Nine Lessons and Carols, 2014
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, know that all are created in God’s image, and each is equally welcome. To focus our minds on the purpose of carols, I’ll start with the prayer for today, the third Sunday of Advent, and then we’ll say the Lord’s Prayer together in the language in which you are comfortable.
‘So the Word became flesh, and we saw his glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Thus does John announce Christ’s birth. 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.
Born in Judea to Mary/ Maryam/ Miriam who, as later stories say, held on to the date palm in her labour, Jesus was still there as a youth in Nazareth and a young working adult; there as a travelling preacher, teacher, healer: there in death and there three days later in life until resuming his Godly place. And here? Is Christ here?
Yes! Given to us by God, he was and is God, given in Grace, given as Grace, to nurture, sustain and carry us forward through the Holy Spirit as we live our life, however trivial or magnificent the joy, irritating the reverses, or wearisome the despair. And that is what we rejoice over today, as we sing carols familiar from our childhood or, for the young, start singing carols which will last our life-time.
What can we carry with us as we leave church today, what might carry us forward to next week or next Christmas? The cross apart, the clear message of Christmas are the lights on trees and wreaths and in the streets, when so often at this time gloomy feelings echo dull weather! We can light candles to enliven the day, and as pinpricks of hope for the future, a hope perfectly exemplified by Christ, whose coming lit a world-encompassing candle which ‘shines in the darkness…the true light which enlightens everyone.”
As faith waxes and wanes, even hides away, let this Light be a lantern to our feet, a comfort to our spirit. Trusting even a little in the Light of Christ, the light Christ’s birth brought, may we, each made in the Image of God, know that we are not alone, but are each supported, cared for, led forward, by that Light, by God who came to teach, guide and save us.
Lighting candles in our homes, let us join in hope this Christmastide, seeing God’s only Son, full of Grace and Truth, at the centre of the flame, and giving thanks for his love which we in so many ways have received this past year, by turn easy and tough, wonderful, challenging or confusing, And may we each do our part joyously to live life for ourselves and for others under God with justice and kindness, integrity and grace, honesty and love.
Revd Dr Elizabeth Koepping