The Epiphany of Our Lord/New Year’s Eve

Sermon Title: The Epiphany of our Lord/ New Year’s Eve
Date: 31st December 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers 2017
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

After all the preparations both in churches and in homes, of four weeks of Advent and lighting our Advent Candles as we prepare for the Christ-child’s coming; with many rehearsals for choir and readers for the Nine lessons and Carols, Christingle creations, sermon preparations for Christmas Eve and Day… it is all done!

The presents have now been opened, maybe still under the tree that is losing its needles! The left overs still in the fridge of chicken, pork, turkey, salmon; Christmas pudding and other delights for the ‘sweet tooths’! Empty bottles of beer and wine and soft drinks making their way to the recycle bin and we do it all again in three hundred and sixty something days!

Is it done?  Some would say, yes, fancy doing all this for one day in the year! And on one level, that is true for many people. Christmas happened just on Christmas day.

On another level, as we contemplate ‘post-Advent and Christmas day’ here at St Paul’s and other churches around the world, we think about the Holy Family and their visit to the Temple where Jesus is named and circumcised and Simeon and Anna recognising the gift this child brings to the world, and who tells Mary her heart will be pierced. We think about the Wise Men from the East bring their gifts; and the flight to Egypt because Herod  and the chief priests know that there position and power is threatened by a child whom the prophets of old said would be the new king. Of Joseph and the Wise Men paying attention to dreams and so Joseph takes his young family and go to Egypt and the Wise Men don’t return to Herod and saves the child’s life… and as Christian history remembers the slaughter of the innocents, which Jesus was saved from, we know he will join them later.

The birth of Jesus is mixed with beauty and sorrow, gladness and opposition, life and death situations, just like our own lives.

It is New Year’s Eve and so it’s helpful to ponder over the past year with some of the stories that have touched us in different ways.

2017 has been a year where we have seen in Australia, citizenship scandals, the debates over same-sex marriage and the bill passing through parliament. The forced closure of the camp on Manus Island and with deep concerns for the health and safety of the 600 men.

The First Nations’ Constitutional Convention at Uluru and its “statement from the heart”. Our continued search for meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Overseas we have been anxiously watching the exchange between the United States and North Korea, and we see on the news the ongoing strife in Syria, Myanmar, Iraq and many other countries.

For many people that we know and maybe including ourselves, have suffered from physical, mental or emotional pain this year. Relationships are fragile. A friend’s son has been missing since the 23rd December and is hopefully somewhere on the streets of Melbourne. For some people, work life has not been secure in our economic climate and financial security therefore unsure.

Many have said goodbye to loved ones as they pass from this life to the next.  I saw in my diary that it would have been Suzanne Davidson’s birthday yesterday and in Adelaide, a couple of days ago, my family raised a glass to our mum.

“And that’s just why we need Christmas to last longer than 24 or 48 hours, why we need it not simply to persist into the new year, but to keep us strong throughout the year. Because this life is wonderful… and difficult.  And God came in Jesus to be with us and for us through all of it: the ups and down, hopes and fears, successes and disappointments, accomplishments to savor and mistakes to regret; all of it.  God is with us and for us… not just some of the time, but all of the time, even when we don’t act as we want or live into the identity God has given us…”[i]

My prayer for each of us and our nation and the nations of the world is to come to an inner ‘knowing’ of this truly, beautiful planet we live on and are part of and the gift we have been given to care for the earth, and also ourselves and each other.

For each of us who believe in the Christmas message, let us keep Christmas alive in knowing that in Jesus God became one of us and so is, indeed, Emmanuel, “God with us”.

And maybe as we understand God with us, we too will continue the work of Christmas as we remember the words by Howard Thurman in ‘The Mood of Christmas’.

The Mood of Christmas by Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among people,

To make music in the heart.”

 

The Lord be with you.

 

 

[i] Christmas 1B: Christmas Courage by David Lose  ‘In the Meantime’