‘Shining in the darkness’ – 24th December 2020 – Christmas Eve: Midnight Mass

Welcome to our service of worship on this most holy of nights.

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20 12 24 Christmas Midnight Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 52.7-10

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

John 1.1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


Scripture Quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
by Kath, a Reader at St. Mary's

If a year ago someone had suggested to me that I would be happy to be standing in the rain on a cold winter day in the Botanical Gardens, I think I’d have at the very least questioned their sanity. You see I’m a very nesh person, as we say in these parts; to anyone not from round here it means someone who really feels the cold, so as you will understand, the prospect of being cold and damp was highly unlikely to appeal to me let alone make me feel happy. But a few days ago that is exactly what happened. After weeks and weeks of not being able to see my family we finally managed to arrange a time when we could meet. Having procured hot coffee and delicious cake from a lovely local café we trooped into the Botanical Gardens and gathered, suitably socially distanced of course, round a bench which we used as a makeshift table and for an hour or so we just enjoyed each other’s company in person. We chatted, caught up on news, asked how everyone was coping and had a laugh. We played hide and seek and chased my granddaughter, much to her and our delight and counted how many squirrels we could spot. It was all very simple and it was great and both my husband and I have said several times since then how much we enjoyed it. Our perspective on what constituted a good time had changed. This year has been hard. We have been robbed of so much that matters to us: freedom to come and go where and when as we please, freedom about who we can spend time with, freedom to shop as we wish or go to the cinema or theatre or pub or restaurant or to hold someone’s hand when they need it. Some have been robbed of their work or business which may have been a big part of their identity as well as their means of making a living, others are so much in demand that they have been robbed of their ability to have much needed time off to rest and recuperate.

Wherever we are on this spectrum I think the thing upsetting the majority of us most of all is being robbed of the ability to be physically close to one another, especially to our loved ones. We miss socialising, sitting next to each other, relaxed conversations that can only work properly face to face and without a mask or protective screen. Many of us really miss giving and receiving hugs. I know I do. Christmas is a time that accentuates this sense of loss and we feel it even more keenly than at other times. But perhaps something positive that the last ten months has shown is “what really matters” in the grand scheme of things and that maybe we have sometimes taken these things too much for granted. It also makes us aware of the way some people are routinely deprived and excluded from many of these and how that needs to change from now on. Again, we are being prompted to change our perspective.

I think many of us had thought or hoped that all would “come right” by Christmas but sadly it hasn’t and people are understandably upset that what they had looked forward to after a long period denial and sacrifice has yet again been taken away, as they see it. We as a family decided months ago not to make much by way of plans for Christmas so we haven’t been too disappointed by the changes enforced by the pandemic but I know many people set great store by their traditional celebrations and they feel very upset at the loss of them.

Perhaps this is where the Christmas story can help us. Mary & Joseph were on a long and difficult Journey and it didn’t all “come right” in the way they might have hoped and expected. I’m sure that Mary giving birth in a stable was not what they wanted but in spite of it, their Son arrived safely. Even then though, the dangers they faced didn’t go away, and no doubt having to go into exile shortly after Jesus’ birth was also not what they envisaged. Being away from home, family, livelihood and support network and being dependant on others for everything must have been hard and stressful and frightening and no doubt wearying for them just as it is for refugees today, but they sacrificed their normal ways of life and eventually made it through.

We are now collectively facing a massive time of trial. Most of us will make it through this current awful situation but sadly some won’t. I don’t know whether I’ll be one of those who does or who doesn’t and it’s the same for all of us. But what we do know is that we are here, together, right now. So let us make a conscious effort to change our perspective from that of being the disappointed victims of loss and denial to people who notice what we do have and give thanks for it. Mary & Joseph & Jesus endured what they had to endure until they got to a better place. With God’s help we can do the same.

As John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Hold on to that thought if things seem dark and difficult in the times ahead.

The Prayers
From Common Worship: Times and Seasons

In peace let us pray to the Lord.
Father, in this holy night your Son our Saviour
was born in human flesh.
Renew your Church as the Body of Christ.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night there was no room for your Son in the inn.
Protect with your love those who have no home
and all who live in poverty.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night Mary, in the pain of labour,
brought your Son to birth.
Hold in your hand all who are in pain or distress.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night your Christ came as a light shining in the darkness.
Bring comfort to all who suffer in the sadness of our world.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night the angels sang, ‘Peace to God’s people on earth.’
Strengthen those who work for peace and justice
in all the world.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night shepherds in the field heard good tidings of joy.
Give us grace to preach the gospel of Christ’s redemption.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night strangers found the Holy Family,
and saw the baby lying in the manger.
Bless our homes and all whom we love.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night heaven is come down to earth,
and earth is raised to heaven.
Hold in your hand all those who have passed through death
in the hope of your coming kingdom.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night Christians the world over celebrate Christ’s birth.
Open our hearts that he may be born in us today.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

in this holy night angels and shepherds worshipped at
the manger throne.
Receive the worship we offer in fellowship with Mary,
Joseph and the saints
through him who is your Word made flesh,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here, is copyright The Archbishops' Council (c) 2006