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First Sunday after Christmas

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary 26 December 2021 Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7; John 1:1-18; Psalm 147:1-12 All things came into being through him... The newest space telescope, named James Webb after a former director of the American space programme called NASA, was launched just the other day, on Christmas Eve, I believe, or perhaps Christmas day, depending upon where on this planet you happen to reside. Planned for Christmas or not -- I think it was not -- the launch day itself seems almost fortuitous for the blastoff of a sophisticated instrument which, if successful, promises to change, or vastly enhance, our understanding of the universe. For, according to the publicity surrounding the launch, the James Webb telescope will allow us, or at least allow the scientists and engineers who know what they are doing, to peer back in time to the beginning of the universe, and of time itself, presumed to have taken place some 13.8 billion years ago, give or take a month or two. Beginnings seem to have been on the mind of the Evangelist John as well, as he sat down to pen his Gospel account of the life, and meaning, of the first appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. After all, as we heard moments ago John commences his Gospel with the majestic and definitive words, “in the beginning,” the very same words, needless to say, which introduce the Book of Genesis as well and so all of Scripture. And, while a space telescope may enhance our scientific understanding of the how and what of the universe around us, John’s aim, arguably like that of the author of Genesis, is to tell us something about the meaning or purpose of it all. The story of Adam and Eve recounted in Genesis is of course legendary and mythic, as virtually all scripture scholars today will tell us. Still, the words “in the beginning,” place God and us firmly in the real world and in time itself. This is important because our Judeao- Christian faith is not like many of the world’s other great religions. Our faith is not a so-called nature religion built around the cycles of seasons and recurring astronomical phenomena so familiar to both ancient and contemporary astronomers. It is rather a faith which unites both the cosmos out there and the universe within each of us in the person of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who makes sense of it all. That is the message of today’s Gospel account. A single person, not rocky planets and stars scattered across the night sky, is at the centre of

everything. And multiverse or no, we ourselves come this way but once. But in Christ we too make a difference, hard as it may sometimes be to believe. God has been with us from the very beginning in creation and promises in his Covenant never to abandon us, his people. Christ is the living reminder of that reality. For, Christ himself was no mythic figure. He is real. He was born, as we festively commemorate this Christmas season, and he lived and taught among us. More than that, and as improbable as it may seem, it is through the birth of Jesus that all the world has come to be in the first place. Think about it. The entire universe, everything we know and everything we will ever know, everything the new telescope will teach us, has in a sense been brought into existence through Christ; through the birth of a small helpless child born into time and history centuries ago, but living still in and through each of us. Our very life and salvation depend upon this baby in all its innocence and simplicity. Our time here is sacred because God comes to us in time, in the “Word made flesh,” and in the proclamation of lowly shepherds on the hillside above Bethlehem. God is still at work, creating his world, filling it with his love, and redeeming it, through his Christ and through us. It is probably appropriate that we should celebrate Christmas so near the beginning of the astronomical year. The dating of Christmas itself was probably planned with this in mind. The Nativity of Christ, like the New Year itself, brings with it the return of light, and more importantly, the return of hope, something in seemingly short supply these days. The Incarnation reminds us even in these dark times of pandemic fear and foreboding that God is not through with us yet. The Christ we celebrate in these days is forever God’s new creation, at work in the lives of generations past, of each of us today, and in the days of generations to come. Without Christ we could not do any of the things that make us who we are as human beings and the people of the God. Christ is the divine and ultimate purpose that makes it possible for us to make sense of all our words, our actions, and our world. He is the assurance of God’s care and love for us and of God’s intimate involvement in our lives and in the meaning of our lives. And, as abstract as all this may be, and it is, it is nevertheless important. Indeed, it is essential, as John might tell us, to understanding who we are in Christ. We may be tempted to think creation is over; that it took place those fourteen billion years ago. Yet the creation is as much with us today as it was in time when Genesis or the Gospel Prologue of John were written. Each day of illness and death is also a day of birth and rebirth in Christ. The cries of a new-born infant at the beginning of life tell us this is so, particularly at this season of Nativity and Christmastide. The meaning, or logic, of Christmas and of the Incarnation is simply this: That we are loved. And happily, we do not need a telescope to discover that. Amen.

The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs

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