MORECAMBE PARISH CHURCH Christmas Day 2016
LUKE 2: 1 – 14
It would be hard to escape the images of Aleppo in the media this Christmas – even if we wanted to. And I think this tragedy which has unfolded before our eyes in Syria has a lot of connections with the Christmas story we’ve had read to us this morning and during the week.
1 People on the move
Firstly people on the move. Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians - men, women and children - with all their belongings on their backs or on carts, waiting for evacuation from the war-zone that Eastern Aleppo had become. Sleeping in the open in freezing temperatures, hungry, anxious and fearful.
It would have been very similar 2000 yrs ago though the scene is not usually depicted like that on Christmas cards. Joseph and his pregnant fiancée Mary would have been on the move with thousands of others, carrying all they needed for the long journey, jostled by the crowd, sleeping out in the open in the cold. Anxious that she didn’t deliver her child till they reached safety.
2 Tyrannical leaders
The second thing these different times in history have in common is tyrannical leaders. The Caesar at the time of Jesus’ birth, Augustus, and his Governor of Syria (note that!) Quirinius have rather a lot in common with the current President of Syria, Asad and the president of Russia, Mr Putin – the desire to dominate and subjugate, caring little for the consequences of a decimated landscape and ruined lives.
3 The lack of welcome
Thirdly, what is striking in the Christmas story is still found in our world today – the lack of welcome to those in dire need.
In Joseph’s case, he found no room at the Inn. Whether you imagine that to be in an outhouse of a local hotel, like Ebenezer’s Inn at our Crib Service last night or, as was more likely, in the space under the house of relatives where the animals were kept warm and safe - because their guest room was full; this couple of dubious morals were not made to feel welcome when Mary was about to give birth to her firstborn.
It is incredible to me that we haven’t allowed that story of un-welcome to pierce our consciences more. Instead, this year the political shifts in this country and the USA have been marked by so much suspicion and vilification, of the immigrant and refugee – the innocent victims of war. Have we forgotten that Jesus was a refugee in Egypt when he was about 2 years old?
4 Those who recognise God among us
If all that sounds a bit depressing on Christmas morning, it is; I make no apologies. We can only really celebrate Christmas, God come among us, if we see what he needed then, and needs now, to come into our world for.
There is light in the darkness, hope in these familiar stories.
There are always some of God’s children who are willing and ready to recognise God’s visitation.
The Shepherds – those at the bottom of the social pile in Jesus’ day - were the least likely in anybody’s mind to be visited by an angel choir and a display of the glory of the Lord! The description has echoes of the glory of God filling Solomon’s Temple 2000 years previously. And it’s happening again but this time out in the fields to these unprepared humble shepherds.
But the Shepherd’s didn’t just sit there and revel in the privilege of such a revelation, they got up off the ground and acted, moved, ‘went with haste to see for themselves’ what it was all about.
And we have seen action in the most dreadful situations over the last weeks and months in Eastern Aleppo. The White Helmets risking their lives to dig people from the rubble after yet another bomb blast. Doctors continuing to tend the wounded with virtually no medical equipment after all their hospitals have been destroyed. People of good will campaigning, urging our politicians to do all they can to broker peace, and many all over Europe and the UK, including Lancaster taking refugee asylum seekers into their homes.
Light, hope, action, peace - demonstrated in the lives of the most ordinary, in the most unexpected quarters – showing that God has come to live with us, to be with us in our mess.
Let us set a place at the table of our hearts for a refugee this Christmas – it may turn out to be Jesus.
- Sue Kiernan