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Notes on Luke 2.15-21. Why did the shepherds praise?

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Luke 2.15-21

What brings you great joy? Or if you struggle to think of that, what makes you happy?
Talk together for a minute or two.
Some suggestions! Arsenal winning FA cup! Cats or children – not necessarily in that order Really great meal A performance A glass of cool beer on a hot day
Have you noticed that we praise what brings us joy? ‘They played such flowing football. It was beautiful to watch’ ‘The cat is so cute. Look at this photo of her’ ‘That steak was outstanding’ ‘That production was brilliant’ ‘This beer is so amazing’
We praise what brings us joy.
So why do the shepherds praise God?
I suspect the shepherds praise God because they have been given meaning and hope. And I think that they praise God because they have met with him. And that gives them joy
1.They had been given meaning.
The angels had come to them and so they knew that they mattered to God.
And for people who were despised and marginalised – which is what shepherds were – that must have come as an amazing rev…

Christmas midnight communion: when the extraordinary embraces the ordinary

John 1.1-14

In 1915, Bishop Herbert Bury wrote about St Andrews. He says it is ‘startlingly .. like a London suburb’. And continues, “But as I saw it on Christmas Eve last year it was Russian enough, the great courtyard was full of troikas and sledges, and the clear air musical with tinkling bells as the people came driving in from far and near, clad in warm furs, for the service.”
Well I do see a bit of snow, but I don’t see many troikas outside. But however you came it is lovely to see you
Christmas eve is a magical night. We have gravity defying reindeer and legends of animals that speak at midnight.
But there is something very special about tonight. Because on this holy night, we believe that the extraordinary meets the ordinary, and the ordinary touches the extraordinary.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEETS THE ORDINARY
It is about the extraordinary: prophecies that go back over 2000 years being fulfilled, appearances of angels, remarkable dreams, a virgin birth, an unexpected star, visitors from…

John the Baptist: pointing to Jesus

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John 1.6-8, 19-28

We look today at John the Baptist
The people ask John who he is, and he replies, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord’.
So what is John saying about himself?
1.He is the voice.
I was speaking with a lady this week who said that her daughter had been invited for an interview by the owner of the TV programme ‘The Voice’. Those of you who know the programme will know that what is important about the contestants is not who they are or what they look like: the judges don’t know anything about them and they can’t see them. All that matters - at the beginning - is their voice.
John is very aware that he is simply a voice, the messenger. What is important about him is not who he is, but his voice. What is important is the message that he has come to bring.
They ask him if he is the Messiah. He says no. He says no, quite emphatically. The apostle John who wrote the gospel is quite clear about that: “He confessed and did not …

Going Home. A carol service talk from Moscow

John 1.1-14

It was Christmas eve morning and the man picked up the phone to call his son. ‘Son’, he said, ‘I’ve been married to your mother for 42 years and enough is enough. I’ve had it up to here, and I’m leaving today. I can’t talk any more about it. You tell your sister’. In panic the son picked up the phone and called his sister. She was living and working overseas. ‘Dad has just phoned to say that he is leaving mum – today’, said the son. ‘Like heck he is’, said the sister, ‘you leave this to me’. She picked up the phone and rang her dad: ‘Dad’, she said, ‘you are to go nowhere, and you are to do nothing today. I’m getting a flight this afternoon, and my brother and I will be with you tomorrow. We can talk about it then’. The man put the phone down and looked tenderly across at his wife: ‘Well dear’, he said, ‘the children are coming for Christmas, and they’re paying their own fare. What shall we do for new year?’
We have a longing for home
It is a longing for that place where w…

Notes on Luke 21.25-33

I am told that it is terrifying to experience a serious earthquake. When the ground is shaking beneath your feet, there  is nothing that you can depend on

This passage speaks of a celestial earthquake: the powers of heaven themselves being shaken

There will be signs in sun, moon, stars, earth, sea
Jesus is using apocalyptic language, particularly Isaiah 13.9f, which speaks of the dreadful day of the Lord when the land will be made a desolation, and sinners will be destroyed: the stars, sun and moon will not shed light (cf Ezekiel 32.7, Joel 2.10). Joel 2.31 and 3.15 speak of the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood before the day of the Lord (quoted in Acts 2.20). Amos 8.9 speaks of the sun going down at noon.

This is a vision of a dark and terrifying world.
There will be distress, confusion, fear and foreboding.

And then, in the darkness, comes the Son of Man, coming in a cloud - the symbol of the glory of God. Again, it is using apocalyptic language: the language of Daniel …

The parable of the talents

Matthew 25.14-30

So where did the person with the one talent go wrong?
It was not that he only had one talent. Yes, the first servant was given five, but the second was given only two – and it made no difference to how they went about using them. And the man with one talent could still have done so much with it. We’re not talking about an insignificant sum. A person could survive on a talent for about 15 years And we need to slightly careful about how we understand the word ‘talent’. It has come to mean in English – as a result of this story - an ability, a gift. A talent for singing, for cooking .. But I think we should really see it as speaking about opportunities. The master gives them some money, but what he is really doing is giving them an opportunity. An opportunity to grow that money, to advance the interests of their master and to win his praise.
And the servant with one talent does not go wrong because he was entrusted with more than he could handle. We are told that they…

The poppy and the cross. A talk for remembrance Sunday

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Romans 8.31-39



The poppy is a great symbol for today.
In a few minutes we are going to read Flanders Field – it is the poem by John McCrae, the Canadian, which more than anything else has linked the poppy with remembrance
McRae wrote the poem after he performed a battlefield burial service for his friend Alexis Helmer. And he saw that it was the poppy which grew on the graves of those who had died at Ypres
It is red – a symbol of blood given, and a symbol of sacrifice.
And as we wear the poppy, we come to remember and honour those who gave their lives serving their country, in the First World War, in the Second World War or what is known here as the Great Patriotic War, and in subsequent conflicts. And we also remember and honour those who have been willing to make that sacrifice, who have put their lives at risk in the service of their countries. We honour you, и уважаемые дорогие гости, мы очень рады что вы здесь с нами сегодня, и мы почтим вас за вашей службы для вашей страны
Toda…

How should we live before the end comes?

Matthew 24.1-14

They just could not imagine it.
It was the glory of their nation. It was so strong and solid and it was beautiful. There was nothing to compare with it. It was the spiritual and political heart of their life, of who they were. It was the fulfilment of the promises of God, the tangible evidence that God was with them, the guarantor of their sense that they were the special chosen people of God
And yet Jesus speaks that one day the Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed; stone torn away from stone.
I was trying to think of an equivalent for us, of what the temple meant to the Jew. Maybe the Kremlin here, or the Statue of Liberty, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament in London, or the Vatican and St Peter’s, or the Great Mosque, Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.
And the destruction of the Temple, when Jesus words were fulfilled in AD70, must have felt to Jews a little bit like what believers here would have felt when the first Church of Christ the Saviour was blown up …