The Play Without a Hero

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Sermon by Ken Leaver, preached on Christmas Eve, 1972.

In The Brougham Bellman, Mar/Apr. 1973.


A small boy wandered away from home and entered the palace of a great king. There were guards at the gate and servants in the palace, but because he was small and made no fuss, no one hindered him. The palace was open for cleaning, while the king and his entourage had gone to the summer residence in the country.

The boy wandered into the great hall and saw the throne.

“Whoever would be big enough to sit in that chair? he thought, but there was no answer to his question. The king was not there. Next to the throne room was the robing room. The uniforms of the chief of the army, navy and air force were there, for the king held all of these offices. So too were the gorgeous robes of the Garter and Thistle, the black and white of St. John of Jerusalem. Everywhere were the epaulets, the badges and distinctions. “What’s all this for?” wondered the boy, but there was no answer, for the king was not there. The boy wandered through the royal stables, saw the royal cavalry, the royal garages with the state coaches and Rolls Royces. “Whoever could make use of all of these?” thought the boy, “Why all this magnificence, what does it all mean?”

All of this was completely meaningless to the boy without the central figure of the king to provide the explanation. The application of this parable to Christmas is obvious: the meaning ‘has gone out of Christmas and out of the faith which inspired its celebration. But that statement is a cliche of which you are all well aware. What then is new? What aspect is unique in our time? It is the urgency of the situation. We are living in an age which cannot wait. We are in a pageant whose meaning we have lost. We are in a play without a hero. Time is running out, the world is at a flash point, and it is criminal to ignore this. At Christmas we still sing the words “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace”, but there is no peace. Nowhere, except in the hearts of individuals who are at peace with God. Let me give you a few pointers.

The racial situation in Africa is at a point where there is no solution to the problem, Responsible commentators (historians and political scientists) are saying that there is no solution short of revolution.

Have you been to the Arts Repertory Theatre on a Saturday night and parked your car in Carrington Street? If you have walked past the Duke of Carrington Hotel, then you will wonder whether you are going to be accosted by Aboriginal men, women and children brawling outside the hotel. You remember the Aboriginal “Embassy” across the lawns from Parliament House in Canberra. We were prompted to spend three Sunday evenings discussing the Aboriginal problem, and as a result all we know is that we do know what to do — and we have taken no further action.

These problems cannot wait. We are members of a Union which belongs to the Australian Council of Churches, which is affiliated with the World Council of Churches. We should demand a tireless effort to find solutions to these problems. They cannot wait. Tomorrow you and I will enjoy Christmas dinner with our families and friends. We are asked to give the price of a dinner to the Christmas Bowl appeal. But how much is a dinner worth? We shall have a dozen or so members of the family for whom we have bought gifts. The screwing toy bought for one grandchild cost me so much that I am ashamed to tell you. When you add the costs together, it would come to enough to keep Joshua Danisa and his family for a month. How much in the bowl?

And how much is it worth to eat in the affluent comfort to which we are accustomed, with beloved family and friends, in complete security? At peace with God and man? How much is that worth to somebody with not enough to eat or who, has known nothing but war? On the door of the basement, of this church is a notice which reads: “THIS BASEMENT IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE”, It is closed to the very group of boys whose homes don’t provide the affluent comfort and security that we take for granted. It is closed because not a single person in this church is willing to take on the responsibility to supervise some recreation for these boys. We can only pray that they won’t come to any serious harm over Christmas. We remember that the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head; his family are those who do the will of his father.

The College cook introduced us to a new idea. You cook the turkey in a plastic bag. Just put it in the bag and roast, but what happens to the bag? You can’t burn it, it won’t rot if you bury it, it is virtually indestructible. We are living on top of a rubbish dump which accumulates year by year. You know it and so do I, but we shall still use the bag. Now stop and consider, What is it we celebrate; Who is it we worship? Whose is the responsibility to put the Christ back in Christmas?

Christ climbed down
from his bare tree this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
he awaits again
an unimaginable and impossibly
immaculate reconception
the very craziest of second comings.

From a sermon by Principal K B Leaver, published by request.


O God, who made me to trudge along the road always, to carry heavy loads always, and to be beaten always, give me great courage and gentleness. One day, let somebody under stand me —— that I may no longer want to weep because I can never say what I mean and they make fun of me. Let me find a juicy thistle -- and make them give me time to pick it. And, Lord, let me find again, one day, my little brother of the Christmas crib.