..when does Christmas begin? when you allow your heartbeat to slow down & begin to beat in unison with the divine heartbeat..& when the two are in unison, heart to heart, beat to beat, the Christ child is born.. ..would you like to sit down for a moment, & pause in silence, to listen for the single heartbeat..
“making the unmissable unmissable”.. BBC slogan 10yrs ago promoting iplayer & now box sets, where one can watch it all, every episode, on catch up..to see it for first time, or watch it again & see it again & for the first time.. like being here tonight & listening to, & watching unfold, the most wonderful & extraordinary story ever lived & told 2000yrs ago & it is never repeated, its always live & alive.. “the hopes & fears of all the years are met in thee tonight “ tonight in a little town of Bethlehem , & no less in this our little town of Ampleforth.. ..we welcome the infant Jesus into this our motley crew of beloved disciples..thee & me..& into each & every one of our hearts..an unmissable moment..
“..the angel of the Lord appeared to them..” & now to us.. ; Lord have mercy “..listen, I bring you news of great joy..” unmistakedly joyful.. ; Christ have mercy “..for there is a child born for us..” ..for us here & now.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..sitting having Christmas lunch last Tuesday in St Benedict’s PS the girl next to me full of excitement & anticipation of her class party that afternoon suddenly said to me “Fr Bede, who made God?” she & her family very much shepherds out there on hillside sadly unlikely to be with us now at the manger but by gum practising the faith; the one faith in the one God, towards whom we all journey..& meanwhile at far end of table Class 1girl trying to eat her Christmas meal, had spilt gravy down her skirt & all over table, & was trying to cut her turkey on table rather than on plate..a real eucharist a Christmas Mass as I mopped up spillage & cut turkey into child sized portions..previous Wed I had gone to watch evg performance of their KS1 Nativity play; got there 2mins late at 602pm to find myself locked out..safeguarding at its best..rang bell but no reply as all in Hall listening to play..or watching the real thing?..waited expectantly for some parents to come late, as some do for Mass, but no one came ”no room at the inn” nor at stable..at first manger & again here tonight, no one is locked out, judged late nor excluded; our faith is a messy faith which is why our youngsters feel so at home in it & with us..share with you some soundbites from our Advent boxset of life & faith in Our Lady & St Benedicts Dec 2018 on our journey to this stable..first Sun gentle invitation to listen to morse code..War Office needed a morse code operator; in room full of candidates for post, only one, a late comer,through cackle of busy conversation, heard morse & cracked code “if you hear this message, go across to door marked private & knock” he got the job..& what’s message being beamed out to you tonight ? “this is my son the beloved” & you each of you a beloved first born son or daughter of God..the secret is out..your heart cracked &broken open..second Sun shared story of Sue Perkins on Desert Island Discs..she visiting remote tribe in Cambodia..so remote & difficult, the interpretors abandoned them; Sue & film crew stuck in a clearing with 30 women..she desperately tried to find way of saying “we are all the same” trust grew through smiles & eye contact..she “found herself” walking through forest holding hands with one woman & thinking “how can I feel so strongly about a stranger who I don’t share a language with? I really feel I’ve known you all my life”..weeks later, back in the studio producer beckoned Sue to look at film clips; showed Sue & woman walking joyfully hand in hand & the woman voices something in her own obscure dialect which they can now translate; she says to Sue “how can I feel so strongly about a stranger who I don’t share a language with? I really feel I have known you all my life” how strong will your feelings be for the stranger you will share sign of peace with in few moments time?..third Sun some adventurous seekers asked John the Baptist “what must we do?” told story of Trappist monk working in Algeria helping non practising Muslims..he was a threat to status quo..in weekly letter home to his family he enclosed an extra envelope only to be opened in event of his death; 6wks later killed by Muslim extremist..family opened envelope 3 pages of love & intimacy..ended it with paragraph to his would-be murderer “& you my last minute friend, who would not have known what you were doing, I commend you to God, the father of us both, & may we meet again, happy good thieves in paradise” & last Sun gospel of Visitation I spoke of my finding Fr Dominic 20secs after he had fallen & broken his leg..as nurses responded he asked that he &I pray together, & I naturally expected us to pray for him but his morse code was different “Bede, let us pray at this moment for those who are in more pain than I am” four Sundays four stories; three wise men & a very wise woman on a journey following a star towards a remote non descript village called Ampleforth, because they/you had been led to believe there would be a child a saviour born in a little stable of a Church down a dark alleyway here & now..are we blessed or are we blessed?. here & now making a ground-breaking, heart-breaking, commitment in love [not in fear nor Catholic guilt] to a newly born baby called Jesus, Son of God, Son of Mary, son of thee & me..woman man monk “this is your son”..remember at the Cross? & now “take him home to be your son” for you & I perhaps a first real Christmas [ Christ’s Mass ] in a lifetime..& Fr Dominic’s self sacrificial prayer, offering perhaps to one of you here tonight “Bede let us pray for someone who is in more pain than I am” your pain perhaps not from a broken leg but from a broken heart. “& what must I do?”..you’ve done it, you’ve decided to be here, or someone very special, closer to you than your guardian angel, decided to invite you; you heard the morse code & you are here..among this/us a motley crew of shepherds & innkeepers, whilst some so called wise men & women on their camels & dromedaries are looking ½ mile east of here ..looking for what & who you & I have stumbled into here in this holy night..we came with great or lesser expectations, & we go home glorifying & praising God for all we have heard & seen..& how can you hope to tell others of what we are experiencing here & now?..it’s beyond words..the word becomes flesh, in a manger & in your heart tonight ..& “its never too late” to let your difference, your Catholicism, be seen felt & celebrated “I feel like I’ve known you all my life”; thank you for warming the straw at this very special manger of ours..”welcome home”..heart to heart..the baby Jesus born through you for me.. [ Midnight Mass Christmas Lk 2;1-14]