Rev. Rosemary Webb
31st December 2017
The World Needs Peace

I preached on this passage exactly a year ago, and I started by saying ‘I was going to start by wishing you a Happy New Year, but on second thoughts, I think I would rather wish you a peaceful 2017’. Sadly I don’t think my hopes came true, I know things could have been worse, but for so many people in the world it was an awful year, and as we look ahead for many the prospect doesn’t look any better. I just pray that that baby who lost his eye in an attack on his home in Syria will be allowed to be evacuated to Damascus and receive the treatment he needs and indeed deserves, to save his eyesight. Sadly he is only one of millions of people suffering as a result of peoples constant inhumanity to each other.

Tonight is New Years Eve, in fact it won’t be long before the television channels are showing the first place to be welcoming in the New Year. Fireworks will be let off, there will be singing and drinking, it will be as if the people in that crowd have achieved something, I know I must be sounding like an old misery but why are they doing it? Is it relief that the old year has ended, are we somehow trying to forget all that happened in the last twelve months?

Yes, tomorrow is New Year’s Day, but in the churches calendar we celebrate the Naming and Circumcision of Christ. Mary and Joseph may have been chosen by God to be his earthly parents, but they did not think themselves above the Law. In the book of Genesis God commanded that all Israelite males be circumcised when He established the covenant with Abraham, ‘for it is written “And God said to Abraham: As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations; an Infant of eight days shall be circumcised, and my covenant shall be in your flesh for a perpetual covenant’. When Mary agreed to be the mother of God she accepted that she was obeying The Law, and would bring Jesus up according to the Law.

On that day he was also named Jesus, as the angel Gabriel had told them, which means ‘The Lord Saves’ telling us that Jesus is the one through whom God’s love will embrace the whole world. He is God made flesh, he is still first and foremost the Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth

Obeying the Law was I think more than just obedience, it was showing how Jesus was a sign, as John said in his Gospel, Jesus was the Word who was in the world from the beginning, that everything which had been foretold in the Old Testament was true. It was of course also a reminder to the Jewish people that they were the chosen people and as such they were to serve and obey God, not just in the time of Abraham but for evermore. A reminder, as we move into the New Year that God is truly eternal he was and is and will be, that nothing we say or do will change that.

New Year is a time of new hopes. It is a time for resolutions, when we say, Happy New Year, we don’t just mean tomorrow, it is a wish to those we greet that 2018 will be peaceful, good and creative. We may personally wish to do some things differently ourselves, we may hope and pray that world leaders, our politicians will stop shouting loudly and truly think what they are saying and doing.

If they seek to lead they should remember that they should be seeking to work for the good of all, not uttering statements which they hope will be the most eye catching, the one the media will fall for. They must remember that those who call themselves Christian must not call for hatred and discrimination, but remember Christ’s words that is easy to love those who love us, but that we must also love those who hate us, which doesn’t mean liking what they do, but remembering that we are all children of the one God. Jesus’ journey which started last week resulted on Good Friday with him on the Cross calling for God to forgive his killers for ‘they know not what they do’.

Last weekend people rejoiced at the birth, sadly for many that is church over for another year, I’m not saying they do not believe in God but they do not see the need to proclaim the Good News, to spread the Gospel, that somehow the world will take care of itself.

But sadly we know that the world cannot take care of itself, my lifetime has seen many evil rulers, in Europe Hitler and Stalin two prolific murderers, in Asia Mao indeed while I think the horrors of Hitler are well known in this country the fact that Stalin and also Mao each killed more people during the horrors of the cold war isn’t. They killed people because they didn’t like them, We all have a right to freedom of speech.

So if we are going to join in the cheering and shouting tonight, let it be because we are determined to rid our world of cruelty, that we are determined to make the words of Jesus known, that his message of love, of helping become a byword for the world.

Let us remember that in the early Church, the Apostles continued their ministry in the name of Jesus, the risen One. We need to really teach that faith in Jesus gives us the strength to cope, we may still have problems but when we know that Jesus is at our side we can cope. I think when Jesus healed the man with paralysis he was showing that he can remove that fear which can cripple hinder us, that faith in him will give us that feeling of love, joy and hope and we will know we can succeed.:

So let us cheer and shout tonight if we so wish, as we give thanks that Emmanuel is among us – that God is with us. And if we are going to make resolutions about changes to our life, let us not chose challenges which we know we cannot keep but let us resolve to make the change that really matters and that is to make a commitment to follow this baby. Our Saviour. To look afresh at our relationship with him and perhaps put in place, instead of the usual going on a diet, running a mile each day, a decision to make sure that we have time for our spiritual nourishment, to make sure that we always have enough time to stop and listen to God, and to pray that the whole world may come to see his light shining in the dark, that love not envy and hatred will become the key to all people’s lives. That tyrannical murderers will not again rule the world and that most importantly as Christians we set an example by showing love to all.

Luke 2: 15-21