Midnight Mass – Christmas 2017
On December 21st 1968 Apollo 8 lifted off for its journey to the moon. Frank Borman was the senior astronaut. As they circled the moon in their tiny space module we were given the most incredible first real pictures of the earth from outer space.
As they saw earth from outer space they said, ‘We went in search of the moon, and discovered instead the earth.’ As they orbited the moon they read from the first Chapter of the book of Genesis, the great poem of God’s creation. ‘we went in search of the moon, and discovered instead the earth.’ There is a message from 1968 that is as powerful on Christmas Eve in 2017.
So often we seek for the moon and fail to grasp what is right with us. As we seek to discover God we look too far – we ask questions that are too big for us to answer; we try to find him in the huge intractable problems that are presented to us in our world, and then we wonder why we don’t or can’t discover him. We are reaching out for the moon, but we are failing to see what is right with us.
The God who is the Creator of all that there is; the God who is infinite, invisible and truly unknowable, makes himself visible, knowable, and wraps himself up in flesh and blood in the infant who was born on what we now call Christmas Eve. This God makes himself like you and me in Jesus, and says, ‘If you want to know what I look like – look to Jesus. If you want to know what I am saying to you, listen to Jesus. If you seek my kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven, do as Jesus bids us to do. Don’t look somewhere else, don’t try to see beyond what you can see, or know beyond what you can know, just see and know Jesus.
‘Here I am wrapped in a cloth – I will leave that cloth behind in the empty tomb. Here I am in the manger made of wood and nails – I will be found with those again when I am hanging on the cross. Here is my mother with tears of joy because I have been born from her womb – she will weep tears of sorrow when she sees me dead. But I will be born again, not from her womb, but the from the womb of the empty tomb. Look at these hands – these are the hands that are wrapped around my fathers finger, and these are the hands that will spasm in pain on the wood. These hands that threw stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered.’
Friends, don’t look for our God in places that are beyond you. Don’t give up looking because you may well be sniffing around in the wrong place, asking the wrong questions, demanding the wrong answers. Don’t argue God out of your life, because you may have started with the wrong premiss and come up with the wrong conclusions.
This Christmas Eve, commit yourself again, afresh to the journey of faith. The journey made by Mary whose humility is a lesson to us all; the journey made by Joseph who didn’t reject Mary despite the scandal; the journey of the shepherds who didn’t allow anything to get in the way of the joy of the message; the journey of the Wise Men who persisted in their search until they reached a destination.
Journey together to the manger and gather there where we can rejoice that all of the glory of God is revealed in a child. Fix your eyes on him; let your hearts be joined with his in human love and compassion. Don’t try to see beyond him, because that way you will miss him. Stay with him and journey from manger to cross, and even when we reach there, the angels will say to us, as they said 2000 years ago in the garden of resurrection, ‘Why do you stand looking up to heaven? He is not here, he has gone to a place you know well, to Galilee’. He is in a place well known to all of you. And right now he is here. Yes, God is here – in full glory, in bread, wine, song of praise, prayer, in the fellowship of his gathered people. So right now you don’t need to look elsewhere.
‘And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, a good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you – all of you on good earth.’