Saturday, 24 December 2011

Midnight Mass

Christmas Eve at 11pm

Gospel John 1. 1 – 14

Today [This night/day] Christ is born:
Today [This night/day] the Saviour comes:
Today [This night/day] the angels sing on earth:
Alleluia. Glory to God in the highest.

When the Gospel is announced the reader says

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Like many people I’m a fan of Professor Brian Cox. I don’t understand much of what he says. At school I had to study Latin instead of the sciences, so all I have is General Science at O Level. And m y lack of any real maths ill equips me to solve his most basic equations. But when he points to the galaxy and confidently tells us it contains a billion stars, I am duly impressed. When he then claims to know there are a billion galaxies my brain overloads.

For some people, Science and Religion are opposed. For me it’s the opposite. I see God in the night sky. I hear him in Mozart and Dvorak. I read about him in John 1.

A few years ago, I walked inside the Large Hadron Collider. It stretches for several kilometres under Switzerland and a bit of France. It wasn’t switched on at the time. It was a huge machine which spoke to me of human engineering. There was nothing sublime about it.

But when we read about the Word that was in the beginning, the finger of God is all over it. It attests to his involvement in history from the very beginning. Perhaps when we know more of the Higgs Boson, if such a particle exists, we will find out more about what happened in the first few moments of the Big Bang. In the meantime, I’m happy to assert there was a creative force that existed before time and space, and that from outside our dimension everything that was and is came into being through his word. I can understand creation that way much more easily than a cataclysmic explosion with no known origin or cause.

This same God might have endowed us with freewill, but that does not mean he has abandoned our world to its fate. It is a mystery to me why God seems to get involved with his creation in some ways, but not in others. But the gospels reveal that God shows up with people whom the world counts as nothing. The circumstances of the birth of Jesus. The shepherds who were mistrusted outcasts from society, yet were chosen to hear the news first. Then right throughout his ministry Jesus speaks to the marginalised and rails against respectable authority.

Tonight we hear again about the light coming into the world. How can we possibly become involved? God is transcendent – outside of time and space – yet we can listen to the music in which he is present – we can meditate on these mysteries as Mary did “pondering these things in her heart” – we can hear and receive the message that God brings to us in Jesus – and we can receive him through holy communion which we are about to share together.

God is present though, not only in the transcendent but also the mundane. As Publius Sulpicius Quirinius made plans for his census, who might have been aware of the way God might be working through this insignificant Roman aristocrat? So we must see God in the greatness of creation, but also in the people and the events that in human terms seem to matter least.

The shepherds were the most untrustworthy witnesses to a great event anyone could have possibly picked. Yet their evidence reaches down through the ages.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


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