Rev. Andrew Cunnington
24th December 2020
Looking In All The Wrong Places

You’ll never believe it, but I have been looking in all the wrong places.

I’ve tended to follow the wise men most Christmases – you know go up to Herod’s palace – thinking that’s where you’d find any king worth his salt.

I never found him there of course. But I love the way Herod had things organised. He’d click his fingers and the servants would come running. He’d climb on his special chair and everyone would stop what they were doing and listen to him. Herod was a man in control and I rather warm to that.

But this year, the palace is silent and peeping through the windows, there’s Herod in his finery just standing there alone. Mot a servant in sight. All on furlough I guess, leaving him in control of nothing.

So I did go down into the town – because there was talk of an inn, wasn’t there. And I had in the past found a rather brilliant little tavern. Everyone crowded into together. Real ale, turkey dinner, with all the trimmings. Little gift for each punter, nice touch, and then after the food, the singing and dancing was out of this world.

Never found Jesus there either, actually. There was talk of a stable, but I never ventured out into the cold to see about that. Sometimes you just want to close the door on the outside world and hunker down in a good place.

But this year, the inn is closed. There is a window round the side where you can get a take away coffee or a slice of festive pizza, but that’s your lot. Poor show if you ask me.

So I thought, given all the travel restrictions, maybe there was no journey to Bethlehem at all this year and they’d all stayed at home in Nazareth where the birth of the Son of God would be a little less traumatic.

Neighbours and friends to whet the baby’s head and bring their gifts of knitted cardigans and dainty little booties. All lovely and homespun.

Found the place. Knocked on the door. Bad tempered man comes thundering out. “you’re looking for what? You’re looking for who?

How many times do I have to tell you people. This is a private house. He has never lived here!

Jesus Christ. Not at home! Not in the wild celebrations of a good old festival! Not in the place of human control.

If not there, then where would I find him.

Our Christmases had become crowded out times hadn’t they. The palaces and the inns and the homesteads, of our lives. Places where, if he’s lucky, the new born king might be invited into his own corner, so long as he sits and behaves himself, that’s fine.

But now we find ourselves with space, uncomfortable space.

To discover – the birthplace of Christ in none of that out there, but the one thing that cannot be taken away this Christmas is the one place where he is. Inside here, in our hearts.

I don’t know how you would begin to imagine such a thing – a stable inside you.

Maybe it’s a bit like this one in the end.

Everyone is as still as statues here. Quiet as mice.

I wonder if you were there – how long you’d be prepared to stay and whether you’d be the first one to cough and look at your watch.

“Well – lovely to be here, but another day, another dollar you know”

See you again sometime and to be striding off into the night back to the palaces the inns and the homes of our lives.

This year can we not just give ourselves a bit more time to be in his presence without an action plan to follow subsequently.

This year, the past feels like another world, and the future is unfathomable. All there is, is this birth, happening in your heart.

Neither Mary or Joseph or the shepherds or the wise men had any idea what would happen next. They were content to be in the place of the holy birth and let the grace falling from heaven in this moment become their compass, their calendar and their timepiece.

I think we have to step into that place with them and watch and see what unfolds.

The stable in our hearts, his birthplace within – enough for Him, why can’t it be enough for us.

Into this stable comes all our fears and weaknesses. Into this stable comes all our strengths and gifts. Into this stable comes all the hopes that have been dashed this year and all the new openings that we cannot conceive of.

Far from being cancelled – this Christmas leaves us with no alternative but to at last find the place – where He has been all along.

What mugs we all are. Looking in the wrong place.

ISAIAH 9: 2, 6-7
JOHN 1: 1-14