A warm welcome to all here tonight! Whether you come to church once a year or weekly, whether you are visiting the Heidelberg area or living here: every person here is equally created in God’s image, and each is welcome. To focus our minds on the purpose of carols, I’ll start with part of a Taize prayer written by the late brother Roger, and then we’ll say the Lord’s Prayer together in the language in which you are comfortable.
Christ, You breathe your Holy Spirit on us and tell us: Peace be yours. Opening ourselves to your peace –letting it penetrate the stony ground of our hearts- means preparing ourselves to be bearers of reconciliation wherever you may place us.
‘Christ, existing before the world began; Christ, the promise of God as told in Isaiah; Christ challenging all oppressors, whether poor or rich, demanding of all followers that we forgive as we are forgiven; Christ, the Word of God, creator, redeemer, supporter, compressed into one swaddled baby amid the Bethlehem cold.
Is Christmas just the same old story, year by year, dulled by repetition? As a purely secular festival, probably, for being cheerful every Heilig Abend for a few days might pall over the years. But think of a piece of music you love, and know well: don’t your ears prick, doesn’t your heart leap, when those first chords sound, the melody starts, even if you’ve heard it 100 times? Our hearts turn because we let the well-loved music in to what can so often be the stony protected ground of our hearts. And even if not all here can let the coming of God to earth for all people into our hearts, all of us can let the knowledge of the goodness of this man who was born, the generosity, the sheer reconciling challenging gutsiness of Jesus, touch our minds, jog our thoughts.
Food, water and shelter are essential to life, facts in the forefront of the minds of the Christians living in a Tent Village in northern Iraq for whom we are collecting tonight. But even refugees, never mind people with all they need for life, also need a vision, a way forward, a place for mind and being to be, which for that third of the world who are Christian is represented by, expressed in, lived though, God. There are many good reason to be in church, community, support, laughter and shared lives being some. But there’s also the search for reconciliation, for coming together, between us and God, and hopefully there’s the willingness to risk, as Rilke puts in in Rowan William’s translation of his poem on Angels: ‘they come squeezing and kneading, wanting to sculpt and hollow. To push you. Break you out of the form you know that clothes you around.’
That’s part of faith, risking breaking set forms, reaching out into the unknown, supported by God, risk saying: ‘I don’t know.’ Faith does not make everything go right-which is good given the violence at home and abroad, personal grief, chronic pain. Faith, knowing we are acceptable to God and accepted by God as we are: Hope, for the light of Christ to shine brighter in our lives, and generous Love for God, our neighbour and ourselves. That is the way of Christ which we celebrate tonight, this week, and every day. In ending, let me complete that Taize prayer:
But you know that at times we are at a loss. So come and lead us to wait in silence, to let a ray of hope shine forth in our world.
Revd Dr Elizabeth Koepping
December 21st 2015