29th December 2023

A Sermon for Christmas Day

A Sermon for Christmas Day

Preached by Canon Nigel Davies, Vicar of the Close


“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.”

I don’t know if this is one of your favourite carols. Being a regular at the 8.00 a.m. means that there is no opportunity to sing this carol or any other hymn for that matter.

When I was a little boy my ‘hopes and fears’ were very different. They usually revolved around whether I had been good enough, over the previous year, or whether the letter I had written to Santa had arrived in time! Invariably there was always a stocking which I appreciated, but there wasn’t always the gift I had requested, something I came to accept and latterly understand, as we were not a wealthy family.

My hopes and fear these days have become more existential. Fears have crowed in since the pandemic. Indeed, the pandemic was a source of many ‘fears. Since then, the war in Ukraine and the war in the Holy Land, the cost-of-living crisis, and the general unrest in many countries, all these have been sufficient to rouse fear in many, not least myself. Fear seems to be very much to the fore in recent months and it is difficult to see how these fears can be allayed.

Finding a source of ‘hope’ can be very difficult in the current circumstances. ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’ wrote Alexander Pope, but in recent times, his words seem rather wide of the mark. It is hardly surprising given the way the world is at present that things seem more ‘hopeless’ than ‘hopeful’. However, in the carol the stanza I have quoted is proceeded by the line:

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light…”
which surely is the place where hope begins?

We are reminded of this in the opening verses from our Gospel reading this morning.

“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” This has been the source of our hope since the Gospel of John was written, where fears are allayed, and we can look to the future with confidence.

It is very easy to despair in the face of all that has befallen us in recent years. It is difficult to remain positive, or optimistic, but ‘the word incarnate’, the Son of God should be our starting point. The incarnation refutes the pessimism of our times, the despondency, the negativity and challenges the truth of the popular narrative of despair.

A poem by Alan Boesak, entitled, ‘This is True’, challenges us borrowing words from a poplar song, of yesteryear: –
‘accentuate the positive,
eliminate the negative,
don’t mess with Mr. In-between.’
Our source of hope is grounded in the incarnation, which we celebrate once again today, and these are
the words of that poem.
It is not true
that creation and the human family
are doomed to destruction and loss. This is true:
For God so loved the world
that He gave his only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him,
shall not perish but have everlasting life.
It is not true
that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty, death and destruction. This is true:
I have come that they may have life,
and that abundantly.
It is not true
that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction rule forever. This is true:
Unto us a child is born,
unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
his name shall be called,
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.
It is not true
that we are simply victims of the powers of evil
who seek to rule the world— This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth,
and lo I am with you,
even until the end of the world.