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Title: I want everything
Preacher: Canon Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner
Date: 24 December 2023, First Eucharist of Christmas
Recently I was standing just inside one of those vast retail outlets – a warehouse packed with almost anything you can imagine. The shelves seemed to go on and on, almost as far as they eye could see. Just entering the store, was a woman and her daughter. Perhaps the daughter was 7 or 8 years old, and I think it was the first time she’d visited the warehouse. She stopped, looked around her, and then with her eyes wide open she said to her mother:
‘I want everything!’
In that store ‘everything’ would have been a tall order, and I’m not sure how many trucks would be needed to transport everything, home. Nor could I even begin to calculate exactly how much money ‘everything’ would cost.
Perhaps we’ve all been there. Eager and excited for Christmas with so many different and sparkly things for sale, simply wanting to possess and enjoy it all.
Maybe, having it all would make us feel happy. But all the evidence is that it probably wouldn’t make us better human beings. Time and again research has shown that less well-off people, including people living in virtual poverty, are the most generous. As a proportion of what they have, it is those with very little who are most inclined to share; to give and to support.
One of the reasons why this happens may lie in the consequences of being rich. It isn’t that having lots of stuff makes us less generous or less compassionate. But apparently, it’s the fact that wealth buys SPACE.
Wealth enables people to distance themselves from their neighbour. It is less likely that someone with heaps of cash will use public transport. Less likely that they will live in close proximity to others. But also, more likely that they will live in a house of many rooms – and, perhaps even have many different homes. It appears that distance reduces our capacity to understand the needs of the people around us.
Wealth can also result in a sense of entitlement. We are rich because of our own industry, our own efforts, and we are entitled to have more. Consequently, the poor are people who have failed to become wealthy. And somehow our Possessions are seen to reflect our character and our abilities.
Tonight, we think about the most powerful being in the universe.
We come to worship one who does, indeed, ‘have everything’. As the Bible says about God: ‘All things come from you and of your own do we give you’. There is nothing which God lacks.
Yet the joy of tonight is that God in Jesus sets aside every entitlement of divinity and chooses to be as close to us as is humanly possible. St John puts it with powerful simplicity: ‘The Word became flesh’. As flesh and blood, God chooses to be one with us in the womb of Mary, and lies beside us in the busy, bustling town of Bethlehem. Rather than space, exclusivity and distance, Jesus comes as one in need of human love and care.
This Christmas it is 800 years since the first Christmas crib was created. It was St Francis of Assisi who began this custom in the year 1223. We may be familiar with a simple crib of shepherds and kings; oxen and sheep. But if you go into churches in other parts of the world these can be very elaborate scenes. There might be hundreds of figures inside and outside the stable. It can feel as though everyone in the community is moving towards this miracle.
The Christian community is created by people drawing together in response to the news of the Word made flesh. There is no place for exclusivity in either the stable or the church.
The greatest surprise of Christmas turns out to be that – in setting aside privilege and power – Jesus becomes our ‘everything’. The gift in whose love we find new life, the forgiveness of sins, and a light that, despite the darkness of our world, will never be extinguished.
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