Rev Dr Simon Perry
Advent Service, 27th November, 2016
For many Christians, Christmas is the season of tenuous homiletical connections.
The Christmas readings from scripture, tend to fall under the context of a particular type of power – that wielded by the emperor. Here are one historian’s descriptions, of a Roman emperor whose actions destroyed the status quo of the Republic. I wonder – if you might be able to make some connections of your own?
Nothing was sacred to him. The more audacious his behaviour, the more the public loved him for it.
What his critics failed to realise, is that he was smart, determined, and very much in touch with the frustrations of the common people.
The ruling classes stood by dazed and helpless as control of the state they had run for centuries slipped from their hands.
At the time when Jesus was born, most people in Galilee were Just About Managing. And they wanted justice, liberation from the unassailable might of the empire. A messiah was usually thought to be the kind of person who would initiate resistance against insurmountable odds, to bring freedom for his people. I hope you’re listening out for other connections here: a leader who would inspire the people, take up arms against an undefeatable oppressor, fight a guerrilla war and use violence because it was necessary, and somehow win lasting independence for his people.
At the time of Jesus’ birth – there were oppressors and there were resistance movements. Power and resistance to power. No alternative. Brute force, and violent resistance. No alternative.
Until the birth who is both a Saviour (a title for a Roman emperor) and Christ (a title for a resistance leader). But Jesus was neither. He rejected both power and anti-power. All he embodied was grace.
The sermons throughout this term have addressed the theme of grace. Whatever else we might want to say about grace – in biblical terms it is a force that irrupts into the world from utterly beyond, it disturbs and it liberates, it repels and it transforms. Grace, finally, is what happens when divine otherness has an actual, real-life impact upon the concrete actualities of the here and now. To celebrate Christmas, is to brace for the impact of genuine grace.