“All I want for Christmas…” Christmas Sermon 2019
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need,
and I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas day
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true (ooh ooh)
All I want for Christmas is…..
The immortal words of Mariah Carey got me thinking.
What do I actually want for Christmas?
What do you want for Christmas?
What do any of us want for Christmas?
I think Mariah might be onto something, we don’t want for much, luckily thanks to the country we live in. We are materially rich by world standards and yet more presents underneath the Christmas tree won’t fulfill our deepest needs. Mariah answers this deep theological question of what we want, in the way that many songs and movies do, that romantic love is the answer.
And hey, I’m all for romantic love. The loving relationships in our lives with wives, husbands and partners is probably the most important thing in the world to us, along with the loving relationships we have with children, friends and family.
If ultimately all we want for Christmas is romantic love, beautiful as that may be, then that probably wouldn’t bring us to church, because the story of the birth of Christ is not a romance.
Theologians have suggested for centuries, so it’s not a new idea, that the only thing that can satisfy our most deepest of desires is God.
St Augustine famously put it “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
George McDonald (Scottish poet and writer) put it another way – “I am an emptiness for Thee to fill; my soul a cavern for Thy sea”
The Christian faith has provided purpose, meaning and fulfillment for faithful believers for two thousand years, a tad longer than relatively modern traditions like Christmas trees and gift giving.
Much of our faith’s theology is centred around the meaning of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. But it all finds its beginnings here in the nativity, here in Bethlehem, where in poverty, obscurity and under threat of danger God comes to us uniquely, humbly and vulnerably in a baby in a manger.
What do Mary and Joseph want for Christmas? What any parents want – a healthy birth and a safe haven for their child.
What do the shepherds want for Christmas? Something to lighten up the dark monotony of their lives.
What do the wise men want for Christmas? An end to all their striving and searching. A destination for their quest.
What do we all want for Christmas?
Mary and Joseph remind us of the basic needs that all people deserve – food, water, shelter and protection. There is great support for Charities at Christmas to provide this for those who struggle, and as Mary and Joseph were homeless we are particularly mindful of those who are homeless especially those have lost homes in the recent bushfires.
The Shepherds remind us that we need something to inspire us from the monotony of mere survival. We need a message of hope to lift us in the midst of the drudgery.
The wise men show us that there is an end point for all our searching for meaning, purpose and fulfilment.
And for all of them the answer to what they need and search for is this baby lying in a manger. Why? Because Jesus reveals to us – divine love.
Mariah was part right – love is the answer, and those loving relationships in our lives are crucial to us, but they point us to a deeper more sustaining reality of love all around us. God is love and Jesus reveals this to us in a new way, in his birth, in his life and teaching, in his crucifixion and resurrection. It is all permeated with divine love.
St John sums this up in his first letter (Chapter 4:7-17)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us……
16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
There is a deep, deep love at the heart of all things. That love is God. Present with us tonight/today as we recall the birth of Christ, and present always in the best most loving, gracious, giving moments of our lives. The giving of a gift is not an end in itself but it points to the love that inspired it. And the love that inspired it, points to the God who is at the heart of all love.
So what do we want for Christmas? Well “we feel it in our fingers, we feel it in our toes, the love that’s all around us, and so the feeling grows”.
We want love, the deep divine love that can sustain us, save us and give us hope. And in the birth of Christ the truth is revealed to us that God is love… actually.
The Venerable Andrew Mintern Parish Priest.