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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Christmas Day, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
December 25, 2010

Isaiah 52:7-10; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-18

Let light in’

The central figure of Luke’s Gospel enters the narrative while around the event there is anxiety, confusion and forced migration as well as the challenges of everyday life.

Consider the perspective of the shepherds. They observe their usual vigil to ensure the safety of the flocks entrusted to them. Nothing much usually happens in these parts except for the odd predator attempting to take one of their sheep. Certainly there are plenty of foreigners in town on account of the census. They stand apart, looking over the town. But tranquility and normality is disturbed by angels, a star and the sounds of labour as a baby is born, wrapped in cloth and placed in an animal feeding trough.

Suddenly light and heavenly glory is everywhere. This scene can never be forgotten. Things are forever changed yet forever humble. The light has come for those privileged to see it. Light has overcome – despite the darkness: political darkness, spiritual darkness, personal darkness and the darkness of the hour.

“The saviour arrives … He is hidden in the form of poverty and insecurity, a displaced person. Instead of peace and the golden age restored, there is conflict, a trial, a cross and a mysterious new dawn breaking unlike anything that has gone before. He was in the world and the world did not know him. Yet to those who recognise him and trust him, he gives authority (not just ‘power’ …) to become something of what he is – to share in the manifesting of his saving work …

“… He has become flesh. He has come to live as part of a world in which conflict comes back again and again, and history does not stop, a world in which change and insecurity are not halted by a magic word, by a stroke of pen or sword on the part of some great leader, some genius. He will change the world and – as he himself says later in John’s gospel – he will overcome the world simply by allowing into the world the unrestricted force and flood of divine life, poured out in self-sacrifice. It is not the restoring of a golden age, not even a return to the Garden of Eden; it is more – a new creation, a new horizon for us all.

“And it can be brought into being only in ‘flesh’: not by material force, not by brilliant negotiation but by making real in human affairs the depth of divine life and love; by showing ‘glory’ – the intensity and radiance of unqualified joy, eternal self-giving. Only in the heart of the ordinary vulnerability of human life can this be shown in such a way, so that we are saved from the terrible temptation of confusing it with earthly power and success. This is, in Isaiah's words, ‘the salvation of our God’ – not of anything or anyone else.

“For those who accept this revelation and receive the promised authority, what can be done to show [heavenly] glory? So often the answer to this lies in the small and local gestures, the unique difference made in some particular corner of the world, the way in which we witness to the fact that history not only goes on but is also capable of being shifted towards compassion and hope. This year as every year, we remember in our prayers the crises and sufferings of the peoples of the Holy Land: how tempting it is to think that somehow there will be a ‘saviour’ here – a new US president with a fresh vision, an election in Israel or Palestine that will deliver some new negotiating strategy ... It’s perfectly proper to go on praying for a visionary leadership in all those contexts; but meanwhile, the ‘saving’ work is already under way, not delayed until there is a comprehensive settlement” (Rowan Williams).

“I am Suheil from Gaza. This morning, I took my 14-month-old son, Mohammad, for his second visit to the new health clinic run by the Middle East Council of Churches’ Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees. It’s not far from the old clinic, which was bombed on January 10, 2009. That clinic served us for many years, but is now nothing but a block-long pile of rubble.

“The clinic offers services to everyone, but today was one of the twice-weekly Well Baby Clinics. When I came last time, Mohammad had an overall assessment and it was found he is anaemic, like around 40 per cent of the other babies in Gaza. At the clinic, his growth is monitored and we receive food supplements and iron treatment.

I have not worked since 2000 when I lost my job as it was outside the Gaza Strip and access was closed. There are few work opportunities in our region where unemployment is now approaching 80 per cent.

“Thank you, Act for Peace supporters, for helping to build the new clinic and for gifts to provide stocks of medicines. Without the clinic, I would have nothing. I thank God for this assistance. I know that Mohammad’s anaemia will be well cared for” (Christmas Bowl 2010).

The saving work is already under way, not delayed until there is a comprehensive settlement – not delayed until the final reconciliation of all in all.

We may note that the infant Jesus has not yet made a sound. Certainly he would have screamed and cried as all healthy newborns do. But for Luke his mere presence, his entry into our history is enough to change everything. Sometimes that is all we can do also: be present to those who sit in darkness and let God’s light in. Light makes no sound.

In the silence you are invited to come to the altar-table and to take a Christmas card and a coloured marker. You are invited, then, to complete the card and place it in the envelope. It will be delivered to one of our neighbours in Raglan Street. … Amen.