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Showing posts from December, 2012

on Jesus' obedience to his parents

Luke 2:41-52
It is amazing how time flies and these children grow up. It only seems like last week that we were celebrating his birth, and today Jesus is 12!
There is that line in one of the carols that we sing: It comes in 'O little town of Bethlehem', and includes the line, 'Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as he'. As a child I refused to sing it – as a parent I sing it very loudly! I suspect that it was written by Cecil Frances Alexander after visiting her godchildren (she was married but didn't have children of her own) when they were running riot.
Jesus, even though he was the eternal Son of God, even though he already had an astonishing wisdom, was willing to be obedient to his parents. 
Jesus knew that he was the Son of God.
In the passage we had read today, when his parents do finally find him and Mary says, 'Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you', Jesus replies, 'Why were you searching for me - didn't you k…

The three (alternative) Christmas gifts

At Christmas, we think of the wise men who brought three gifts.
I would like to imagine that tomorrow when you have opened all your gifts, you see that there are still 3 gifts left under the Christmas tree. You don’t know where they came from, but they have your name on them.
So you open the first gift, and inside you find
1. The most astonishingly wonderful and precious ring: When we went to the orphanage in Zimbabwe earlier this year, we had a bit of a wait at Heathrow. So two of us entertained ourselves by wandering round the jewellery shops trying to find the most expensive item on display. We got some very odd looks. The winner was a watch which cost about £31k
That watch has nothing on this ring. This ring holds a stone, and the stone is spherical. It is predominantly blue, but there are dashes of green, brown and orange, covered with whispers of white. When you look closer there is the most incredible detail. The stone seems to be suspended above the ring and is rotating. You have…

Christmas is all about penguins

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A Crib service 2012
Welcome
Light Advent candles
Opening prayer
O Little town of Bethlehem
[Powerpoint of Christmas card]
P: Christmas is all about penguins
L: What makes you say that?
P: Well it’s obvious, isn't it? Christmas is when it is cold, and penguins like cold; Christmas cards always have penguins on them - look there’s my uncle Pickup ... Pickup the penguin. And the best Christmas crackers have penguin jokes in them.  Like:  What do penguins have for lunch? Ice-bergers What do penguins sing on a birthday? Freeze a jolly good fellow What do you call a penguin in the desert? Lost Why don’t you see any penguins in Britain? Because they’re afraid of Wales
L: (interrupting) Thank you! NO, Christmas is not all about penguins.  In fact, Christmas has NOTHING to do with penguins. The only reason they have penguin jokes is because penguins are ridiculous (penguin looks hurt); and I have no idea why there are penguins on Christmas cards. It is really because people have forgotten what Christmas …

A Christmas talk: how God gets involved

John 1:14-18

An address given on the occasion of a mayoral carol service 2012

One of the things that this season gives us is the opportunity to gather together and to say thank you. 

Thank you to each other. And I wish to take this opportunity to say 'thank you’ to all of you who represent our borough and the people of our borough – and thank you particularly to all of you who have chosen to stand as councillors or elected officials, whether you were elected or not. 

It takes a great deal of courage to stand for election to public office. I know - because I wouldn’t dare to do so. You get a lot of stick. And I get angry when people have a go at our political leaders, whether at national or local level, and when they say, ‘They’re all the same. They’re all in it for what they can get out of it’. I know that in 99.9% of cases that is simply not true. Joshua Hordern was a councillor here before he took up his post at Oxford university earlier this year. He was also a member of our congre…

on Marriage, men and women

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Genesis 2:18-25
On the occasion of a wedding

You’ve asked for the reading from Genesis which speaks of one of the earliest understandings of the origin of marriage. We can’t expect it to be a scientific description because it describes an event which happened before what God-thinkers call the fall, when men and women rebelled against God and space and time were radically corrupted. So we can only use picture language to describe what happened before that moment.
But it is worth spending a bit of time with, because – however we understand this story – it tells us some pretty astonishing stuff about the unique place for marriage.

1. It speaks of the equality of husband and wife. 

At the very beginning, the first man seems to have been a pretty androgynous character. Woman was still in him. He was both man and woman.
And it was as man and woman that he names the animals.
And the original purpose of God was that man and woman were created to take responsibility for creation, under God, togeth…

A Christmas message

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The bible tells us that when the wise men arrived to see the baby Jesus 'they fell down and worshipped him' (Matthew 2:11)

I find that rather strange.

Grown men, wealthy men, respected and respectable men walk into an unknown peasant home, see a baby and don't just delight that their journey has come to an end, don't just kneel down, but (and the original Greek is quite clear here) 'fall down and worship him'.

It is embarrassingly physical. 

Of course there are certain emotions which might make us fall down and worship. 

It could be sheer fear: the bible tells us of the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. He set up a statue of himself and ordered everyone to fall down and worship it. Everyone did. Because if they didn't, he had said that they would be thrown into a flaming furnace. 

Or perhaps it is desire that makes us fall down and worship: the desire for power, beauty or wealth. The desire to be loved. We don't need to be a Faust or a Dorian Gray or an Anastasia…

How to prepare for Christmas

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Luke 3:1-6
There are 17 days to go to Christmas. And there seems to be so much more to do.
We have only just begun to think about Christmas cards; we still don't know what to buy the children; there is not a hint of decoration in the house - although we do have a trussed up Christmas tree outside the back door. It is mad.
How did God prepare us for Christmas? How did God prepare people for the fact that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, who had always been with God, who was equal to God, was - in love - going to empty himself of all his rights and status and power and become a human baby - in utter dependence on God - in order to restore the broken relationship that existed between human beings and God?
It was very simple. God spoke. He told them it was going to happen.
He spoke, as we remember in lighting our second candle today, through the prophets.
Just to take a few:
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And h…