As we come to the close of 2011, I wonder what sort of year you think it has been?
Has it been a better, happier, more contented year than 2010?
Has humankind climbed the ladder of progression toward the sort of world we all want?
Or are we slipping backwards, downhill like novice skiers on the beginners slope?
Some people are asking, where has all our confidence gone?
What happened to our hope of a better future?
We were once a great nation,
once confident of our place in the world,
as David Cameron said on Friday,
Britain has suffered from a “moral collapse”.
Why is that?
Well, for most of last century we believed three things
as a nation
that shaped who we are today:
First, we were told by many scientists that
we had evolved from lifeless mud
in a universe which had made itself
on a planet where by chance all the right conditions exist for life.
God was dead, there was no need for God
We were told that human beings had evolved and would continue to evolve.
We’d become stronger, fitter, more competitive,
smarter, more intelligent,
as the survival of the fittest ensured that the best people
would get the best jobs
and would create a better world
with wealth for everyone.
Second, we were told that human reason and collective intelligence were powerful enough to make life work without any help from God.
Several events happened to make us believe this.
After the horrors of the Two World Wars and the depression,
We began to believe in ourselves.
Some people here will remember the mood of the nation
at the end of the second world war,
when Labour swept to power in 1945 and Clement Atlee promised to build
a New Jerusalem in England’s green a pleasant land.
Others will remember the confidence in human ability and technology
when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon and said
“one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”?
Twenty years later, yuppie culture came to Britain.
People were swept along on a wave of materialistic consumption until 2008
when the tide went out
and credit crunched.
Third, we were told, by the Beatles, that “All you need is love”
In other words, rules are not important, and rules have nothing to do with love.
Two years ago, Lily Allen released one of my favourite pop songs,
called “The Fear”:
It’s a song which captures the mood of her generation,
as she ponders life and the attitudes of her peers. In it she sings:
I am a weapon of massive consumption
And its not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function
I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cause I’m being taken over by the fear
Today, fear grips lots of people.
We have a sense of unease about the future.
The confidence has gone,
the bubble has burst,
the party is over,
Europe is bankrupt,
financially and morally.
Greed and selfishness rule.
What will happen in the future?
What will happen to our welfare state,
our pension system our care homes,
our education system,
Lots of people will admit privately to being taken over by the fear.
But we somehow keep a stiff upper lip
and try to carry on as if everything will be all-right.
We have stumbled foolishly through recent history
like the man on his way home from the office Christmas party
after drinking too much cheap wine and beer
and who can’t find his keys.
We are lost in a maze and can’t find the exit.
We are poking about in the dark
like kids trying to find their Christmas stocking at 4 o’clock in the morning.
And we will continue to stumble unless something changes.
It is into this darkness that the light of Jesus has broken in.
Our reading from John’s gospel reveals that Jesus is the light of the world.
He dispels the darkness.
He shows us the way.
He clears our vision.
He opens blind eyes.
For too long we have lived as if the human mind,
the human conscience
can make life work
We have tried to create heaven on earth without reference to the creator.
John tells us that Jesus is the creator of the universe
and because he is the creator
he knows how life works.
He knows how life works for individual people
He knows how life works for families
He knows how life works for church families
for the whole world.
All we need to do is look to Jesus.
To listen to his teaching and put it into practice
To know him as a person
To love him for giving his life for ours
To worship him as he rose triumphant from the dead
To follow him
To obey him
as individuals, families, churches, cities and nations.
Jesus brings hope to a hopeless world.
Jesus shines his light in the darkness of the world.
Jesus creates order in a chaotic world.
Jesus gives direction to a lost world.
And Jesus only brings hope, light, order and direction when we ALL follow him,
when we ALL listen to his teaching,
when we ALL trust in his death for our sins,
which is more than breaking God’s rules,
sin is living as if God does not exist
Jesus only brings change
when we ALL say sorry to God for living without him,
and when we ALL hope in him.
It is no good if we leave it to someone else.
If we leave it to our neighbour to be a follower of Jesus
or our politicians
or our bankers
or our vicar.
It’s no good if we say
“I want so and so to behave like a Christian
if we are not willing to follow Jesus ourselves.”
It’s no good because life doesn’t work that way.
First, we must all pull in the same direction
and that direction is the way Jesus leads us.
And, second, it’s no good because Jesus himself said
that those who believe in him will receive eternal life
but those who reject him will never see life.
Your eternity and mine hangs on the way we respond to Jesus.
David Cameron can make all the speeches he wants
about the way the bible is the book which made Britain the way it is
But if David Cameron does not make a personal commitment
to follow Jesus
then David Cameron will not receive eternal life.
As I said at the beginning,
this carol service could so easily be like going to the theatre for you,
for some Christmas entertainment,
but if you walk out of here feeling entertained
but not seeing Jesus for who he is and believing in him,
then tonight has been of no lasting good for you.
If, however, your heart and mind have been stirred,
not by entertainment,
but by the wonder of the eternal Word of God becoming flesh
to live amongst us
and show us the way,
then I pray that you will respond in faith
by the calling of the Holy Spirit of God,
and live the rest of your life and eternity as a follower of Jesus.
John chapter 1 verse 10
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Don’t leave here continuing to believe the lie that human beings can sort out the future on their own,
believe instead that only Jesus, the Living Word, can
as we ALL follow him in life and into eternity.