Wednesday 26 December 2007

Angel voices at Christmas

'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men & women'!
  • This is the great song of the heavenly host, which Luke tells us the shepherds heard, when the angel announced the birth of the Messiah. It is a song of joy and exaltation, echoing the song of Isaiah’s sentinels. It is a song which we echo in so many of our Christmas carols.
  • Have you heard the heavenly host sing? I certainly have, in not so different circumstances, and you may have too. I can remember my joy and exhilaration after the births of my own children. I can remember literally dancing down the wet deserted streets of Guildford at 4am, on the way back home from the hospital. It was as if the whole universe was laughing and crying and singing with me. And everyone I met over the following days shared my joy. Angel voices – a memory to treasure!

What exhilarating joy the shepherds must have felt at the birth of this very special baby!

  • They went with haste’, we are told, ‘and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger’.
  • Not just the shepherds, but Mary and Joseph especially will have felt joy and wonder: when they looked adoringly at their beautiful, helpless baby, their first-born son; when they felt the smoothness of his skin, the strong grip of his tiny perfectly formed fingers; when they caught the scent of his new-born baby hair, and heard his insistent baby cry.
  • And although we’re not told of them, I feel sure that there were others there to share the joy, perhaps staff and visitors at the Inn in which there was no room, perhaps a local midwife there to help Mary with her birth.
  • But not one of them could have realised just how special this baby was to be, whatever inkling the angel Gabriel may have given Mary and the shepherds.
  • This baby grows up to be our Lord Jesus Christ - in John’s mystic vision, the Word of God, the true light that enlightens everyone - through whose life and teaching, and death and resurrection, we are shown the way to God.

Of course, every birth and every baby is special.

  • Every baby ever born is made in God’s image, including you and me.
  • And we can all call ourselves sons and daughters of God, because that very special baby, Jesus, as a grown man, teaches us to pray to ‘our Father in heaven’.
  • In celebrating Christmas – in sharing the joy of Jesus’s birth - we also celebrate the miracle that every child is born with a soul which reaches naturally toward God.

There was no place for Mary and Joseph in the Inn, so Jesus was laid in a manger, so Luke tells us.

  • Mary and Joseph were far from home for the birth. And soon they were to become refugees, fleeing to Egypt to avoid Herod’s persecution, far from their families and friends.
  • Far too many millions of God’s children are also born far from home, as refugees. We must ask God to show us what we can do to help them. But not tonight, I think, not tonight.

Tonight we are here to share with the shepherds, and with Mary and Joseph, in joy and exaltation at the birth of Jesus, to join our hearts and voices with the heavenly host in singing:

'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men & women!'

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