Friday, December 24, 2010

Homily for Christmas Carol Services

It's all about shepherds and angels. 

Of course it isn't at all - it's all about the birth of Jesus, the King of King and Lord of Lords, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. 

But if you want to understand this, if you want to get past the lofty phrases, the flamboyant language, the song and praise, if you want to grasp what it going on - then you have to realise that it really is about shepherds and angels. 

The shepherds - men and boys, working the night shift, watching in their fields, protecting their flocks from wolf and predator, risking their lives - they are the first to hear this good news. They are not kings or politicians. They are not wealthy or famous. They are not scholars or well educated. They are ordinary blokes. Sitting round the fire, singing songs, telling jokes, doing a hard and dangerous job, struggling to makes ends meet. They are the men on the rigs, the miners at the coal face, dockers and drivers, soldiers on night patrol in Helmand, police on dangerous streets. They are straightforward, rough and ready, not easily fooled or taken in. Salt of the earth. 

And their involvement in this wondrous tale underlines for us the poverty and simplicity of this birth. A refugee couple seeking asylum in the cattle shed. Homeless and without medical care. A child born in danger and soon to be at risk from a wicked King. 

And the angels? If the shepherds are the salt of earth, they are the glory of the heavens. They transform a simple squalid scene into a celebration of the Saviour's birth. They reveal the truth of his majesty, the greatness of his power, the extent of his impact upon human history and human lives. They bring heaven to earth, so that this ordinary birth is now proclaimed, extoled and praised all over the world. We sing today, because the angels sang on that cold and inhospitable night. 

So, in this meeting of the shepherds and the angels, the earthly and divine are joined and united. God comes down to earth - so that we might be raised up to heaven. 

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