Part of a Sermon preached by the Archbishop of York on Sunday 25th December 2016 in York Minster...
Bible Readings: Isaiah 9: 2-7; Luke 2: 1- 14
Theme: “A Saviour, the Anointed One, who is the Lord, is born” – Hope made Real. New Life for all is here.
The “good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2: 9) is brought by the angel of the Lord – accompanied by “the glory of the Lord shining all around them” (Luke 2: 9) - to shepherds who are looking after sheep on the hillside near Bethlehem. They are “terrified” but excited and they decide to leave the shepherding and go to find this child. This “Saviour, the Anointed One, who is the Lord, is born.” New Life for all is here.
Shepherds, often looked-down upon and treated as unholy because of their nomadic lifestyle, are the ones chosen by God to receive this “great news of joy for all the people”. They are the first to go and then tell others of this great news of joy that “A Saviour , the Anointed One, who is the Lord, is born”. New Life for all is here. “They glorified and praised God”- just like “a multitude of the heavenly hosts had done”earlier (Luke 2: 13).
For we read, “So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
Yes, the shepherds are the first to proclaim the “birth of a Saviour, who is the Lord” - like Mary Magdalene on Easter Day, will be the first to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ mother, Mary, in her song of praise, the Magnificat, sings of the poor, the lowly, those who fear the Lord, the hungry, as the ones who are blessed. Because they are dispossessed and undefended of self.
Let the poor, the lowly, the hungry and those who fear the Lord be our teachers. As Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an international network of 147 residential communities across 35 countries, where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together, says in my Agape, Love Stories:
“People society typically considers to be the weakest can enable the strong to recognise and welcome their own vulnerability and humanity.
When we draw on God’s love we can break down the barriers of fear, and be ready to meet with difference. We can find our way safely to a home in God’s family where all are accepted and understood.”
“A Saviour, the Anointed One, who is the Lord, is born”. Inviting us to encounter him and begin the daily “transformation from glory to glory, by the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3: 18). Like the shepherds, let us decide to leave the past behind us and come to Christ and receive him as our “Saviour, the Anointed One, who is the Lord, whose spirit is here with us. Let us come, and then go and be messengers taking this “good news of great joy for all the people”.
“A Saviour, the Anointed One, who is the Lord, is born”. Hope is real. New Life for all is here.
“Glory and praise be to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill among people” (Luke 2: 14). Amen