thinking theology

Christmas Eve 2017

There is a lovely hymn by Miriam Therese Winter about the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth called “The Visit”. One of the lines is: There leaped a little child in an ancient womb. and there leaped a little hope in every ancient tomb. I think one of the themes of of the incarnation is that nothing is ever really dead except pain, suffering and despair. New life, creativity. can awaken what has been thought to be finished, without any new possibility. Hope against even common sense, or the laws of probabilities, is a gift that keeps us breathing, that encourages us to plant trees we won’t see bloom, give to fledgling organizations.

And that hope doesn’t always have to be one that we can easily access on our own. We can find it through others, through the joyful spontaneity and spirituality of children, in ancient hymns, sung in traditional and contemporary ways. We can be surprised and delighted, like the band Barenaked Ladies playing a blending of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Star of Wonder.

Through the ancient rite of the eucharist, in the context of modern theology, and language, we can remember that this rite unites us to life in all its holiness and all its creatureliness. The rite unites to one another, the saintly, the sinful, the sceptical, and the devout. Tonight, we are one family, together to listen for something that we have been missing, or to be reassured that we have heard correctly. But it won’t be as it has always been. That is impossible. You are new tonight and the way the story of a baby and a star broke into our hearts will be new also.

We are like the shepherds. We are tired, we have worked hard, we have been frightened by the things happening in our world. And yet, we have still come to this place with open hands, needing to receive something, although we are not sure what that is perhaps.

There is one gift I hope you receive tonight and that is the gift of hope. There is no sin or sorrow that cannot be resolved by God’s blessing of life that stirs in the depths of our hearts. Open hands, open hearts, a willingness to be invaded by joy and holiness will lead all the way to a manger, then later a cross, but always from life to life, from love to love, from isolation to the enfolding of the communion of joyful hearts.

Here is the last line of that hymn:
When you walk in the summer through the heat on the hill, when you’re wound with the wind and one with Her will, be brave with the burden you are blessed to bear, for its Christ that you carry everywhere. May hope find you and hold you in Love.

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