St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Sunday after Christmas : Fr Tony Hogg

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 After all the solemnity and  jollity and excitement of Christmas Day and the subsequent holiday, Sunday gives us a chance of quiet reflection on the meaning of the history we have just commemorated. The gospel for today retells the story in simple terms: the epistle gives the explanation. It is with the latter that we shall dwell today.
The epistle describes in effect the different fortunes of two children, growing up together in the same contemporary household, the one a slave’s son, the other the legitimate son of the master of the house. The slave is evidently a favoured one, for the two children are allowed to play together, and even share the same tutor. They also submit to the same discipline.
However, as they grow towards adolescence their paths diverge. The one realizes that he is a member of the owner’s family, the other that he is merely a chattel, in the eyes of the law not a person at all, but just a piece of property to be dealt with as the master wishes. So one looks out on the world with confidence to have a share in the ownership of the ruling race. The other begins to shrink with fear- all he can expect is punishment if anything goes wrong.
But now comes a shift and difference in the Christian family – the slave has caught the spirit of the other, so that he too has learned to cry, Dear Father”, and so the slave child is received by adoption into his own family. So now they work and play together, without fear sharing the freedom of the household.
Not so much a fairy tale as it might appear, says the epistle: for the Christian that is just what has happened. He has been taken out of a sphere of a dominated life into one of love and freedom in which he is recognized as God’s son, as a freeman of his city, as a prince sharing the throne of the world with the Creator whom he now recognizes as Father.
This, it is implied, is the difference Christmas has made. God came down in the person of his Son to an enslaved world in order that mankind may be joined with that Son, filled with his spirit and set free to live his kind of life.
The moral of all this is clear. If we are sons, adopted by grace, then we must live as members of the family: we must not betray the family or let it down. Since we have the Spirit of God in our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’, we must show the character of God’s children.
Christmas teaches us that we must live in love, in hope, in confidence. But it does more than that: it gives us the glad tidings that we have the power so to live. Christ who was born in the stable of Bethlehem, on our altars and in our hearts is the guarantee both of that power and of our success.
  But we must also remember that ours is not a Peter Pan faith; we cannot stay with the child Jesus in the stable of Bethelem, however cosy and comforting that might seem in his swaddling clothes. Rather our journey, indeed our vocation is to go with him, grow with him, and follow him through his temptations, healings and miracles. To be with him at the Last Supper, pray with him and stay with him in the garden of Gethsemane. Then to stand at the foot of the Cross, with that same Mary, who held the infant in her arms, and now does so for her crucified Son as he comes down from the cross. 
Finally, we can go the tomb sure that he has kept his promise of eternal life for those who believe, for those who made the journey from birth to death, and God’s good time will great us: Well done thou good and faithful servant enter into your Glory.
Amen
 
 

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