“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....”

So begins the story…

a story that millions have seen and heard,

a story which is relived in costumes and parties and books and films,

a story which speaks of hope.

A story which, after 42 years, has now come to an end.

 

I haven’t actually seen the new Star Wars film, The Rise of the Skywalker, but I will do, just as I have all the others: and by then I will have spent a little over 25 hours in this galaxy far, far away.  Well, to be honest, a darkened cinema, holding a bucket of popcorn with some mates watching it all happen in front of me. At the end, I shall get up and leave and chat about it with my friends. We will then say our goodbyes and go home. Entertained for a couple of hours but fundamentally unchanged…life will go on.

And that’s what Christmas can be like.

We hear an ancient story. A story that is mysterious, taking place in an unfamiliar land far, far away over two millenia ago. Okay so there are no Ewoks, but there is an evil empire, there are strange visitors: a bunch of shepherds, some foreigners claiming to be wise, and a young couple who have a baby boy.

And this old, old story is:

a story that millions have seen and heard,

a story which is relived in costumes and parties and books and films,

a story which speaks of hope.

But for many, it can remain just that: a story.

A story for others, not them, a story which doesn’t affect us or involve us. We can return to our homes entertained but fundamentally unchanged…life goes on.

But stop.

Tonight, in the midst of the dark of deep midwinter, we are instead invited to be drawn closer into the mystery of the birth of Jesus Christ. We are beckoned to approach His light, the light which is coming into the world and which no darkness can overcome. This light does not merely shine, banishing the darkness away, but it comes to light up our lives and to lead - to lead to a life with God.

God comes into the world as one of us. “He dwelt among us”. Not to stand there, so we can all go ‘wow’. Nor does God come to judge and condemn. But God comes into the world so that he may touch our lives, so he may be more easily known and so that we may be touched by God, to be known by God, to be loved by God. This is what we celebrate this night: God’s coming into the world in Jesus Christ for us.

But we aren’t passive onlookers: we don’t simply watch all this happening and move on. For we are invited to become part of this story. We are not just witnesses to the birth of Jesus but we too can have a new birth in ourselves … that of God as revealed by his Son. Jesus shows us what God is like, and in turn calls us to be like him, doing as he taught us to do: love God and love our neighbour. That’s the way here today we become part of the story: that we hear this news and make it part of our loves. We practise love. Loving God and loving one another.

The world seems to be a place of darkness – and if there’s one thing that we could all do with this Christmas is perhaps more love? For love turns hatred, brings peace, not war, and in place of despair offers hope. I am not so starry eyed that I think love simply solves all in a second and lays ahead a great series of answers. As if, suddenly, we turn to love and somehow all becomes clear. However, by practising love we set ourselves on a different course: a path where we look out for another, tend to each other, care for one other. The other stops being a nameless person but becomes my neighbour.

The light of love is not a gift that God kept to himself but instead gave it to us all in his Son Jesus Christ. The same is true for us: that we who receive this light of love cannot keep it for ourselves but it is a gift to be shared. We are called in this community to light up our homes, our village, our schools, our workplaces, our towns, our world with love. We are to be messengers of hope to others who have not seen the light and love of God, but whose lives are marked by the darkness of despair and dejection. To those, we are to bring the good news of what God has done.

Tonight this story has a new beginning - a new beginning with each of us…not in a galaxy far, far away but right here and now.                                       

Amen

 

Didier Jaquet