We make the decision on our own. But once we’ve made that decision, then we are given the strength to live according to the good news, the strength to proclaim Jesus Christ.
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen, please sit.
You know, I must admit that I didn’t really it’s silly when you say it out loud, but I didn’t really understand how shocked Mary must have been, how frightened Mary must have been when the angel appeared in front of her. I never really I don’t know why you just you get to the point with scripture, don’t you? Sometimes when you’re reading it and this amazing thing happens and you just kind of like, oh yeah, an angel appeared to Mary.
You’re just so used to the scripture. You’re so used to the story that you lose the the awesomeness of of what is happening. And I think that can happen particularly around Christmas, because we know the story so well. We know the gospel so well. And this, I think, came to life most properly for me when I was living in Bledlow and when Catherine and I had I’d just come back from Australia, we’d sold our house in Hatfield and we decided that we were going to try and live the bucolic life in Bledlow out in Buckinghamshire.
And we got really involved. And in fact, I had lost my faith. I had explored Buddhism and all sorts of things while I was living in Australia, in the US, and it was coming back to England, coming back to Bledlow that rural life and the local village church that brought me back to faith, that gentle expression of faith that is uniquely English. And as my faith was developing again, as that faith was flooding back into me, as I started to realise that that the God had never left me, that I had left God, the vicar very cleverly started pulling me into doing things in church.
And she asked me, I think it was our first or maybe second Christmas we were in in Bledlow. If I would dress up as the Angel Gabriel and take part in what she called a Scratch Nativity, where the children were going to be invited up on Christmas Eve to play the various parts of the Nativity. But the children didn’t know this. It wasn’t rehearsed parts. And the idea was that the children would discover the amazingness of the scripture through interacting with it without having rehearsed it.
Great idea. Really great idea. And so I was to dress as the Angel Gabriel. And before Mass started about half an hour before I started, I was dressed in surplus with a little tinsel halo and little wings, and I hid in the pulpit and no one could see me.
And I hid in the pulpit for about 45 minutes and it was smaller than this one. I didn’t make a sound. Everybody came into church. No one knew I was here. And at the appropriate moment in the Nativity Greetings Mary. And there is a seven year old child stood there who wasn’t expecting this five foot nine man to leap out of the pulpit and shout, Greetings, Mary, do not be afraid. At which point the poor girl burst into tears and ran back to her mother.
And it was in that moment, it was that interaction that the scripture came alive for me again. I discovered and I understood how frightening that moment must have been for Mary. I wonder what an odd thing to say. Here’s is the angel. Do not be afraid, Mary. Well, I think Mary is going to be absolutely petrified. And that makes what happens next even more impressive because she doesn’t run away back to her mother, Saint Anne – she doesn’t run away from the angel.
And so already, right at the start of the scripture, we’ve got an indication of Mary’s character, Mary’s character in that moment of of of being frightened out of her wits was to have a conversation and listen to the angel, listen to the word of God in her deepest moment of fear. Of upset, she listens to the word of God. She didn’t just listen to the word of God, but she was obedient to the word of God, Mary’s choice, be it and to me, according thy word, Mary’s choice led to Jesus being born and is the crux of Christian faith.
It is a choice. It is something that we choose to accept. And so my my word to you this week from the gospel is even though we are frightened, even though we are scared, even though we are upset, even though we don’t know what is going to happen next. We shouldn’t run away. We should listen to the word of God praying now is more important than it has ever been before. Coming to church now in our fear is more important than it has ever been before.
Being obedient to what God puts in front of us now is more important than it has ever been before.
And of course, the thing to understand and the thing that Paul teaches us in Romans is that we do not do this on our own. We make the decision on our own. But once we’ve made that decision, then we are given the strength to live according to the good news, the strength to proclaim Jesus Christ. And that’s the next step. The first step is in your worry, and your concern is to choose to accept your faith in God and the love of Jesus Christ.
The second step is to acknowledge that you have the strength to accept and to endure the difficult times. And the third step is to live your life with such abundant joy in God, such abundant love in God, that those people around you who are in despair, who are upset, who are lonely, who are frightened, who are scared, can see can see what it is that Jesus Christ does in your life. This week, we will be celebrating Christmas in a way that many of us don’t want to.
We can get upset about it. We can get indignant about it, we can shout about it. We can scream about it. Or we can recognize the opportunity, perhaps, that God has put in front of us to look at Christmas in a different way, to look at Jesus Christ in a different way, to react to scripture in a different way. I have no intention of coming around your houses on Christmas Eve and leaping out from behind your doorsteps and shouting, do not be afraid.
You’ll just have to imagine it. But do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Make a decision. Make a decision now to live in joy and love and hope through this era of darkness because it will come to an end. And when we come out of this time, my prayer is that we will come out with a stronger faith, with a deeper faith, with a closer relationship with God. Our Father, Amen.