Monday 25 December - Christmas Day - Eucharist - Markus Duenzkofer

Happy Christmas!

Welcome to all of you, whoever you are wherever you find yourself on the journey!

And a journey it has been for all of us, a journey of life as much as a journey this morning to get up on Christmas Day, get dressed, and to come here, joining shepherds and angels, who have also sojourned to the manger, to the abundant love of God born among us.

And like those magi from the East, mysterious men and maybe even women, none of us comes empty handed. I hope you have all brought your myrrh, and frankincense, and, of course, your gold, which we will collect from you on your way out. After all, we have a building project to finish…

But joking aside. We all have indeed journeyed here with our own presents: big and small, valuable and maybe less so. We have shoulder our bags filled with hopes and expectations, with worries and suspicions, with dreams and disappointments. And we have packed suitcases full with gifts wrapped in remembrances, good ones and bad ones. There is a lot we bring today.

And so do our children. They are here with presents too.

And I would now like to invite you now to come forward to sit with me.

[At this point in the service the children are called up and sit in a circle in front of the altar. There will then be a conversation with the children about the presents they have received and brought.

After which the sermon continues.]

Presents and gifts. It is as much part of the traditions of Christmas as carols and Christmas trees, as ivy, holly, and mistletoe. And these traditions are good. The tradition of present-giving can remind us that on Christmas we have been given the greatest gift of all: the gift of love, God’s incarnate love - for us to cradle, to caress, and to nurse.

And in return we can come to Bethlehem with our own gifts, whatever these gifts might be. Real gifts. And not so real ones. Presents intended to delight the ones we love. And also presents that have been gifted to us that we’d rather not regift, but that we very much would like to get rid off as quickly as possible: The anxiety caused by illness, loneliness, grief or worry, for example; or the chaos and injustices of our political landscape, still marked by austerity, Brexit, and discussions about independence; or the threat of the environmental crisis; or the fear of being rejected for who or what we are; or even the doubts about God and the very story we are here to celebrate. Whatever the gifts, they are welcome here. It is what we bring. It is who we are and what moves our hearts. It is what the new-born invites us to leave in the stable: Everything we bring we can lay down at the manger, so that we are no longer distracted, no longer blinded by anything but the smile of that baby born of our sister Mary.

Many centuries ago, a prophet spoke words of deep truth during a time of societal unrest and worry, during a deep night in the life of God’s people. The prophet Isaiah promised that a child would be born for us – not just because it pleased God so to do, but also because it is God’s gift for us, for each and every one of us.

And it is a gift that will change us as it is already changing the world, because it is counter-cultural, unexpected, and even absurd. And Isaiah prophesied about the absurdity of this eternal gift:

God’s gift for us is to leave at the manger everything we bring and to receive God’s love instead.

I hope we will come, childlike, with open minds, open hearts, and open hands to receive.

For our sake.

And for the sake of the world.

Happy Christmas.