Someone is waiting for you. This universe contains this someone. The single significant feature of this universe is that this someone is intending to meet you in it. They are waiting for you in patience. They let you have your time and space, and make your decisions and be a moral person. The whole universe is yours to move around in, and so is the distance you can keep between you and them. They do not crowd you, or hurry you or take any decision away from you. They are content to wait. But it is you that they are waiting for. They are waiting for you no matter how you act or what character you display. Nothing you could do would make them give up and go away. You cannot outwait them. You cannot satisfy them with someone who is merely like you. You are not replaceable or substitutable. You are unique. You are so because this is what they believe you to be. You are unique because they regard you so. You may avoid them or send them other people in hope of keeping away from them forever, but you will not succeed in doing so, for they know the difference between you and all others. All the space of the universe may seem to separate you from God, yet this is only how it seems to you. The vastness of this space is only distance to you. You live in a place that is directly before God, which is his hospitality and the way he protects you until you are ready.
To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord…
The Lord has come to us, and become incarnate, flesh just like us. We celebrate the doctrine of the incarnation in this season of the Nativity. He is Emmanuel, God with Us, who has taken on our whole experience. He proceeds through the stages of childhood to adulthood and start work. He takes on in his ministry all our disastrous and very damaged experience. We follow this by reading the gospel throughout the year, and with greater intensity through Lent. He picks up our sins and loads it onto himself. He takes on our increasingly determined opposition. He has taken on our sin. It is our sin, not his sin. At the end of this process of taking on our sin, on the cross, it looked as though he was this sin, had become identical to it, indistinguishable from it, definitively and irreversibly bound up with it. He could never get out of that. That was what death assumed, as it took him down into the cave of hell there to consume him. He’s gone. That’s the last we’ll see of him, said all Judaea’s political leaders. Let’s all agree on that, at least. He brought us together. In this act of killing we are united.
The entire Western intellectual tradition however values the worldview in which solitary confinement is assumed to be our greatest wish. It is all about shaking off the demands and expectations of other people, closing down and making predictable whatever is open and unpredictable. Dividing each person into a number of things, and separating out each thing, and bringing each thing to a halt, so that it is still and no longer moves. The perfect universe is homogenous, neutral and empty and can be seen at a glance from end to end. Nothing blocks our view, and nothing makes us wait before we can see what it is.
In modernity there is no one to respect you, to acknowledge you thank you and tell you your worth. When there is no one to appreciate you. You are then in solitary confinement, for fear of others you have walled yourself up in a cell. Our existence as people is entirely dependent on there being other people around to recognise us as one of them. We depend on their recognition and they depend on the recognition and respect we give them. We are in a covenant of mutual evaluation and esteem. It is the very high dignity of each of us to esteem and encourage others, and by our praise help give them some direction.
The gospel we have inherited is good and true and reliable and trustworthy. It has brought us a very high account of mankind. It is ambitious for us in a way not rivalled by another other tradition. It pins us to the hope of love and truth and freedom. It insists that we are men for one another, people in a community, bound by love, and it insists that we learn what is true, and adjust ourselves to the truth, that we develop good judgement in order to explore and its saying that we should abandon our fantasies and let reality be our judge. We should discover that creation is good, that there is a very significant role for us, and that nature is to not simply to be defied.
Each individual Christian is sovereign. Each of us is responsible; each of us capable of forming judgements and giving our reasons for them. Each of us is given a conscience; very occasionally there are things that are wrong, which we must refuse to get involved in, even though everybody around us is telling us to do so. We must do what is right, as far as we can see what that it, no matter what pressures are on us.
The Heavenly Host
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
Glorifying and praising God….
The angels worshipped Christ and then the shepherds worshipped him. What is worship? Worship is the respect and recognition we give one another and receive from one another. It is our acknowledgement and our esteem, our judgement and evaluation of you. We give you your worth, and we do this clearly and publicly so that all other people can see what esteem we hold you in. We say that you are worthy, at least worthy of our time and attention. We pay you attention, we value your company and treasure what you say. We look up to you or we look to you as to an equal, or at the very least we look upon you fondly. We meet your eyes, return your look, we do not avert our eyes from you.
When it worships, the church takes the worship of heaven and repeats it here in the language of our societies here on earth. It receives the breath of life and it passes on that breath simply by singing and worshipping God. The Church brings the words of life. These are not simply words, but life. They are the oxygen supply that makes every creature live. The Church does not simply issue words but blows life into the world. What we receive from the Lord is not simply information that we then have to assess and act upon. It is that life supply makes everything possible in the first place, and which makes it possible for us to judge well, act well, recognise our true Lord and give our worship to him only. All creatures and creation sing Holy, Holy, Holy. They point forward, and point you forward, to our perfection., when we will be complete and holy.