St Peter's Church, Manchester
Compassion — Acceptance — Welcome
Christianity is often accused of being negative. It is an accusation of
such power that the churches have tried in recent years to present themselves
Negativity bad, positivity good has become the mantra of our age.
But this afternoon I want to strike a blow for negativity.
Let us say No, No to positive thinking and yes to negativity.
This Christmas let us celebrate the Negativity of the Nativity.
The negativity I want to celebrate is the negativity that is at the heart of the Christmas season, and at the heart of our readings today.
In our Old Testament reading we come across a people who are suffering and enslaved, the message from God is NO this must not be allowed to happen and must be overturned.
In our Gospel reading to a people who are looking from positive action from
God to send them a strong man, a warrior to defeat the imperial power of
the Roman occupying forces God says NO.
God will come to them directly and in the form of the new born child of peace.
It is Philippians that explains the depth of the theology in all of this. Here
is Christ, in essence divine, who places limits on this divine power in order
to become human.
And yet once human, places limits on human power to become a servant.
And yet once a servant is willing to limit his own power even to the point of death.
For the writer of Philippians the process of the incarnation is a mirror of the idea of creation where God says no to the power of a perfect and solitary existence, God limits the Godly powers in order to take the risk of creating a realm of the unpredictable.
The power of negativity should not surprise us we have witnessed it throughout human history.
It is there in the laws which can not guarantee life and happiness, but are negative in form and give us the right, for instance, not to be murdered.
It is there in systems engineering where positive feedback leads to instability and negative feedback to stability.
It is there in Christian history.
In the negative statements of apophatic theology
And it is lived in the lives of religious who say no to the excesses of the world in order to serve Christ and humanity.
And perhaps it is there even in the very nature of our society where we,
in order to successfully coexist need freedom within the limits of the ‘thou
shalt nots’ of society.
It is even found in the very nature of humanity where we are perhaps marked off from the other creatures by our capacity to say NO.
We can say NO and refuse the tyranny of rash impulse that looks only to
We can say NO to the tyranny and oppression of the dictator by refusing to comply with their demands.
NO is the cry of those who wish to be free. And it is at this season that we celebrate the freedom and liberation God brings in Jesus Christ, in saying No to power and becoming Emmanuel, God with us.
We celebrate the emptying of God to set us free, we celebrate the Negativity of the Nativity.