Sermon Christmas Day 2021
11am Eucharist Christ Church Cathedral
Fr Richard Peers SMMS
Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely,
What does divine mean to you?
Perhaps you think of a well known Fair Trade brand of chocolate?
Perhaps you are as old and outrageous as me and remember the 1980s drag act: Divine.
Or it might be that you think more of the verb, to divine the meaning of a thing.
The Victorian poet Christina Rossetti’s wonderful poem, Christmastide, which you should have been given on a card as you entered the cathedral today perfectly describes what we are celebrating in this Eucharist and throughout the day in our homes and families.
We know what love is. Most of us know how to love, most of us know what it feels like when we feel loved. Most of us know what it is to want to be loved.
But we also know that our love, our loving, our loves, are a mixture.
Of course, we all want to have a fantastic Christmas which is perfect from start to finish. But we know that we will irritate one another, there will be moments when things don’t go right, or to plan, or we find we have made a hopeless present choice. We will disagree about what to have on the TV or what time to go for a walk.
We know that our world is a mixture. Perhaps feeling like it is balanced too much to what is not good at the moment. Endless bad news about Covid, the economy, troop movements on the border of the Ukraine, or even our own problems here at Christ Church or in each of our on lives.
It can seem that love, loveliness and the divine are very far away.
There is a small ceremony in the Eucharist that you probably don’t even notice. After putting wine into the chalice we add a few drops of water.
This may have its origins in the Roman custom of adding water to wine, and therefore may have been done by Jesus at the last supper.
For Christians too it is a sign of the water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ in John’s account of the crucifixion.
As such it is a sign of the sacraments of Christian initiation, baptism in water and Eucharist in blood.
In the three Eucharists of Christmas Day two contain short readings from the letter to Titus in the New Testament . The one we have just heard and the one that we heard at the Midnight Eucharist that I’ve printed on the cards with Rossetti’s poem. I hope you will take the cards home and pray with these texts this week. The whole letter to Titus is very short, just two chapters, it would be a good text to read in this Christmas week to feed your prayers. In the text on your cards St Paul writes of the “cleansing water of rebirth … and the renewing … with the Holy Spirit”.
As the water is added to the wine in the chalice there is a very ancient and very beautiful prayer that many of us use:
hyn“By the mystery of this water and wine,
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
What we are celebrating today is a great mystery.
It is God becoming human. But there is a far greater mystery that we often forget, the mystery of our sharing in his divinity.
Our becoming like God as we were created to be in God’s image and likeness.
The Latin word (particeps) that is often translated ‘share’ in the little prayer, is actually much stronger than that.
We are not called to receive a portion, a share, of divinity
but to participate in divinity.
When the water is poured into the wine it is utterly mixed the water becomes wine just as Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana. When we pour ourselves into the divine, we lose ourselves and become divine. When I pour those drops of water into the chalice I try to think about those parts of myself, that I would like to be taken up by God’s divinity and transformed into something better, something selfless and God-like. Something Divine.
Christina Rossetti tells us what this divinity is that we are called to participate in,
it is Love.
God is Love.
St Paul wrote in the letter to Titus:
“When the kindness and love of God our saviour for humanity were revealed
it was for no reason except his own compassion” (JB)
Love, lovely, divine.
Sadly we can’t share the Eucharistic cup in these Covid times but the Eucharist, and the mixing of the water and wine in the chalice show us what the shape of love is.
The shape of love is the mixing of the divine and the human in Jesus.
the shape of love is the mixing of the divine and human in me, in you.
The shape of love is the mixture of joy and sorrow that is every life.
The shape of love is the irritations and frustrations, the joys and delights of living with other human beings.
The shape of love is the gift of marriage in which we mix two lives that they become one.
The shape of love is the welcoming of migrants and refugees because the water of our lives is enriched by the wine of other cultures.
The shape of love is the living of our lives not for ourselves alone but for others.
The shape of love is God in Jesus.
By receiving the Eucharist today and any day we are giving assent to the participation in God that is our birthright by baptism.
We are saying yes.
Yes I want to Love
saying I want to live by love and shape my life by love in the way that Jesus did.
- Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
- Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Whether you are drinking water or wine today, whether you are alone or with others
may you taste the kindness and love of God.
Dear friends, in this love is all the ahppiness of Christmas. Happy Christmas.
Love be yours and love be mine.