Christmas Eve 2016

Early this morning, during the Vigils of Christmas Eve, a single voice sang out into the darkness the Martyrology or Christmas Proclamation, situating the birth of Jesus Christ in place and time. It is a haunting chant, and its singing is attended with a simple but moving ceremeny as two large gilt candlesticks are placed beside the lectern to mark the solemnity of the moment. After the Martyrology, we kneel in silence, for with the coming of the Word of God, human words are exposed for what they are — inadequate, unnecessary.

Why do we do this? After all, we are a very small community. Couldn’t we just settle for another reading from one of the Fathers of the Church and abandon this ancient tradition which requires some effort to maintain? We could; but if we did, we might lose sight of something important. The birth we celebrate tonight took place two thousand years ago in a troubled country under less than ideal circumstances to a couple who must have been exhausted, both mentally and physically. It wasn’t warm and cosy. I daresay the stable was dirty and smelly and Joseph was terrified at the thought of playing impromptu midwife to Mary, while she was wishing her mother could be with her as she underwent this new and painful experience of giving birth. In other words, the Martyrology reminds us that God works through very imperfect situations, using very imperfect circumstances and people we might think wholly unsuitable. The strange thing is, his purposes are achieved, perfectly.

Today, if we can, let’s try to find a moment or two of silence in the midst of all our busyness to take in this great fact. Christ must be born in our hearts through faith; and it doesn’t matter if we think our faith weak and wobbly or we are distracted with the arrangements we need to make for our Christmas celebrations. God can cope with all that, just as he coped with the messiness of Christ’s birth. Our salvation matters too much to him to let any obstacles get in the way.

For Bro Duncan PBGV Fans
Last year Bro Duncan wrote the Christmas Eve blog. You can still read it here.

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6 thoughts on “Christmas Eve 2016”

  1. It may sound a bit strange but reading this post has re-energised me to face the pre-Christmas preparations with new vigour. I was feeling a bit like Martha this morning (‘cumbered with serving’) but I am now ready to roll again. Thank you for this. I hope all at Holy Trinity have a truly happy Christmas in every way.

  2. Thank you Dame Catherine. Perhaps at they time you were completing this service, I might have been on the road to the shops (6 am) to get our weekly shop (always on a Saturday) and with no concessions to Christmas Fayre. We prefer a simple Christmas, and with my dietary limitations, is means just plain food.

    But I was thinking about the Birth of Christ as I drove and wandered around the store in a routine which is familiar (unless they change the layout) focused on Christmas Eve and all that it portends. I don’t pretend that it was prayer or even reflection, just pondering on all of those there at the early hour, filling their trolleys with drink, chocolate, and all sorts of (for us) exoctic goodies.

    It reminded me of Jesus coming for the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, the prisoners and even the children, while we’re buying as if there is no tomorrow, millions are starving or refugees or fleeing for their lives. I wonder what he thinks of our excess?

    I suspect that I might have been alone in this, because people brushed past me in a hurry, while I meandered on slowly on my on private journey.

    Sometimes we need to stop and think of why we are here – and what we should be doing for others, rather than worrying about how successful a Christmas we will have.

    Perhaps I’m becoming even more of a curmudgeon than I already am – but Christmas Excess does seem so wasteful, when it should be a simple, celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

  3. The image of the candlesticks and your small devoted community kneeeling, in awe and with humility, knowing that something, someone quite beyond, and at the same time (paradoxically) utterly intimate, is emerging into presence – this I liked very much & will hold in my heart this day.

    A deep bow of thanks on this day of celebration to you and to your community.

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