Last year, we celebrated Christmas Day from our homes, with many of us separated from family members due to the lockdown. At the time of writing, we are hoping that some of us will be able to physically gather together for our Christmas Day service this year which will include the welcoming of a new family member as we baptize Josephine Rose Vincent-Barry.
We’re keenly aware, however, that many still feel anxious about returning to the church building at this time and want to wish all our church family a healthy, hope-filled Christmas, however and wherever you are celebrating it. Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda i bawb!
Reflection – following ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ – the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
I don’t know about you, but listening to those lyrics you get a real reminder of how they could be updated to be a little less male…but then it was written back in 1739 – when Lynda was just a child – and they were somewhat different times!
Anyway, exclusive language or not, watching the carols from King’s is a Christmas tradition for many. As are family Christmas cards such as these…
That’s right, at Christmas, many families – willingly or otherwise – break out the fancy dress or don the same clothing and pose for images of supposed family bliss. Like this one of my odd family…or the one where some are more in the Christmas spirit than others…!
And though we can’t say for sure whether Joseph and Mary cajoled the shepherds and wise men to pose for a hilarious Christmas etching, images of odd families are actually right on brand for Christmas. In fact, in the Bible, one description of that first Christmas starts by painting a picture of just how weird Jesus’ family was. In 16 verses, we read of a family tree which includes Abraham – who told his wife’s admirers that she was his sister and fair game; Isaac who stole from his brother; Jacob – who had multiple wives; then there are war criminals, double agents, adulterers, some incredible women and a King who made his son walk through fire…I mean, this lot would make an Albert Square Christmas look tame! And then there was Jesus’ immediate family – a teenage mother, older step-dad, and a somewhat unconventional birth that would definitely have got the town gossips going.
And yet, God choose these people to bear the one who would change the world. God entrusted Jesus to these messy, magnificent folk. God actually stepped into their family tree, took on flesh and lived amongst us. Which shows us that you don’t have to be pure or pious to be worthy of God…but that God loves us and comes to us as we are.
So God’s family aren’t some bunch of serene saints – they’re corrupt men and strong women; they’re migrants, misanthropes and the marginalized, they’re you and me. And today, we get to formally welcome Josie into this weird and wonderful family as she is baptised into the Church. We can’t promise to always get things right. We can’t promise a blemish-free family tree. We can’t even promise not to pose for terrible, cringe-inducing photographs. But we can promise that in this church and in God’s family, Josie will always be welcomed, wanted, and loved. Just like us all.
Prayers of intercession
Loving God, we celebrate today the birth of a new hope; the wonder of new life; the joy of a welcoming a new member to the family. This special day, we declare again that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The darkness never will, because there’s a crack in it.
And that’s where the light gets in!
We celebrate today the baptism of Josie as she is welcomed into your church. May your joy be in her heart and your love surround her living each day and night. May she come to know your presence in growing and learning, in happiness and sorrow, in beginnings and endings. We pray, again for Claire and Helen Bless them, give them strength and wisdom, help them to continue to create and uphold a home full of security and love. We also ask your blessing on Josie’s brother, Ben, on all the godparents and on everyone who has promised to support, teach and love Josie today.
Bless them, and us, that we might also be a blessing to others.
And midst our celebrations, we pray today for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world free from violence; where all people can live together without fear, hatred, or persecution.
For your kingdom is not about power and prejudice, false promises and fake news but springs from justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
And we all need more of that!
We pray, too, for those for whom Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year…
For the lonely and grieving… For those stressed or depressed…
For the ill and those struggling financially… For the homeless and refugee…
For those caught in conflict… For those working today or who are far from family in friends…
In a moment of stillness, we bring to you those on our hearts and minds today…
May you surround with love all those we have named in our hearts.
And as today we remember the angels’ words to the shepherds on the hillside,
we choose good news over fake news; hope over despair; love over hate.
We will share the peace of Christmas with all we meet…
for the peacemakers will be blessed!
All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, babe in the manger, the God-with-us, who – when grown- taught us to pray, saying in whichever language we choose, saying: Our Father/Ein Tad…
May the God of the angels, who sang at Christ’s birth, bring hope to the world this day.
May the God of love, who gave his only Son to be born for us, fill our lives with love and peace.
May Emmanuel, God with us, be with us in all our living today, tomorrow and every tomorrow. Amen.