What shall I give him?

Blue Christmas Service                  December 20, 2017

So this service was billed as “A quiet Christmas service especially for those who are missing someone this Christmas; who are feeling alone or blue; who just can’t face the noise and crowds of Christmas cheer.”

I don’t know which of these might apply to you; I don’t know what any of us might be carrying in our hearts this afternoon.

Perhaps it is the deep sadness and loneliness of missing someone special, someone who was such a part of your life, and every Christmas is tinged with a sense of loss.

Perhaps your grief is fresher, and still sits like a sour lump in your gut, numbing your mind, and breaking out in sudden stabs of pain.

Perhaps it is the weight of depression, the dark cloud of loneliness, emptiness, and exhaustion that settles from time to time, and can be particularly near at this time of year.

Perhaps it is the pain of the world around us that you carry, the news reports that assault us daily with their tale of violence, selfishness, and stupidity, that can make us feel so hopeless about the human race.

Or perhaps you are just tired, tired from all the bustle and preparations, tired of the hype and the glitter, looking for just a quiet moment away from all that.

Whatever you are carrying in your heart, welcome.

We come as we are, we are summoned to gather at the stable, to come back to this old familiar story. Let us come to it, as far as may be possible, without preconceptions, without expectations, without assumptions. Let us simply come to the story, come to the stable, and be with it.

Let us come to it as we might come to a candle burning in the darkness. A small light, a light that doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in the world, but a light nonetheless. The darkness is still there, and it is still vast; but the light is there nonetheless, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

So it is Christ came into the world that first time: not as a blazing sun rising and bringing the brilliant new day. That will be when he comes again, the stories tell us. But this time, this time we remember and return to every year, he came as a candle in a dark stable, a light burning in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.

What can I give him? is the title we have given this service. It comes from that gentle old carol, In the Bleak Midwinter:

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

That is what we can bring him: our hearts. And they may be hearts filled with love and adoration, hearts ready to praise and worship this child in the manger – that is good. Or they may be hearts that are broken and hurting and exhausted; hearts that don’t feel like they have anything else to give. And that’s fine too. Bring those hearts as well, and lay them down in the stable at the child’s feet.

It’s okay. Because this is the child who would grow up to say: “I have come not to be served, but to serve.”

This is the child who one day would say: “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We do not need to come to this child with gifts of incense and gold. We do not need to come with worship and adoration, with confidence and joy and cheerful Christmas thoughts. We do not need to come with perfect faith and steadfast hope. We are invited simply to come. To bring our hearts, with whatever they are carrying. To sit a while in this stable; to sit by this candle burning in the darkness. To let it give us what light and what rest it may. To look into this child’s face, and see, veiled in flesh, the glory of God’s only son, full of grace and truth.