Your basket
Your basket
0 items - £0.00

Personal tools

Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Sherborne Sermons, articles, and media Christmas Eve Sermon 2020

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Christmas Eve Sermon 2020

by Michael Ford last modified 04 Jan, 2021 04:23 PM

The Bishop preached on 24th December 2020 at Blandford Church. The text is below.

First of all, thank you for being here tonight. Amidst all the restrictions and the sanitisation and the limits on numbers and even going out at all, it is strange that anyone is here at all!

Strange though, that you are here. That the birth of a child that we celebrate year after year still draws a crowd.

Now it could be tradition – the Church is good at doing that – or pure nostalgia that draws people here. Many of us have memories of that perhaps slightly air-brushed picture of Christmas, of childhood that was perfect, which we want to recapture for generations to come, don’t we? Or perhaps we have memories of less than perfect Christmases which force us to work doubly hard to make sure others don’t have them too.

Or perhaps it was the spirit that drew us – those glasses of wine we have just consumed, or gin and tonic, or champagne – that glow that comes over us each Christmas Eve. But hold on, perhaps it was the Spirit – God’s Spirit?

For we gather this year as those who want to gather in a year which has been marred by Covid-19. A year that has brought challenge, and anxiety, change and apprehension. A year that has brought worldwide sickness, and a shocking death rate. And I believe we gather, because we hope that there is something more.

People have prayed this year too like no other, as the Church has adapted to new ways of being people have found solace in their homes through videos, and Zoom services; through radio services and YouTube messages, appealing to our faith, and keeping it alive like never before; knowing that the Church is there and that there is more to believe has made all the difference to many.

Bethlehem over 2000 years ago was in a difficult place too. The Romans were in charge, people had been given no choice about travelling, often long distances on foot, to their towns of birth to register, and there were so many people no one could find a bed for the night. Now that is bad enough, but if you were expecting your first baby any moment, that was probably the worst thing ever.

However, for those who were alert to it, a miracle was about to take place. For in the midst of this challenge and frustration, this hustle and bustle, God chose to send his Son. Not in a palace or to those who were known as the ‘religious’ of the day, but through the obedience of a teenager whose name was Mary and her faithful fiancé Joseph. A message from angels to shepherds ushered in Christ’s arrival, as these men from the hillside raced into town to take a look for themselves.

And gradually God’s gift became known, to wise men from the east, to neighbours and friends, to those who were looking for hope and help, for a saviour and a redeemer.

The important thing for us to remember this Christmas time, is that God is always on the bright side, bringing us today that same hope and help, salvation and redemption.

The baby born then behind the back of an inn, to unknown parents, visited by poor shepherds, was so special that he is still worshipped over 2000 years later.

Over 2000 years ago, when a light rose in the sky, very few noticed it – then 30 years later when that same child was put on to death and the light was dimmed, a few more people noticed, and the significance of the event caused individuals to question. Who was that man?

Two days later, the light shone brightly, a stone was rolled away, and news of the resurrection spread – Jesus is alive, and later flames were witnessed as the believers gathered to pray. The Christian Church was born, and the story has been told ever since, Sunday by Sunday in times of sadness and times of great joy, in times of deep crisis, in times of conflict, in times of persecution and the true light has never gone out.

That is why we are here tonight, because we have heard from others of the hope that Christ brings and held onto it ourselves, the light has made itself known to us, and we too have welcomed its creator. The light of Christ comes among us at Christmas. And year by year, that same light that shone over Bethlehem draws people, like you and me into God’s presence once more, and for all kinds of reasons. That’s how God’s Spirit touches us today.

Where Christ is, people who understand talk about light. They have to – there is no better image of what is going on. The light shines in the darkness – John proclaims in his gospel. And somehow we understand this and we understand that this truth cannot be fully expressed in any other words. What John, Luke and Matthew all say about Christmas is that a light begins to shine: suddenly, quietly, but absolutely certainly. And by that light we can begin to see who we are and what we are created to be. For in Christ we see that a hope needs never to be abandoned – never – and that we contain possibilities beyond our imagining, possibilities of hope, of renewal, or resurrection.

If we choose to look we can see renewal all around us day by day, signs of light and hope, not just in the fantastic Dorset views or the changing seasons, but in the midst of the year we have just experienced. Signs of new neighbourliness, of generosity, of appreciation, of community spirit. Small things which together make a big difference.

So we gather, tonight to give thanks to God, for the hope that he gives in Jesus Christ, for walking with us through this past year, for God’s provision, we pray for those in need, those in hospital tonight, caring and being cared for and we come seeking to be renewed.

We may not be able to sing, but we can enter quiet into the words and pray them for ourselves, we can receive the gift of Christ’s body which sustains us and enables us to continue to believe. And holding onto the hope which Christ brings; that hope of constant renewal in our world, we can leave this place look forward with expectation. Because we know that no matter what, the true light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie?
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in the dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.

Document Actions