Midnight service talk – when the holy meets the unholy

One of the things I like most about the midnight service is the special sense of quiet which is almost holy.
There’s something different about coming to church in the middle of the night.

As I grew up in rural Scotland the midnight service was packed with over 450 people and there was a sense of hushed reverence, even though me and my friends had come straight from the pub, slightly tanked up.

One of the TV programmes I watch is Rev.
It’s compulsive viewing for a vicar.
If you saw the Christmas special last week, you’ll have seen the midnight service, which was not filled with a sense of hushed reverence, but was filled instead with drunken yobs who shouted through the carols and sang through the communion.
Lots of churches have now closed their midnight services because they only attract drunkards when the pubs shut.

Back in the day, before I came to a living faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God, I could not make sense of church.
What was it all about?
I knew there was something special about it but I couldn’t see how it was relevant to me.
Christmas Eve was a special occasion, but no more than that.
Our reading from the gospel shows us what church is all about.

The angels and the shepherds tell us what church is all about.
We could say that the choirs of angels singing about Jesus and giving glory to God with the shepherds was the first ever church service.

So what was going on?
On the one hand, there were the holiest, purest, most sinless beings in God’s created universe who were mixing,
on the other hand,
with the roughest, toughest, probably heaviest drinkers and outcasts of society.

In that church service, on the hillside,
the angels, which means messengers, heralds, spokesmen
speak the word of God, the gospel.

“To you, in the town of David, a Saviour has been born and he is Christ the Lord.”

And the shepherds say “What, to us? To us? Who, us shepherds? Are you sure? We’re nobodies, we’re scum, we’re the dregs.”

Yes, “To you, a Saviour has been born.”

The Saviour, is the one who came to save us from our sins, to rescue us from the judgement of God. To make peace and reconcile people to God and to each other.

So the shepherds take off to see this child.
And when they see Jesus they praise and glorify and worship God.

In other words, church is a place where we meet the Holy God,
the Saviour from our sins, Jesus.
We come as we are, like the shepherds, straight from the fields.
From our lives of work, rest, play, whatever we do.

And when we hear the gospel, I mean really hear it, hear it so that we believe it, like the shepherds.
Then God changes us.
God never leaves people the same.

And so church is a place of praise, worship and giving glory to God.
And as we do that, God makes us more like our Saviour, the one who loves us, and died for us.
And so church is a place where the holy mixes with the ordinary and no one should be left the same.
If you haver come from the pub tonight, and this is the only time you have come to Holy Trinity church this year.
That’s fine, you can come as you are to church.
But it is my prayer that you meet the living Lord Jesus,
in the power of his Holy Spirit,
and that you praise him and worship him and give him glory.
And then I pray that as you praise God and Christ you’ll experience transformation, as God works his miracle in you.
Let’s pray.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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