The Devil's Peak in the dusk, 2014, looking south from the Hawker Road.

Community Carols Homily

How do you put the meaning of Christmas into just five minutes at the local community carols service? Here's my effort for tonight.

The Christmas I remember best from when I was a child, is not the one with the cowboy suit, or the one with the pushbike, or the one where all Dad's family, including all 30 something cousins, got together.

It's the one with the jellied peaches. My mum has made peaches set in jelly for as long as I can remember at Christmas, and when I was about 8 I went over to the sideboard for my third serve, and just kind of stopped. She found me standing there and asked what was wrong. I couldn't explain. I looked at the peaches and said, "I thought Christmas would be more than this... "

What I realised as I got older was that toys and presents and food don't make Christmas, and they don't make a life that's very satisfying, either. Sometimes I think I've spent the rest of my life trying to make sense of what life is about, and what makes it worth living.

For me it comes down to these things:

1.The angel says to Mary about the baby Jesus (Jesus means "God saves", by the way,) that he shall be called the Son of the Most High. That was actually one of the titles for the Roman Emperor. The Christmas story tells us that Jesus is more important than the government and all the ways of the world. Jesus is the one to listen to and follow.

2.The next part of the Christmas story is Mary's song, which we call The Magnificat. The song is a sort of reply to the angel's news. It says what the angel's news about this baby actually means. Part of the song says that by sending Jesus God has

scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

It says Jesus is about justice and peace for everyone, not just the rich and powerful. Peace and Justice is what Jesus has come to do, and it has begun. It doesn't say he will bring down the powerful, but he HAS brought them down.

And maybe that sounds like a dream.

Except this is what I've found... When I live the dream; when I live my life like it's true, life works. I don't get depressed. I stay healthy, and things make sense. Living the dream is what religious folk call "following Jesus." It means living like he would if he were here in our shoes.

On the other hand, when I live like the most important person in the world is me, and my family, and the next important thing is to get lots of money and things... things fall apart. I end up looking into the bowl of jellied peaches, wondering what the blazes it's all about, and getting more and more depressed.

So Christmas for me is not looking at the baby and the presents. It's looking at what the baby and the presents mean, and living that out. And then I can still enjoy the jellied peaches.

Part of the Christmas Story from Luke.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.' But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.' Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be bornof you will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.' Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her....

Mary said,‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'


Andrew Prior 2008
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!


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