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Vicar's Musings for Christmas Day

25 December, 2012

Welcome to St Peter's Eastern Hill. It is a joy to share in the great and ancient festival of Christmas with you. At St Peter's we are one of the few Anglican churches in Melbourne to celebrate mass each day of the year. Some days are ordinary days, some are lesser saints' days, still others are major feast days in the liturgical cycle of the church which we observe with a weekday High Mass followed by a meal. Today was known in Old English as Cristes Maesse or "Christ's Mass" a special mass for Jesus himself.

The very first Christ's Mass feasts originate from around A.D. 200. Clement of Alexandria noted that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" observe not only the year of Jesus' birth, but also the date, which they held to be 20th May in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. The current date of 25th December, had long been observed by pagans as the solar feast of Natalis invicti, but was not widely adopted by Christians prior to a decree in the fourth century by Pope Julius (337-352).

Now Christ's Mass is well and truly imbedded in Western culture. The shops start putting up their decorations and enticing us to purchase all the necessary gifts and trappings weeks and even months before (I noticed the first Christmas toy advert in September this year). Of course the advertising and commercialism are beside the point. We gather in church today to acknowledge a miraculous, and yet profoundly ordinary birth that was to change the world.

In the simplicity of Christ's Mass today, in the breaking of bread and sharing of wine, the real presence of Jesus is mysteriously here for us. Each one of us are invited to respond to this free gift. All we have to do is hold out our hands to receive the bread of his body, and to share in the cup of his life. It is as easy and yet as profoundly life-changing as that. May you and those close to you be deeply blessed by Christ's Mass today ... and each day. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Chistmas Day Musings

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