Christmas Eve Communion 2020
Bible readings can be found here
(Rev Jeanette Hamer)
Well what a year we have had, haven’t we?
Since we last gathered here in this Church on Christmas Eve, our lives,
along with the rest of the world, have been turned upside down.
We, here on Island have been blessed to have returned to a type of normality,
but with a closed border it means some family members cut off from us.
Some of us have lost loved ones and were unable to say our final goodbyes
either at hospital or at the funeral.
Even our Churches and Churchyards were closed at one point
and I admit that I cried when we had to lock the doors and walk away.
Not that the actual building is important, it is the people that are the real Church
but it was the symbolism of locking a door to keep the village out at their moment of need
that I found hard.
We have continued to live in dark times.
We see the Pandemic raising its ugly head afresh in the UK and across Europe
and we hope and pray it does not take a hold any closer to home.
It has not all been darkness though.
We have seen community life strengthened with neighbours caring for neighbours,
showing love and compassion for people in need.
We have seen businesses adapt to fulfil needs from takeaway food to hand sanitizer from Gin.
Lockdown made us talk to each other, socially distant at first,
but neighbours were no longer strangers and new ties were formed.
We have stood together and clapped for our hardworking NHS.
We’ve put rainbows and crosses up on our windows,
and even managed to socially distance to celebrate VE day.
Tonight at 6pm, there was Christmas Eve Jingle,
with people outside their houses ringing small bells to spread the Christmas spirit
and to help Santa fly his sleigh.
The organisers said that after such an awful yearit would be an amazing memory
for the children and communities around the Island and the UK.
It was to end 2020 with a bit of magic, hope and togetherness.
So what is this Christmas spirit that we need to spread out?
It is definitely not the type that comes out of a bottle and into a glass with a bit of ice!
We need to ask ourselves what exactly is the message of Christmas?
What are the elements we should cling to and hold foremost in our lives?
What is the message of Christmas that God wants us to share with others,
especially after the year we have all experienced?
My focus has been on the comfort and Joy this message brings this year.
When I started planning this service, the words ‘Comfort and Joy’ seemed to stand out at me
as though they were bright shiny baubles hanging on a tree, with the letters clear for all to see.
‘Comfort and Joy’,
much needed in the world we see around us today.
In the first reading we considered a world in darkness,
a world that was full of wars, injustice, cruelty, greed and evil.
A world in pain and suffering that had moved away from God, it’s loving Creator.
Our world is facing times of darkness now too, isn’t it?
You only need to watch the news or read the papers
to appreciate that we too are crying out for help and guidance.
We don’t only have a world-wide Pandemic, but also continuing wars and political unrest.
Are the words of the ancient Prophets as true for us in our current situation
as they were to God’s chosen people then?
We heard the words from Isaiah
that promised that God would rescue them from their dark despair and provide a Saviour,
a Messiah, Emmanuel which means God with us.
A Prince of Peace, to guide us into the way of peace.
This God is the same now as he was those thousands of years ago.
A God that cares about every aspect of our lives, through the hard times and the good.
The familiar story of the Nativity, our second reading,
showed us God’s love for us, in the sending of his son as a human to live amongst us.
We have known the story all our lives haven’t we?
Each year since we were born, we have recognised this Festival.
The story has been re-told in homes, in schools and Churches for centuries
and there has been feasting and the giving of presents.
I expect that if I asked anyone sitting here to come up and re-tell the story,
they would remember all of the characters and the story of Jesus’ birth.
Can you remember ever being involved in a Nativity play and what part you played in it?
The story and meaning of Christ’s birth has not changed, even if everything around us has.
The meaning of Christmas is that God is with us, in whatever situation we find ourselves in. ‘Emmanuel’ means ‘God with us,’ and that is in the mess as well as the good,
in our disappointments, difficulty and sorrow, as well as in our celebrations.
Do we have Hope for our future; a hope that things can be changed?
Can we see that a change in us can affect a community and a world?
At the start of our service we made a confession to God.
We asked God to help us to dispel the darkness in our own lives, to listen to him,
and like Mary, respond with joy to his call and to be moved by his love
to echo his peace and bring comfort and joy to a world of conflict and pain.
We asked to be brought back to him and be forgiven for things we have done,
being assured of his eternal love.
God can give us hope in the future and it begins with him.
It begins with a babe that came to lead us back to him.
We have heard his story.
"The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows,
but now light is shining on them.
You have given them great joy, Lord;
you have made them happy.
They rejoice in what you have done……
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulder; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.’
This Christ Child, the light of the world was with God from the beginning.
He was part of creation, and yet came down to live among us.
He knows our weaknesses, our pain and our sorrows.
He cares about each and every one of us.
He came as light into our darkness and to lead us back to God.
Through him we receive God’s grace and mercy.
We sung the Carol, ‘God rest you merry Gentlemen’ just before the Gospel Reading.
I asked Joanna to include it this evening. This carol has been a bit of an ‘ear worm’
as I have prepared for this service, because the chorus of,
‘O tidings of comfort and joy,’
has been the message I feel we need to take to our hearts this Christmas.
God hears the cries of us all in the darkness of our world in these current times,
and he spreads Christ’s light into each situation.
I firmly believe that Jesus, at his crucifixion,
carried all the pain and suffering of the world on his shoulders.
Not one cry in the dark, not one whisper of desperation goes unheard by him.
God spreads Christ’s light across the world using those who have faith in him.
We are his hands, his feet, his face and his voice here on earth.
We, who come to worship him at his crib,
now need to take his message of comfort and joy to the world and spread his light.
God sent his Holy Spirit to empower us in our Christian lives.
Some challenges then for us all!
Can we receive the true message of Christmas, and keep it alive in us
or is he to be packed away for another 12 months?
Can we show God’s love and care to others in the way we live our lives?
Can we help feed the hungry, befriend the lonely, protect the helpless and comfort the bereft?
The Church of England has produced a little booklet of readings for 9 days starting from tomorrow, Christmas Day. You were all given a copy as you came in to tonight’s service.
The booklet gives you the opportunity to hear again the story
and reflect on its meaning in this time of challenge.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York write:
‘We pray that as you journey with this booklet through the Christmas season
you will know that Jesus journeys with you.
May you know God’s comfort and, in whatever your circumstances, be surprised by God’s Joy.’
Let us pray,
God of comfort and joy, may we know your presence with us today
and bring your gentle, joyful love to others, this Christmas and always.