Reflections for Carols By Candlelight 2021
Rev'd Lizzie Kesteven - read at All Saints Church
Fragility of life that is shared by God - Fragility of the shepherds/kings/holy family - God is with us – Alleluia.
Light a match.
There is something fascinating about lighting a match. Something that has since the beginning of time has captivated humans about that ability to make fire. That first spark. The effort it takes to make sure that the rough surfaces connect in such a way as to create that initial spark. Sometimes several attempts are needed. And then seeing the flame eat away at the slim wooden splint. Watching it light the small space of darkness around it. Feeling its heat – and then knowing the right moment to blow it out before it burns your fingers.
The spark gives both light and warmth – and for that to continue then other items are lit from it – like our candles tonight – so that the light and warmth can be shared with others.
It is both fragile – the fear that the match will give out before we have used it. As well as being dangerous – 2don’t play with matches” always a slogan ringing from adult lips to children’s ears.
Fragile and Dangerous. Light and Warmth.
Stories – Shepherd/Kings/Holy Family – both fragile and dangerous. Seeing the light in the dark
The Christmas story, the baby in the manger, the kings, the shepherds, the angels and Mary and Joseph that we hear tonight and sing of in our carols also speak about both fragility and danger.
Light and warmth.
The Kings Journey to the manger was fraught with difficulty. They could so easily have given up and turned back. The danger lies in their encounter with Herod a brutal tyrant who tries to use the kings for his own benefit. But the Kings preserve and in doing so bring to the manger the gift of colour and brightness. Their gifts indicate not only who Jesus is and will be – but they also bring light and warmth – just as any gift freely given with a generous heart.
The Shepherds whole lives are fragile and dangerous. They sleep rough at night always alert to predators who may wish their flock harm. And yet here they are at the manger. They too show us light and warmth – their very presence a reminder that God calls all people to his stable. That the outsiders, the ones least thought of, the forgotten, the lost and the poor are part of Gods story and welcomed into Gods home. That is a message of light and warmth.
The fragility of Mary and Joseph is perhaps obvious. Travelling that distance whilst heavily pregnant would have been hugely dangerous. And yet the fragility of their relationship is also present in the Christmas story – the disgrace that would have followed Mary around, the humiliation that Joseph might have felt – what conversations might they have had on that road to Bethlehem. Yet Mary and Joseph bring a message of light and warmth. They stick it out, they stay together. Joseph trusts Mary and Mary in turn trusts Joseph. Their trust brings with it light and warmth to the stable.
And as we look back on this year we have known as part of our human story a most fragile world. Everything has seemed breakable and at breaking points. People, plans, work, schools, hospitals, hospitality. We have known a fragility, that was also perhaps unexpected as we had hoped that this year would look so different to the one before it.
And yet in that fragile place God meets us. That is what the eternal truth of Christianity proclaims this night. That is the story that we celebrate at Christmas and that reaches beyond to Easter. It is a God who meets us and is with us. Emmanuel. Not far away and distant. But near. Close. With. And in that bringing that light and warmth not just to the stable but to the world. It is not a message for the faint hearted, the good news of Jesus Christ , of God with us, is a dangerous one and one that many did not want to know or hear, and yet others died in order to tell it. And because of their hope and trust, because of their belief and courage we can stand today and sing that same story. Proclaim loudly that same truth of light and warmth. God is with us.
Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. King of Kings.
May we too know that light and warmth of Jesus Christ this Christmas. May we stand at the stable, and see the fragility of the baby in the manger and know the love of God that came to be with the world.