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Showing posts from December, 2021

It's Christmas. Let's party.

From 1647 to 1660, Christmas was cancelled in England and Wales! Oddly it was cancelled not by some fanatical politically correct authority, but by the Puritan government, which consisted of people who were committed believers and followers of Jesus Christ and who tried to put the teachings of the Bible at the centre of all that they did. They argued against Christmas for two reasons. One, we cannot be certain that 25 December really was the day that Jesus was born (it almost certainly was not), that the first church celebration of Christmas that we know of was as late as 336, and the Bible tells us that we do not need to celebrate one day as more special than another (it is interesting how ‘do not need to’ becomes ‘must not’ in our thinking). And the second reason they gave was because the celebration of Christmas, the dressing up in fine clothes, the music and singing, feasting and partying was pagan and led to immorality. Oh, and maybe there was a third reason. Most of the people in

What it means for Mary to be blessed and what it means for us to be blessed. Luke 1.39-58

Luke 1.39-58 Today in our reading we hear how Elizabeth blesses Mary. Or, more accurately, how Elizabeth tells Mary that she is blessed. In Luke 1, an angel had appeared to Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth and he would have a miracle baby (they were both very old), and then, a few weeks later, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she would have a miracle baby. The first thing that Mary does, after the visit of the angel, is to go to see Elizabeth –to talk, because Elizabeth would have been the only person who she could have talked with, and also – I suspect - to confirm that what the angel had said was true. If Elizabeth really was pregnant, then God could work the impossible. So Mary comes to Elizabeth, and as they speak together, Elizabeth uses the word ‘blessed’, three times. Blessed are you among women Blessed is the fruit of your womb (v42) Blessed is she who believed that what God said would be fulfilled (v45) And I would like to explor

The emptiness of God. A carol service talk 2021

Christmas, we are told, is a time of fullness It is a time of stockings, filled with gifts; of full plates for feasting; of glasses full with champagne. But at the heart of the story of Christmas story there is not fullness but emptiness. God, in the words of one of the first followers of Jesus Christ, emptied himself in order to become a human being. Jesus lived at a time when they told stories about gods who became human beings. But those stories told of gods who became human beings to spy out what men and women were doing; in order to do amazing superwoman, superman acts - just like Thor in the Marvel films; in order to seduce mortals with their beauty or strength. In other words, they come down in their fullness to have a party, to use their godness to their advantage, to be godlike! But the Christmas story is very different. In the Christmas story we have God quite literally emptying himself. He comes from heaven, but as a baby, ‘the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms’

Meeting God in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6 ‘The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness’ (Luke 3:2) The wilderness is a brutal place. It is dry, empty and cruel. It is the place of demons. But it is also the place where people met with God. We read of Hagar. We meet her in Genesis. She was Abraham’s concubine, and she was sent away by Sara, Abraham’s wife, with her son Ishmael. She goes into the wilderness. She can’t feed her son. She can’t feed herself. And when she runs out of water, she sees no hope, no future. So she sits down, puts her son some way away from her, and waits to die. But God steps in and meets her. We read of Moses. He was an Israelite, but he was brought up in Pharoah’s household. He was a prince of Egypt. He could have done so much for his people. But he loses his temper and he kills a man. He is shamed and has to run for his life. And this prince of Egypt ends up looking after sheep for his father in law in the wilderness. But God comes to meet him in the burning bush, and sp