Christmas sermon 2015
Queen Camel, Weston Bampfylde, Corton Denham, 20, 24, 25 December 2015
THE Vicar of Luton was knocked off his bike last year, and was trapped under the car that had run into him. Two passers-by, one a professional boxer and the other a taxi-driver, rushed over and lifted the vehicle off him. The two good Samaritans were Zulfiqar Afsar and the boxer Manny Muhammad. Mr Afsar said afterwards:'As a Muslim, it’s something I would do, regardless of faith. Our core teachings are for Muslims to help anybody and everybody.' The local Islamic radio station, in describing the rescue, reportedly headlined it:'Praise be to Allah for saving the Christian vicar!’ 
‘Peace on earth, goodwill to all.’ It’s a nice dream, you might think. It’s a bit of a fantasy, though, after the year we’ve had, a year of fear and loathing in the public sphere, of man’s inhumanity to man in international relations. And yet, the story which I’ve just told suggests that peace on earth, goodwill to all, is possible.
That was the instinct which led the shepherds down the hillside into Bethlehem; the hunch which directed the journey of the magi towards the son of Mary. The instinct that - in a world where it is very easy indeed to learn the ways of conflict, to tool up for battle - it is also possible to learn the ways of peace, to resource ourselves to be humane towards others. If we know where to look and who to learn from.
The great Hindu peacemaker Ghandi asserted that ‘Jesus belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world’, for the message of peace which he brings: ‘Love God, love your neighbours, love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.’ 
Around meal tables, the adult Jesus brought together society’s poorest and most reviled people and the most respectable ones, including those who were gunning for Jesus and who eventually executed him. And in a move which resembled the activity of the adult Jesus, the great Israeli statesman and peacemaker Yitzhak Rabin, as he reluctantly shook hands with PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the lawn of the White House, said, ‘You don’t make peace with your friends, only with your enemies.’ 
'The great revelation of Christmas is that God is HUMAN’ (writes Walter Wink). Forget what you’ve been told about a divinity wrapped in flesh: ‘Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see’  - making Mary’s baby sound like some sort of invading alien in disguise: we can be forgiven for singing some of our carols with questionmarks. No, Jesus is fully and completely human, and shows us the way to be human. This is the core of the good news that little child brings.
For: ‘It is the great error of humanity to believe that we are human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness - which is to say, we are capable of becoming human.’  It is in embracing the humanity of Jesus that we become human ourselves.
As we sing in our carols, of ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to all’ we show that we are on our way towards becoming human. Every time we seek out how to live peaceably together with those who are different from us, every time we try out ways of showing goodwill to all - without prejudice - we’re making the same move that the shepherds and the magi made.
 Richard Atkinson, Beyond politeness between religions, Church Times, 18 Dec 2015.
 Walter Wink, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man, p.336, note 3.
 Jonathan Powell, Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts, p.76.
 Charles Wesley, ‘Hark! The herald angels sing’
 Walter Wink, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man, p. 26. Of this passage, Paul Neuchterlein writes: ‘This is a startling and concise statement of the importance of Mimetic Theory, as it bridges the gap between the Revelation and the human sciences' ability to help us to finally understand what it means to become human. Paul Neuchterlein, Facebook post, 21 November 2015.