simple white fading png image

notre dame montreal


Sermon for Christmas Eve

Sermon for Christmas Eve

The Reverend Canon Charles Royden

Christmas Eve Sermon


We sang the song this afternoon at the crib service, you will all know it well,
O! You better watch out!  You better not cry
 Better not pout I'm telling you why 
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Santa spying on me to see if I have been good? This is sinister stuff.

The University of Exeter released a survey this week which shows that 40% of parents use the threat of telling Santa to make their children behave during the year. If Santa finds out you have been naughty then you don’t get presents you get coal.


I thought that was sinister enough, until I heard far worse story. Parents are now telling their children about the Elf on the Shelf. The Elf model sits on the shelf and watches the children and reports back to Santa if children are naughty, and the elf can be moved around the house. This is very bad, sneaky elves keeping watch on our every move and waiting to report back bad behaviour.

This is not reserved to Santa and Elves

A row broke out among vicars on social media this Christmas over the fact that companies are now selling an inflatable Jesus. Some clergy called it diabolical whilst others were more reasoned.

1. One said that it would show Jesus really could walk on water

2. Another said he couldn’t possible have an inflatable Jesus because  he would be afraid of letting him down.

What I really became interested in were the comments which were divided between

· Some who thought it would be great to have an inflatable Jesus because they could take Jesus wherever they went.

· Others who said that they would feel uncomfortable having a Jesus inflatable present because it would make them feel as if Jesus was always watching them. Jesus like Elf on the Shelf - waiting to catch them out.

How did we get to a position where people feel that God wants to catch them out?

It’s the same reasoning behind the jokes about heaven where people end up at the pearly gates and they have to try and get in. God is surrounded by walls and gates and there are minders to stop people getting near him. Its as if God lives in a sports ground or a theatre and there are only so many seats.

I remember when we used to take the family to see Liverpool I used to have three phones on the go as soon as tickets went on sale and you would ring them all in turn on speed dial and you would get the engaged tone and hang up and dial again until hopefully one was answered before all the tickets ran out.  The relief when somebody answered ‘Liverpool Football Club - Anfield’ in that lovely Liverpool accent.

How did we get to a position where people feel that God wants to keep people out?

Jesus trying to catch people out, God limiting access with reserved seats, restricted access, people left out.  This is all the complete opposite of Jesus . He said

‘come unto me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest. 

When we read the words of Jesus he tells the disciples that they don’t need to have an inflatable model of him in their room. He says that even if they go to the farthest place on earth, he will still be with them. But Jesus says that this is not to catch them out at all, he is there to help them.

We haven’t been very good at telling this message in the church over the years. We have tended to make people feel as though Jesus was looking for a way to catch them out. All sorts of people were made to feel as though they fell short of the mark for being nothing other than themselves.

So how did we ever get the idea that God was like this when at Christmas we remember God choose to reveal himself in this world

· not in an aggressive way,

· not in a condemnatory way,

but as a baby born into poverty who was himself rejected and despised and ended up on a cross.

There have been many reasons to reject the way in which God has been presented over the centuries by churches. But listen to the story of Jesus stripped back, go back to the original message told in scripture by the people who gave their lives so that the things they saw could be told.

That message is that

· God came in peace

· The poorest in the community came to see God lying in the animal feeding trough and realised he was like them

· His parents welcomed visitors to the baby Jesus who were people of another race - the ones we know as the wise men - who the Bible actually calls Magi, magicians from the far east who were of another faith entirely.

Essentially the message of Christmas tells us the story of God which is that he does not seek to catch us out but to forgive, a God who does not restrict access to certain folks wearing the right coloured wristband, but welcomes all people, especially the ones who don’t think that they are important enough or good enough.    This is of course the opposite of what many people think Jesus is like.


This is the clear message from the Christmas stories but of course it is also the teaching of Jesus throughout his life.

He didn’t take opportunities to punish people,

1. When a woman was brought to him caught in adultery he made the mob who had dragged here there feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves and let the woman go.

2. Jesus told a story about how a prodigal - a wayward child - treated their parent really badly and went off and lived a corrupt life and when they ran out of money and came home destitute the parent didn’t just let them off -  a great party was held to celebrate their return.

Good parents love their children even when they are naughty, they do not look for ways to catch them out and punish them. Christmas reassures us that we are God’s children, God loves us and his greatest gift is Jesus who shows us that love. A love so great that Jesus would die rather than give up on you. This is the real joy of Christmas.