A Sermon by Revd Katherine Hedderly
Readings for this service: Isaiah 9. 2-7; John 1. 1-14
Tonight God gives us his word. God says, ’Trust me. I am showing you the deepest truth at the heart of your life. I am giving you the most precious gift in the world.’
When we say to someone ‘trust me’ we know that we can’t just say these words; our actions and our words, who we really are, will need to back this statement up. We are asking someone to invest in us. ‘Trust me, I know what you’re going through.’ ‘Trust me, I love you and want what’s best for you.’
When God says ‘trust me’ it is the start of a relationship, not a transaction, a relationship with us and with the world. In Jesus, in this tiny vulnerable child, God shows us that we can put our trust in him, tonight and always.
We might have come this evening after all the busyness and preparation for Christmas, having set our Out of Office, and signed off from social media and having wrapped all our presents, because here on Christmas Eve, somewhere deep inside, we want to connect to the true meaning of Christmas, to find the one in whom we can put our trust. We might want to be reminded of a deeper truth that we knew once, and miss, and need to reconnect to again; or because events of our life this last year have shaken us, the loss of someone we love, or a change in our circumstances, or health, or relationships that have been hard or challenging; or because we are concerned for our country and society which is so divided; or for our world that is longing for peace and stability; or we are here because we’re looking beyond fake news and are searching for a truth that we can believe in and trust.
We each in our own way long for a deeper truth in which to anchor our souls.
When God says tonight ‘trust me’ our response might be ‘Show me how I can trust you. Show me the way to trust you’. God’s response is: I give you my word, which is my Son, come to be with you. Jesus is the way to trust God.
I’ve encountered four people who have shown what it means to trust in recent days.
A group of families gathered by the Joint Council for Immigrant Welfare came to sing carols on the steps of the church here last Saturday. It pelted down with rain and yet the families that gathered, stuck it out, and sang carols to London across Trafalgar Square. They wanted to highlight the situation faced by their own and other families, divided at Christmas, who are desperately trying to be reunited, in the face of harsh immigration policies. One woman Jane with a young daughter, had come because after much campaigning her husband had finally been allowed into the country and now family life was beginning for real. She wanted to be there to support other divided families facing the same heartache. In the wind and the rain she said ‘I want to be a sign for others facing this country’s ‘hostile environment’. I’m trusting that my story will give them strength.’
Another person, Ben the partner of a friend who came to a carol service, was eager to tell me that he wasn’t religious but as he works nearby he sometimes comes and simply sit in this church, especially when life is overwhelming, and in this church he could be centred and find peace. On his way out after the mince pies at the end of the evening he was eager to tell me that he would be coming back again to seek that sanctuary and peace in the middle of this busy city. ‘I am not religious but I feel connected here. I trust the peace I’ve found in this place.’
And the third person just yesterday, at the Christmas lunch at the Sunday International Group – a group held for those who are homeless here in London from many countries of the world – who was hungry and had three Christmas dinners, one after the other, and filled his pockets with the chocolates and who shared his story with me: a story of struggle and challenge. He said that the most valuable thing he had was hope. It was hope that had got him through when he’d had to address some of the challenges of his own life, face his vulnerabilities, and it had given him strength.
And then finally someone I visited just today in hospital, Robert in intensive care being cared for by amazing nurses and doctors in a London hospital, all doing their utmost for him. The only thing his wife and I could do as we stood by his bedside – was to trust in the incredible expertise of this international staff, and to trust in God, holding him tenderly, at this time of greatest vulnerability, like a child.
Each of these people were trusting in something greater than themselves. Trusting that we can be a sign of goodness and light for those going through darkness, trusting that there is a deep peace at the heart of things, trusting in a power that will bring us through the difficulties of our lives, and face our vulnerabilities with a strength we didn’t know we had and trust finally that, when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable, when our strength is gone, God’s arms will hold us however young or old we are, tenderly like a little child.
The source of that trusting and peace and hope and strength and vulnerability is incredibly the Word of God, expressed most perfectly for us, in a tiny child born in a ‘hostile environment’ to refugees on the road. God comes to us and reveals himself to us, in Jesus his Word, in the only language we understand, as a fragile, vulnerable human being, made flesh, just like us. This is the source of all our trusting. This is the truth of God who comes home to us this night. There is nothing false or fake here. In Jesus God says I give you my word. I give you myself.
In Jesus God comes to be like us – he is the human face of God. Not powerful and mighty, but infinitely vulnerable to us, loving, compassionate and forgiving. Celebrating Christmas means renewing our trust in this person, this love anew.
But what about the suffering in the world we might say? How can we trust God when we see that all around us? We can trust God because we find the love and compassion of God with us in the suffering and pain in acts of selflessness and courage and compassion. The face of Christ at the hospital bedside, in the community that supports a divided family, in the welcome and support for the person who is homeless and needs to be treated with dignity and encouraged and seen as someone who has gifts to share, in the mystery that speaks to us when we’re anxious or afraid or can’t seem to find any peace. If we look for the presence of God we find ways to trust him at every point.
In Jesus we can trust God because he is what love is and how we are meant to be. His every action and word show us the Father, in his compassion and healing of those who were sick, in his release for those caught up in powers to strong for them, in his humble kneeling to wash his disciples feet, in his life and death that spoke of God’s great love for us. And incredibly we can be like him. In Jesus God he gives us the possibility to be trustworthy too. People in whom others see his love and light reflected.
If you think you’ve lost touch with what the truth is. If you feel you can’t trust any more. Look again here at the stable and see the simple truth of God reflected there and put your trust in him: the child in the manger. Allow his light and truth to touch your heart. Make space for him in your life. And hear his God’s word afresh to you “Trust me with all your heart”. And then allow his gentle, hopeful, peaceful love to be born anew in you. Love for all the world.
“….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.” John 1.14
 Michael Mayne, Responding to the Light, Canterbury Press, 2017