Tuesday 24 December 2019

Christmas Eve

Yesterday, rather to my surprise, I found myself writing a kind of sermon. I am not, of course, a parson, and am woefully unqualified for the job; but if I were one, I fancy the only part of the job I might enjoy would be writing the weekly sermon. Anyway, here's what I wrote – too short for an actual sermon, but topical and to the point...

Viewed as history, the story of the Nativity makes no sense – but viewed as parable, as imagery, as the embodiment of a higher truth, it is surely, in the words of the film title, 'the greatest story ever told', though it is only the beginning of that story. That God should have taken human form is wonderful enough; that He should have come to Earth not as a hero, a conqueror, a vindicated prophet, but as a helpless baby, and an outcast, born in a stable and laid in a manger where animals feed – that is something else altogether: that is a full taking-on the human condition at its weakest, humblest and most powerless. And yet, according to the story, kings and wise men come to join the lowly shepherds in worshipping this helpless child. Clearly something enormous, something entirely new, is happening here. The truth this child brings will be about the strength of the downtrodden, the transforming power of mercy and forgiveness, the loving nature of this God in whose name we must love even our enemies and throw away all former notions of what is just and proper, who is strong and who is weak. As Mary says in the Magnificat, 'He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.' All is transformed, turned upside down, by this birth, obscure in the eyes of the world, but infinite in its true, its mighty significance. This baby, whose ignominious birth prefigures a yet more ignominious death, changes everything.
As often at this time of year, I think of the image at the end of R.S. Thomas's 'Song' –

I choose white, but with
Red on it, like the snow
In winter with its few
Holly berries and the one

Robin, that is a fire
To warm by and like Christ
Comes to us in his weakness,
But with a sharp song.

And a very happy Christmas to all who browse here!

(The painting, by the way, is by Georges de la Tour.)


  1. A wonderful post, Nige. Also wonderful is your book, which I have just started reading. Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks Frank – glad you're liking the book. Merry Christmas!