcile us with himself; to open for us the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven; to wrap us eternally in his embrace. Such is the loving mercy of God. In 2nd Corinthians St Paul writes, "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."

This morning we join Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the angels, indeed the whole of creation, in worshipping and adoring the Christ Child, recognizing him to be our God and Saviour, the Word through whom all things were made, the Light that darkness cannot overpower, the Source of grace and truth.

On behalf of Fr Prior and the Monastic Community, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas.