Bishop Paul’s Christmas sermon given during the midnight service at the Cathedral
In his Christmas Sermon Bishop Paul speaks about the need to consider again the grace and truth that Jesus brings to our world, if we are to find a way to go forward confidently together as a nation into 2019
“Ten days ago I was at St Andrew’s Church in Skegby as wide-eyed children acted out the story that will have been retold many times over in churches, schools and nurseries across the county these past few weeks.
Though I doubt there’s ever been such a well-behaved baby-Jesus in five centuries of nativities in Skegby as 15-day old baby Iris. She lay quiet and still in the manger through all the noisy comings and goings of angels, shepherds, wise men, and even a dancing donkey. No amount of commotion was going to wake Iris.
What a gift to be able to sleep through a commotion – may be someone in your household is famous for sleeping through part of the festivities on Christmas afternoon too.
When it comes to the struggles and setbacks and heartbreaks we face in life, it would certainly be easier if we could just sleep through the pain and frustration and wake up to find everything sorted and settled.
What if you could sleep through the New Year and wake up on the 30th of March to find that Brexit had all worked out just fine:
The pound had responded very favorably to the entirely amicable deal we came to with the EU, supported unanimously by all parties within parliament. And what if communities across Nottinghamshire marked that day by celebrating the diverse cultures and creativity that enriches our nation, with those from EU countries as honoured guests?
Call me a dreamer, but we must pray for a solution that unites people across our nation and opens up new possibilities to contribute to a global vision of peace for all people. That was the song of angels on the hillside above Bethlehem, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
For those Shepherds it was no time to sleep so they hurried quickly to Bethlehem to see the pure source of everlasting peace in the face of a newborn.
The real wonder of this Holy Night is that God took on the fullness of our humanity – sleeping, eating, working, playing, growing tired and weary, laughing and partying, feeling sad and alone, abandoned and betrayed.
There is no part of our humanity that Jesus did not inhabit, except that his closest followers said he was without sin. In his Gospel John says he came “from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus wasn’t afraid to say tough things to people. He exposed the truth about the destructive power of sin and selfishness. Yet Christians believe that Jesus was also full of amazing grace. Through his death on the cross he has opened up a pathway to forgiveness and the possibility of being reconciled with others across the most yawning divides.
The birth of the Christ child rings a bright bell of hope in a world woefully short of grace and truth. And it’s needed as much today as it was a hundred years ago.
This year we’ve commemorated the end of the First World War, remembering how unbelievably precious every life is.
Though the future of our world feels as uncertain as it was in 1918, we can move towards the New Year with an unshakable hope, not trusting in our own resourcefulness or resilience, but wide-awake to the riches of God’s grace and truth, without which our society inside or outside the EU will stumble in the dark.
So I conclude with the words of a poem that the Queen has often quoted. It was first shared by her father, King George VI in his Christmas broadcast back in 1939:
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’
We don’t need to stumble in the darkness of uncertainty or hide in the shadows of our worse fears. you can chose this holy night to place your life in the hand of God, who will surely guide you and keep you this Christmas and New Year, and lead our nation in the ways of justice and peace for all people.”