Return to Index or Sermons
Christmas 1, Year B, C of E gospel, St Mark’s, 29.12.02
Isaiah 61.10-62.3: I will rejoice in the Lord; he will vindicate Zion
Return to Index or Sermons
Gal 4.4-7: God sent his son, born of woman, born under the law; adoption as
Luke 2.15-21: Angels, shepherds, circumcision
Summary: The real joy and work of the Incarnation is in our doing in love all things, big and little, everyday.
In our readings for today there is a sense of great joy and rejoicing. In our reading from Isaiah there is rejoicing in the Lord who will vindicate Zion. In Psalm 148 all creation praises the Lord. In our reading from Luke the very heavens rejoice in the form of angels at the good news of God’s intervention in the birth of Jesus. And in our reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians Paul states that in a real man, born of woman, we have been enabled by God’s Spirit to address God as Father, with all that means with his love, protection and guidance and our calling to show forth his character in the whole of creation, in a role that Paul spells out in Romans 8, when he says:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God ... the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8.20a,21).
Those of you who heard or read Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Dimbleby lecture concerning the emergence of the consumer-driven market state will know how much we need to share our vision of something far beyond our immediate short-term desires and with far greater concerns than those of the market state.
The whole nature of God’s will being incarnated in our world means that the world is good, it is going somewhere, and God will bring it off. The St Mark’s Community Project is not just some bit of do-gooding, it is rather one of the beachheads of incarnating God’s love in our world. But it is not just in the big things, the major projects and issues of the day, but also in the little things, the things that are daily, routine, and humdrum: washing up the dishes, darning socks, scrubbing floors, and dusting the furniture: in all of these, done with loving care, we incarnate God’s love, his shalom, his peaceful good order in the creation.
And it can be quite a comedown from the heady heights of Christmas itself, with the Carol Service, the Christmas Eucharist, and the other festive elements of the season.
I am always reminded of some lines of the poet, W. H. Auden. He wrote A Christmas Oratorio entitled “For the Time Being”, which extends from the Annuciation to Mary to the Flight into Egypt. At the end of all this the Narrator comments, and I would like to read you a bit of it.
|Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes--
Some have got broken--and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Leftovers to do, warmed up, for the rest of the week--
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted--quite unsuccessfully--
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The Streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (Random House, NewYork, 1945). p. 465.
And so, you and I are invited in Christ to make the most of “The Time Being.”