I remember when I was 12 years old and I got my first guitar.
Prior to then, I had to fiddle around on a friends’ guitar whenever he let me. But at 12, I got my own: it had a crack in it, the strings were so rusty they made my fingers bleed and the strap was an old cord from a dressing gown.
A battered old guitar. But it was perfect – because it was mine, it was for me.
I remember when I was 17 and passed my driving test and I got my first car.
It was an old Ford Escort. 0 to 60 in about 10 minutes, if it could even reach 60! And there was an electrical fault on it so that, for some reason, the electrics grounded themselves through the pull out choke on the dashboard so when you pulled the choke out, it was always red hot and burnt my fingers.
A broken down wreck of a car. But it was perfect – because it was mine, it was for me.
I remember when I was 21 and I put down a mortgage on my first Flat in Guildford.
It was a tiny little flat and when I moved in, this was the sum total of my possessions: a second hand single bed, a picnic table, a stereo system and a second hand chair. That was it – and I remember my first night on my own, sitting on that chair, eating a Chinese takeaway from the plastic carton with a plastic fork, listening to the new Fairground Attraction album on my stereo.
A tiny, unfurnished flat. But it was perfect – because it was mine, it was for me.
I remember when my daughter, Rebekah, was born.
There were problems when her heart stopped beating just prior to birth, so she and her mother were whipped down into theatre for an emergency Caesarean Section. And when I was first given her to hold, she was tiny little thing, wrapped in a blue blanket, covered in traces of blood and poo and all sorts of other fluids that it would be too much to think about tonight. And I held this little bundle of humanity in my arms and she was frail and almost broken and very, very vulnerable.
But she was perfect – because she was mine, she was for me.
Why do we enjoy singing Carols at Midnight Mass?
After all, there are few other spaces in society where we engage in corporate singing. The football terraces are one of the only other places where week after week, people stand and sing together with such gusto. And most of us would be way too embarrassed to sing in public in the way that we do at Midnight Mass. But here we are, singing away together: Once in royal David’s city, Angels from the realms of glory, The first Nowell, Joy to the world, The Gloria from the service sheet…Happily singing about the birth of Christ 2,000 years ago.
Why did the angels sing 2,000 years ago when they visited the shepherds in the field?
Verse 13 of our Gospel reading has them singing together: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those he favours”
Why were they singing? Because they were utterly overjoyed that Jesus was for them.
And they knew that Jesus was for the shepherds and all those who believe. Listen to what the angels said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
The miracle of Christmas, that the angels grasped, was that Christ was for them, Christ was for the shepherds, Christ is for you.
For me? Really? Jesus is for me?
Yes, he is.
Jesus is for each one of us.
And when the shepherds realized that for themselves, look what happens in verse 20: the shepherds went away from the manger singing and glorifying God because they had got the message: Jesus was for them.
The angels sang ‘Glory to God in the highest”.
The shepherds went away glorifying God.
This word ‘glory’ – it comes from the Jewish idea of the presence of the glory of God. God had announced his presence to the Israelites before: as a burning bush, as a pillar of fire, as a cloud. But now God was announcing his presence with us in a new way: as a baby named Jesus.
Glory to God in the highest. The presence of God with us as a baby.
And this baby, this Jesus, this presence of God is for you, personally.
This is not some concept or philosophy or ideology or experiment or theory: this is God in the world, personally, for you.
I loved my first guitar, broken as it was, because it was for me.
I loved my first car, dangerous as it was, because it was for me.
I loved my first flat, poor as it was, because it was for me.
I loved my daughter the first moment I saw her, frail as she was, because she was for me.
Tomorrow morning, we will wake up and find presents that have labels with our names on them, and we will no doubt enjoy our presents because they are for each one of us personally.
And I love Jesus, because he was born for me.
I love Jesus, because he died for me.
And so I will join with the song of the angels, and I will join with the song of the shepherds, and I will sing out ‘Glory to God in the highest’ because Jesus is for me.
And Jesus is for each one of you as well.
So sing out those Carols because they tell the story of Jesus being born for you; so that your sins can be forgiven, so that the mistakes of the past can be forgotten, so that you can have hope for the future, so that you can live in the presence of God daily and eventually spend eternity with him.
When you finally realize that Jesus Christ is yours, that he lived and died for you, and that he loves you, then Christmas will make sense, the Carols will come alive and your life will never be the same again.
Jesus lived and died for you. Glory to God in the highest!!