This is God: God is Tenderness

Rev'd Sarah
Monday, December 25, 2017 - 8:00am

Sermon - Christmas Day 8am, 2017 - This is God: God is tenderness.

(Isaiah 52:7-10), Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]  John 1:1-14   or Luke 2: 1-14  or Luke 2: 1-7

 she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

At the heart of every Christmas is this very simple image: a new-born baby lying exposed in the cold of winter. It's a powerful image of our own vulnerability, our own weakness, in the face of our environment.

Today, this Christmas morning, we celebrate the Word, Jesus, taking flesh in abject poverty, outcast. The great Messiah born among us as a helpless babe, in the backstreets, in the dirt, utterly dependent, vulnerable and crying out for tenderness. And always we sense the foreshadowing of the physical pain he endured during his Passion. Even the wood of the manger reminds us of the wood of the cross – and how appropriate that here at St Mary’s our carpenter Chris who made our Good Friday cross also made this manger. 

At Christmas, we naturally think of people who live daily with exposure and dependency, and we’re put back in touch with our own vulnerability, with the fact that, in spite of everything, we're not in charge of our world......and that it’s a tough world we live, cry, and love in.

 The poet Wendy Cope, composed her powerful Christmas Song, cutting through the Christmas tinsel and reaching deep into the honest rawness of our lives and the reality of Christ’s tender love right here with us.  A Christmas Song.......

 Why is the baby crying

On this, his special day,
When we have brought him lovely gifts
And laid them on the hay?

He’s crying for the people
Who greet this day with dread
Because somebody dear to them
Is far away or dead,

For all the men and women
Whose love affairs went wrong,
Who try their best at merriment
When Christmas comes along,

For separated parents
Whose turn it is to grieve
While children hang their stockings up
Elsewhere on Christmas Eve,

For everyone whose burden
Carried through the year
Is heavier at Christmastime,
The season of good cheer.

That’s why the baby’s crying
There in the cattle stall:
He’s crying for those people.
He’s crying for them all.

God changes the world not by force or by winning arguments, but by being at the very heart of all pain and joy through this tender, vulnerable love we call Jesus. By establishing human relationships - being human, God incarnate, alongside us as human beings.

And we can embrace the exposed, new-born child in Bethlehem, by embracing with tenderness those who are exposed and naked in our world. When we respond to the cry of individual sadnesses and loss in the lives of those around us and our own; when we respond to the suffering and pain of terrible tragedies, such as the Grenfell tower fire which tears our national heart, or the hidden homeless in Basingstoke who fall between support agencies; or the famine in South Sudan where 50% of people are in desperate need of food; when we or others pray, notice, respond in relationship and take seriously the exposure and the vulnerability of our fellow human beings; then something shines brightly in the darkness, and something wonderful is shown to the world. That we can help build a world with deeper justice, greater fairness, and greater security for all.  

On this joyful Christmas morning, we cry Emmanuel, God with us. This light from light, God from God, love from love, radiates and shines ever brighter through the darkness as we gather up and love the crying Christ child placed in our arms today.  Do we see Christ in every human face, see how God thinks that that person is worth everything. See that he or she can reflect God to us, as we open ourselves to receive the gift of Christ’s tender love.

In our village here in Old Basing I know of one family who follow a wonderful Christmas day tradition. Before the great unwrapping frenzy of Christmas morning gifts, the youngest of the family goes to the nativity scene on the mantelpiece and unwraps the most precious gift of all – unwraps the baby Jesus.

At little St Asaph’s Cathedral in the beautiful valleys of North Wales, all are invited to enter a gently-lit area to ponder, walk around, touch and spend time with a new sculpture by Rory (Gehegan) entitled: ‘Nativity: This is God: God is tenderness’. With a wonderful sense of movement and space, in a beautiful golden-bronze finish, the sculpture depicts the Holy Family in a lovingly intimate pose. Mary is seated on a traditional birthing stool gently supporting baby Jesus’ head; Joseph is half kneeling as he supports her.  Jesus himself, arms flung wide, surrenders trustingly to their tender embrace.

This is God: God is tenderness.  How did Rory’s sculpture find its name? From Pope Francis. Pope Francis’s great call to the Church has been to share the mercy of God. While he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would offer a wonderfully concrete image of our merciful, vulnerable, tender God at midnight mass. As he lifted the infant Jesus from the crib and held him up to show the congregation, he would use the words ‘This is God: God is Tenderness’. It’s a wonderful image for us to hold this Christmas. As Pope Francis himself tells us: The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness’

 Hold up from manger bundle of wrapped baby clothes as baby.....

she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

May the love of Christ fill your hearts and overflow as you receive and give the greatest gift of all, the tender love of Christ. 

May God bless you with his hope, love, joy and tenderness this Christmas.

Hold up baby........

This is God: God is tenderness.