Anne Currie
24th December 2015
Midnight Mass of Christmas

The light that shines in the darkness… and the darkness does not overcome it.

John’s prologue always sends a shiver down my spine… it talks of a God who is global and universal the creator of life and light.

Light is so important to us… without the light of our sun, there would be no life as we know it. Without the heat of a flame… our ancestors would never have kept warm or safe, or invented cooking… just think, Christmas Day without all those foodie treats…

Imagine your journey here tonight without any light to guide you…

Many years ago I was part of a sailing trip to France… 4 smallish sailing dinghies and one ex-RNLI lifeboat, one of the old wooden ones with two pointy ends.

Bad weather had kept us on this side of the channel… and when a window in the storms appeared which would allow us to actually have time in France… it became very obvious that we would have to cross the water at night, in the dark. So we did.

The four little boats towed two by two behind the big boat.

One person in each boat to steer.

One person who kept watch from the stern of the big boat. To make sure that the tow ropes hadn’t broken losing a boat, or to get help if one of the people steering was in trouble.

Sitting in one of the boats in the darkness was a lonely task. 20 miles doesn’t seem far in a car… but that night the English Channel could have been the Atlantic Ocean for all we knew. We very quickly seemed to leave the lights of Ramsgate behind.

Silence all around except for the noise of the big ships engines as they passed us either side. Everyone prayed very hard that night that the crews on watch were keeping a careful eye on their radar screens. Looking for the tiny blip of light…. that was us!

The night pressed in on all sides… except for one light on the stern of the lifeboat. A light shining out in the darkness to guide and to steer by. And beneath that light was always someone watching over us… our guardian angels in the darkness.

For me Jesus is like that person sitting under the stern light… always there… always watching over us… a light in the darkness that can never be put out.

You know, whenever I sit down to write a sermon it’s always the first few sentences that really give me a hard time… staring at a blank piece of paper wondering just where should I start.

No such problem this evening… St John’s prologue is the start of everything! If those amazingly powerful words remind you of the very beginning of the bible… then you are absolutely right! John’s beginning starts right there with the very first words of Genesis… In the beginning.. right at the start of eternity. From ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ to ‘In the beginning was the word’.

St. John is telling us… Jesus did not begin at Bethlehem… not even back in Nazareth nine months beforehand… there never was a time when the Son was not with the Father…

As our galaxy was born and wheeled its way through space Jesus was there

As the continents cooled from molten lava

As the dinosaurs walked the earth

As humans climbed down from the trees

And as a British astronaut shot towards the international space station

Jesus, the Son, was there with the Father, the creator God.

Here and now in the darkest time of the year, we celebrate the time when God the Son came down to earth to dwell amongst us. When the word became light and life in flesh.

Isaiah foretold that God would reveal himself, he would “bare his holy arm before the eyes of all nations”

But it wasn’t a fist he bared to smash an enemy.. but the arm of a baby, born to shine God’s light into the darkest places in the world.

On a night of such rejoicing.. it is a bleak thought that there are so many places in the world that are in deep darkness at present.

I wonder just how many refugees are huddled in a small boat at present… whilst we sit cosily in our candlelit church… struggling to cross the Mediterranean sea… in the darkness… no lights for the them… the smugglers who take all their money and possessions of worth don’t want to be spotted. A dangerous journey made even more so by human greed and cunning. Lets pray that on this night, of nights… against the odds… they arrive safely on shore.

I’m going to ask you now to look up at the roof! It’s just about visible. See the wooden planks and the great struts that support them.

If you turned our church upside down… it would be boat shaped!

Where you are all sitting at present is called the Nave of the church. It’s a Latin word and it means Ship. Just why it’s called that is lost in the mists of time, but could be to do with the upside down church shape resembling Noah’s Ark.

So here we all sit tonight, in our St. Matthew’s Ark… sailing through the night in anticipation of the moment of the Saviour’s birth.

And when that moment comes for us… whether it’s midnight, or at the altar rail during communion or tomorrow when you open your presents with you family or friends…. will we find that Jesus has come with us?

Or, like a boat full of tourists, will we sail up to the manger… have a quick look round and then leave, to come back and maybe visit again next year?

For the heart of the Christmas story is not what you bring, but what you take away… Will you leave here this night with a spark of the light in your soul?

Jesus told us ‘You are the light of the world’ The most powerful witness we can give to the reality of our faith in the child born in that stable 2000 years ago… is to let our light shine into all the dark places of the world, and to do it in his name.

Jesus Christ… the incarnation of God the Father… for every child born and every adult he is the hope that even in the darkest times. God of God, Light of Light! His light shines on and nothing will ever put it out!

Isaiah 52.7-10
John 1.1-14