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Thursday, 17 December 2015

If Christ is born in you, the whole story will be transformed

At St Stephen Walbrook we have been hosting concerts, parties and services over the Advent and Christmas season for: Arthur J. Gallagher; Central London Samaritans; City of London Magistrates; Columbia Threadneedle; International Animal Rescue; Michael Varah Memorial Fund; Christ's Hospital Old Blues Association; Sir Robert McAlpine; and The Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

Tomorrow at 12.30pm our Organist, Joe Sentance will give an Organ Recital. On Christmas Eve (Thursday 24 December) at 11.30pm we will celebrate Midnight Mass by Candlelight with the Choir of St Stephen Walbrook with Organist, Joe Sentance. The setting will be Schubert in Bb and the Choir will sing 'The shepherd’s farewell' by Berlioz. The service will be followed by mince pies and hot drinks.

Here is the reflection I shared at tonight's Carol Service for Arthur J. Gallagher:

At the beginning of Monty Python’s Life of Brian there is a great scene where the Wise Men overlook Jesus’ birthplace and worship the baby Brian before, realising their mistake, they take back their gifts to give them to the actual baby Jesus. Although an amusing scene setting sketch for the rest of the movie, it is, nevertheless, based on the reality that, surprising as it seems, Jesus has always been overlooked at Christmas.

Think about the Christmas story for a moment; Jesus spent his first night sleeping in an animal’s feeding trough because there was no room for him in the guest room of the home in Bethlehem where his family were staying, the Shepherds needed a fanfare of angels before they knew of his birth, while the Wise Men looked for him in a palace when he was actually to be found in an ordinary home. So it is no surprise that today many people still overlook the person at the heart of Christmas in the busyness of life and Christmas preparations and others overlook him by creating supposedly PC festivals like Winterval.

Jesus has always been overlooked at Christmas and one of the reasons for that is that he came to be one of us, God with us, which is what the name Emmanuel means. Born in an obscure village, working in a carpenter’s shop, never writing a book, never holding an office, never having a family or owning a house, never going to college, never travelling two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things we usually associate with greatness. He is God become an ordinary person just like us. And therefore he is easy to overlook.

But just as the Shepherds and Wise Men did seek him out and find him, those who genuinely look for Jesus this Christmas will find him. And if you are prepared to seek him out, I can guarantee that you will find he is the greatest gift that any of us can receive, both at Christmas and any other time in our lives.

As a result, the story of Jesus’ birth that you have listened to today will have real meaning as you take it to heart. The 17th century German mystic, Angelus Silesius, warns us:

Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born
If he’s not born in thee,
Thou art still forlorn.

If Christ is not born in you as you listen and sing, this time together will be pleasant but not life changing. But if Christ is born in you then the whole story will be transformed. It will become your story. You will be able to say:

Christ born in a stable
is born in me.
Christ accepted by shepherds
accepts me.
Christ receiving the wise men
receives me.
Christ revealed to the nations
be revealed in me.
Christ dwelling in Nazareth
You dwell in me.


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