Christmas 1 – Sermon preached by the Chaplain, Andy Philip – 27th December 2020

The waiting is over and the waiting has just begun.

All these years I have been coming daily
to this house of God. All these years waiting
for the Lord to show me the one who’ll set us free.
I’ve lost count, almost, of how many years it is. Waiting
for God to ride in and rescue us.

All these years of prayer and I was assured
I’d recognise him instantly. So many families
passed through the house of God each day
and I glanced at every one of them. So many times
the Spirit told me, No, not this one, just like Samuel
with the sons of Jesse. No, not this one, yet again.

Today they came in cradling a tiny bairn:
a mother and father who straight away you could tell
were prime candidates for the food bank.
Yet something about this family told me at once
my years of waiting were at an end.
Yes, he looked exhausted; she appeared utterly drained
and worn down with the care of keeping her son,
but even so their faces were charged
with love and pride, with awe and fear,
with trust and deep confusion —
that combination we might label holiness.
So ordinary, yet so sacred.

I heard the Spirit whisper to me,
Yes, yes — this is the one. This
is the one you’re waiting for.
And before the parents could approach the priests
to do for him what they had come to do
as their faithful hearts had moved them
according to the commands laid down by God,
I took this newborn in my arms and gazed
down at the face I knew to be my Redeemer’s.

I felt as if a crown were held out to me,
a diadem resting in the hands of God,
as though the Lord Almighty stood before me
as a servant stands before their king,
waiting for me to take hold of the kingdom.
And not only me,
not only all our people even,
but all people everywhere — our enemies among them!

Surely you will say this is nonsense.
Surely you will say that this is upside down.
Friend, barely a day ago
I would have surely said the same
but this child changes everything.

For Zion’s sake, I could not hold my wheesht.
For Jerusalem’s sake, I could do nothing
but burst out in a song of praise to God,
my Master-Servant, Servant-Master
who has prepared our freedom like a feast.
I did not care who heard me then
and do not care who hears me now
save that those astounded young parents
had to know just who they have in their charge.

The waiting for me is over
and I can go now,
happy and at peace that I have seen what was promised.
But the waiting has just begun
for the world to see
what this fragile little newborn will become.

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