Sermon on the Mount the Face
19 December 2002
This is a time for children, and let me first say how glad I am that so many of you have managed to stay up so far past your bedtime to be with us tonight. For you, this is a magical time, of gifts and singing and infinite joy. But did you know that, when you or your parents mount the face on the most used part of the house, there is a lot more to it than making the place look nice? Many of you, whom I have the pleasure of recognizing from Sunday School, understand just what I mean. But you others are lucky enough still to be waiting for the truth to open up your souls.
You might already have mounted the face. Or your mummy and daddy may be putting it off until the last moment.
Maybe you'll mount the face on the mantelpiece, or the dining table. maybe the breakfast bar. Everybody mounts the face in a different way. Sometimes other people's face-mounting can seem very strange. In Canada they mountie the face. In Britain Peggy Mount's face is everywhere.
The pictures in our Parish art competition show some of these curious customs. You saw them when you came in, and saw what a lot of funny words and costumes people use to mount the face. But they all love our Saviour, and they all love to mount the face. That's why they get to live.
Do you remember the first time you mounted the face? I don't. Grown ups have done it so often that it becomes a blur. But I do remember when I truly understood the meaning behind the mounting.
It was a Christmas much like any other, before some of you were even born, and I was watching television with Jenny, my beautiful but willful daughter. Gremlins had just reached the scene where the lovely and talented Miss Phoebe Cates was explaining why the holidays made her sad to the one who might have been Matthew Broderick. Or the one who was the Famous Teddy Z.
My lovely daughter, who wasn't much older then than some of you are now, was sitting beside me, eyes shining with the excitement of the festive season, as Miss Cates told how her daddy had become trapped in the cellar with a sack of presents and starved to death. "He never even got to mount my face," she sobbed, and Jenny started to cry as if it were the most terrible thing in the world. And maybe, I suddenly thought, it was.
Then a little green bugger in a Malibu Ken leather jacket jumped on her back and steered her with her pigtails like a snowplough in drag.
We laughed, but we thought as well.
Jenny was taken away by social services years ago, but the message stayed with me.
When we mount the face, we don't just celebrate our Saviour. We celebrate togetherness and the family, and every good thing he or others have done for us.
Let us never forget, among our gifts and laughter, the humble shepherd whose face God mounted. And how the seed that our Lord placed in that shepherd's stomach grew into a miraculous baby, and how it came to pass that after nine months of agonising constipation and kicking sheep, he was delivered of the babe who would be our Saviour.
Just a humble man, and yet he lies at the very beginning of all that we believe. And our Saviour was raised in poverty, mocked for his unconventional family background and cruelly accused by the other boys of smelling of poo well into his teens. It's amazing our holy wars were as bloodless as they were, really. Who would have thought this deeply disturbed and unhappy young man, wandering without a role, should have realized that the flock he had tended when his father was too feeble to walk was a mere practice run for the tending of the entire civilised world? It seems like a fairy story, and yet we know in our hearts that it is true.
Of course, we no longer mount the face as our Lord did - that would be hubristic and blasphemous, not to mention deeply icky. But with every Mount the Face present we buy, every Mount the Face candle we light, we are glorifying, not just his name, nor the name of his child, our Saviour, but the confused, terrified shepherd who, faced with the terrifying majesty of godhead, said yes. Yes, I will bear this burden. Yes, I will bring the Peacebringer to the world. Yes, mount my face. Yes. Yes. Mount it. Not for gain or glory, not for riches or immortality, but because my God wills it and that makes it right. Mmmm...mmmm...mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm.
So it was written, and so it was.
So, tonight, when you go back to your homes and prepare for the celebrations of tomorrow, do make sure your face is mounted. And, as you check the mounting, think not just of our Saviour, whose glorious conception we celebrate, and think not only of his holy father, but also of his human father, the simple, fallible man who took on so great a burden with such uncomplicated faith.
The man shat a baby for us. That's quite a bullet to take.
And now, let us sing.