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Is the mulled wine glass half empty or half full?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity


Let’s be honest, not everyone is a party animal. Some of us like sitting in the corner and chatting quietly to a few good friends rather than getting up and throwing a few shapes to Billy Joel or perhaps something more modern. Everyone is different and has a different way of celebrating. If that’s the case, just how should we celebrate Christmas? Can we ever celebrate Christmas together?


Every year, we reheat like an old turkey those familiar arguments that Christmas is too commercial, or isn’t commercial enough, is better with family, or better with friends. It seems that, either way, we forget who the guest of honour is when we go overboard with the frivolity or become too austere and serious that celebrating becomes a chore rather than a joy.

[PAUSE]

We know that Christians have, in the past, banned celebrations of Christmas. No games, no music, no dancing. These are the Christians who hear what St Paul says to St Titus about living soberly, righteously, and godly, and then they enforce a complete ban on any activity that might possibly lead people into sin. Of course, drunkenness can lead to irresponsible and dangerous behaviour. It can lead to alcoholism and be used as a mask to hide real problems. Of course, unrighteousness is never acceptable to God. Of course, we must remember that we are children of God and must live accordingly without sin.

Does this really mean that God hates parties?

[PAUSE]

Where does Our Lord perform His first miracle? What is that miracle?

If God Himself lavishly changes water into wine so that people might truly celebrate a wedding, then He clearly wants His children to be happy with what He has given them. He goes so far as telling us that Heaven is like a great feast. St Paul tells us again and again to rejoice! The fact of the matter is that God has made so much for us to enjoy that we can’t live our lives in hatred of His Creation. God wants us to live and to find joy in Him.

If we’re going to hold a birthday party for God, are we going to give Him a booze up in which everyone ends up blotto and can’t remember Who He is? Are we going to give Him a dull meeting in a whitewashed room where the only food and drink is tap water and dry biscuits, in which we remember Who He is, but don’t enjoy what we’re doing because we are too filled with concern of the sins of the world?

[PAUSE]

It’s Christmas Day! A baby has been born into this sinful world, and for one brief moment it is as if there is no sin, no suffering, no hatred, no sadness, no trouble. A mother lies nursing someone so tiny and small. All is focussed on this present moment as a pair of tiny little eyes gazes into those of His mother, and there is utter joy! Nothing else matters.

The brokenness of this world is precisely the reason why God Himself takes human flesh and rejoices in doing so. It’s okay to put the concerns of this world on the back burner sometimes. God does not forget that we have concerns about the world but knows that we will break if we don’t have the opportunity to lighten up by gazing upon Him. He does not despise our existence but He comes to save each one of us and bring us into everlasting celebrations. He spends His life with us, sometimes eating and drinking in people’s houses, sometimes alone in prayer, rejoicing in both. All that matters to Him is the intimate connection between people and God. It is because He simply adores the sinner that He hates sin so passionately.

Likewise, we should not hate Christmas presents, Christmas parties, and mulled wine but take them and use them to the glory of God at His appearing in the flesh. They are simple means to an end, not an end in themselves. Used carefully, they are things that we use to remind ourselves of God’s abundant love for every single one of us. Of course, we must moderate ourselves, keeping in mind what we are doing and Whom we are celebrating. It doesn’t matter, however, whether we are a party animal or a wall flower, we can be at the same party because we are there for God Himself.

 It’s Christmas Day! We celebrate the birth of Christ at our parties, but we have to remember that He is the One Who comes through the door and shouts, “surprise!” When He does so, are we going to be ready and able to celebrate Him at the party in His honour?

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