A Christmas Hope. Sermon 3 Dec 2017 by Robert Douglas
Will you pray with me…Help us lord to penetrate beyond the outer structure of Christianity, and to discovwer the inner meaning of our faith which is always active in love.May my words tonight lead us ever more adventurously into a mature understanding of our faith..Amen
From the reading I chose tonight you know we are entering the buildup to the birth of Christ and the shepherds on the hills have received a visit from the angels telling them of the coming of the baby Jesus.
These shepherds have been living a life of hell under the rule of the Romans
And here was a new sign of hope that things could change for the better. They left their sheep and headed for Bethlehem in the hope a new life would be heralded.
I was reminded of this when last week, just like many of you may have done, a letter dropped through my letterbox and it was headed…hope.
I thought of our outreach The Pickle Team, with James,Sarah,Peta and Michael helping and giving hope to so many living on the streets here in Brighton.
Over thirty years ago in 1986 a small team of us from MCC London did exactly the same and took food and clothes to people living on the streets of London.
With the outbreak of the HIV and Aids epidemic there was an alarming amount of discrimination to those affected resulting in many being driven to life on the streets.
Our Metropolitan community Church founder..the Rev Troy Perry had been seeing the same thing happening in the USA. Our pastor at the time Revnd Hong Tan had a long discussion with Troy and we as a team decided to do something about it in London.
An outreach of our London MCC was set up, called “God’s Love We Deliver” headed by Rev Hong Tan a brilliant man who was researching the HIV and Aid’s virus at the time. Together with Gillian Storey I was privileged to work with them and others setting up a mobile soup and food kitchen in Lower Regents St.. Here men and women gathered in the cold and wet each evening from them sleeping in doorways etc. They desparately waited in the hope we could help them as there was very little else.
I still find it difficult today describing to others the mental and physical stress we were all going under in those very dark days. There was really no hope for people affected by this little known life destroying virus. But we pressed on.
In 1988 the Metropolitan Community Church of London desperately needed more volunteers and the work was seriously affecting the health and mentality of the team to the point that we knew things had to change.
Finally and I will now read from the website of “The Food Chain” and you can do so by typing in that name on Google…. 1988 On Christmas Day, members of the Metropolitan Community in Central London deliver a Christmas Day meal to people living with HIV in London, based on a similar model in New York. The office is a founder member;s bedroom.
Realising there is an ongoing need for support, Mike Pennell and Amanda Falkson (who had been recruited as a driver and cook respectively) were approached by the Rev’d Hong Tan and Gill Storey of MCC London to see if they would take over the service. The church then formally ceased to be involved and the name was changed to “The Food Chain”
When this service was handed over to The Food Chain the MCC London still continued to work supplying meal services and formed a new outreach called Oasis to work with other charities.
Our pastor Michael will remember how he, Nigel and I with many others, weekly cooked meals for many at the Salvation Army centre in London’s Camden town.
So many today are feeling they are in situations beyond their control and seeking an answer but I am really proud to see our church The Village MCC Brighton still going out to help those living on the streets here in Brighton.
Let us show how that first Christmas was, and still is hope personified.
It highlights the fact that Christianity is essentially a religion of hope.
God gave His people when he promised to send them a Messiah, a Saviour, a Deliverer and this promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.
If you think about it, it’s entirely appropriate for Jesus Christ, who is the hope of the world, to have come in the form of an infant, because babies are hope personified. They are pure potential. Their lives are all in the future.
Is there a parent who has’ent looked into the face of their newborn baby and wondered..
What will this little child accomplish, what will they become?
A doctor saving lives, a lawyer pursuing justice? An engineer,painter,ballerina,astronaut, research scientist.. anything is possible.
But Mary had even more than the usual maternal pride to justify having great hope for her son. The previous year, she had been visited by an angel,. Gabriel, who gave her a promise:
You will be of child and give birth to a son, and you will give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of His father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, His Kingdon will never end.
In other words when Jesus was born God made it clear that this baby was the one for whom the world had been waiting,watching and most of all hoping, ever since the first man and woman had been driven out of Eden.
When Joseph and Mary looked down on their tiny son wrapped in a blanket and lying in an ordinary manger filled with straw. Surrounded by cows,sheep and donkeys and so many people coming to see Him, including poor shepherds from so far away, what hope they had for him.
What hope in knowing that this child was the one in whom all of God’s promises would be fulfilled. Knowing that He was the one in whom God’s people would find forgiveness of sins, the one in whom they would find true and lasting peace and the one whose power would establish an eternal kingdom of justice and righteousness.
It must have been almost overwhelming, as they considered the awesome responsibility and hope God have given them.