Category : Christmas

A Prayer for Christmas from John RW Stott

O Lord Jesus Christ, at whose birth the praises of God were sung by a multitude of the heavenly host: Unite our voices now with theirs, and grant that…[this Christmas] we may worship thee with joyful lips and humble hearts; for the glory of thy great name.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

More Music for Christmas–The Gloucester Cathedral Choir sings In the Bleak Midwinter

Listen to it all.

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, Music, Worship

TS Eliot for Christmas–A moment in time and of time

Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time
and of time,
A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history:
transecting, bisecting the world of time,
a moment in time but not like a moment of time,
A moment in time but time was made through that moment:
for without the meaning there is no time,
and that moment of time gave the meaning.

—T.S. Eliot, Choruses from “The Rock”, VII, as found for example there (page 107).

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A story from a School in Michigan for Christmas

I have a friend who teaches in the upper peninsula in Michigan. He has one of those schools that run from kindergarten all the way up through eighth grade, including special ed. One of his students was intellectually slow, couldn’t do very well in classes. And when Christmas Pageant time came he wanted to have a part in the Pageant. What’s more, he wanted a speaking part. He wouldn’t settle for anything less.

So they made into the innkeeper. They figured he could handle that because all he had to do was say, “No room,” twice: once before Mary spoke, once after she spoke. The night of the Pageant, Mary knocks on the door he opens the door, and he says in a brusque fashion, “No room!” Mary says, “But I’m sick, and I’m cold, and I’m going to have a baby, and if you don’t give me a place to sleep, my baby will be born in the cold, cold night.”

He just stood there. The boy behind him nudged him and said, “No room, No room, say, “No room.’” And finally, he turned and he said, “I know what I’m supposed to say, but she can have my room.”

–Anthony Campolo in William H. Willimon Ed, Sermons from Duke Chapel: Voices from “A Great Towering Church” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), p.294; used by yours truly in the Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Children, Christmas, Education, Preaching / Homiletics

The Book of Homilies on the Nativity–‘What greater love could we seely creatures desire or wish to have at God’s hands?’

But, for the better understanding and consideration of this thing, let us behold the end of his coming: so shall we perceive what great commodity and profit his nativity hath brought unto us miserable and sinful creatures. The end of his coming was to save and deliver his people, to fulfil the law for us, to bear witness to the truth, to teach and preach the words of his Father, to give light unto the world, to call sinners to repentance, to refresh them that labour and be heavy laden, to cast out the prince of this world, to reconcile us in the body of his flesh, to dissolve the works of the devil last of all, to become a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.[48] These were the chief ends wherefore Christ became man, not for any profit that should come to himself thereby, but only for our sakes ; that we might understand the will of God, be partakers of his heavenly light, be delivered out of the devil’s claws, released from the burden of sin, justified through faith in his blood, and finally received up into everlasting glory, there to reign with him for ever. Was not this a great and singular love of Christ towards mankind, that being the express and lively image of God[49]he would notwithstanding humble himself and take upon him the form of a servant and that only to save and redeem us? O how much are we bound to the goodness of God in this behalf! How many thanks and praises do we owe unto him for this our salvation, wrought by his dear and only Son Christ: who became a pilgrim in earth, to make us citizens in heaven; who became the Son of man, to make us the sons of God; who became obedient to the law, to deliver us from the curse of the law; who became poor to make us rich;[50] vile to make us precious; subject to death to make us live for ever. What greater love could we seely creatures desire or wish to have at God’s hands?

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for Christmas from Prayers for the Christian Year

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who hast given us this season of holy joy: We bow before thee with adoring reverence and lift up our hearts with thankful praise. Fill us, we beseech thee, with the gladness of thy great redemption, and enable us to join in the angels’ song, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Prayers for the Christian Year (SCM, 1964)

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

The Archbishop of York’s 2021 Christmas Sermon

What can I say to you this Christmas morning, but turn to him? Let his light shine on you. Ask to have your vision expanded, that you may see the world as he sees it, for his vision for his world is the world’s greatest hope for the human race to live in peace and love one another and – if you will excuse the political jargon – build back better.

We are all exhausted by the horrors and privations of Covid. Our world cries out.

I do hope you will have a happy Christmas. And I hope you are able to get together with those you love today, even – as it will be the case with some of my family – it’s on yet another zoom conference. Most of all I hope and pray that in your hearts and imaginations, and even now in this holy Eucharist, you will come to the stable at Bethlehem.

You will come – surprised like the shepherds; doggedly faithful like Joseph; defiantly rejoicing like Mary; amazed like the Magi, and have your life re-directed. Changed, because in this great light you will not just see things differently, you will see them as they truly are, as they are meant to be, at last having the focus of your life shifted, enabling you to see the clear, pure beauty of Christ.

God of God. Light of light. Begotten, not created. O come, let us adore him.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

John Donne–Christmas was and is Much More

Twas much,
that man was
made like God before,
But that God should
be like man
much more

–John Donne (1572-1631)

Posted in Adult Education, Christmas, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Theology

More Music for Christmas–O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen

Lyrics:

O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio! Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia
O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia!

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, Music, Worship

CS Lewis on the Meaning of Christmas

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins.”

–A Grief Observed [London: Faber&Faber, 1961], p.52

Posted in Christmas, Theology

A Prayer for Christmas from the Gallican Sacramentary

Merciful and most loving God, by whose will and bountiful gift Jesus Christ our Lord humbled himself that he might exalt mankind; and became flesh that he might restore in us the most celestial image; and was born of the Virgin that he might uplift the lowly: Grant unto us the inheritance of the meek, perfect us in thy likeness, and bring us at last to rejoice in beholding thy beauty, and with all thy saints to glorify thy grace; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

A Fleming Rutledge story from New York for Christmas

From there:

‘Years ago when I served at a church in New York City, I used to hang around with some urbane literary types, most of them disdainful of religion. I have never forgotten one conversation I had. The man in question, knowing I was a priest of the church, made a confession to me. He told me very sheepishly that he had done something behind his wife’s back. Apparently she had long since banished every hint of religion from their household. She held Christian faith in contempt, as a relic of a superstitious and unenlightened era. Church, of course, was out of the question. Her husband told me that he found himself so longing to hear the story from St. Luke that he smuggled a small King James Bible into the bathroom, locked the door, and read it to himself. That’s a true story. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Do you think that his wife would have required him to take “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” into the bathroom? Or “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”? Or Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? It’s something to think about, isn’t it? The only Christmas story that has something transcendent about it is Luke’s. That’s why it continues to have a hold on people. God is in this story. Something greater than the birth of a baby is here. This is a story about something mysterious, something ultimate.’

–used by yours truly in the Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Christmas, Theology: Scripture

More Music for Christmas–Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Ever since I first heard it, my favorite Christmas song–KSH.

Lyrics–The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be
of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Posted in Christmas, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

Thomas Merton on the meaning of Christmas

“Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.”

–Thomas Merton, “The Time of the End Is the Time of No Room” in Raids on the Unspeakable (New York: New Directions, 1966), pp. 51-52

Posted in Christmas, Church History, Theology

Sharon’s Christmas Prayer

She was five,
sure of the facts,
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
was revelation.

She said
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof.
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars.
The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air
whirled around, dove into the sofa
and buried her head under the cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.

–John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected; one of my favourite Christmas poems, it was used in my Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for Christmas from a New Prayer Book (1923)

O Father, who hast declared thy love to men by the birth of the Holy Child at Bethlehem: Help us to welcome him with gladness and to make room for him in our common days; so that we may live at peace with one another and in goodwill with all thy family; through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

–A New Prayer Book (London: Oxford University Press 1923)

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

(BBC) In pictures: the World celebrates Christmas in 2021

People across the world are celebrating Christmas – one of the holiest times in the Christian calendar. However, for the second year in a row, there are smaller crowds at church services and other events because of the continuing coronavirus outbreak. Here’s our snapshot of global festivities….

Take the time to go though them all.

Posted in Christmas, Globalization, Photos/Photography, Religion & Culture

The Queen’s Christmas message for 2021

And for me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children, of whom we were delighted to welcome four more this year.

They teach us all a lesson – just as the Christmas story does – that in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential.

It is this simplicity of the Christmas story that makes it so universally appealing: simple happenings that formed the starting point of the life of Jesus — a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith. His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Sermon for 2021

But all these things we can do also draw attention to what we can’t do. The vaccine is amazing, but ultimately we can’t vaccinate our mortality away. Many people have tried to live without these limits – we have tried to overcome the limits of age and mobility, the limits of the things we can’t control, the limits which cause difficulty in our lives. We have tried to shield ourselves from how limited each of us is – we’ve done that often by our limitless use of the natural world. These are actions which have brought the planet into trauma which, despite the initial and vital agreement at COP26, it is still unclear if we can heal. At the heart of all these issues is not economics or politics. It is human sin, selfishness, it’s our desire to be in control as a human race, not in God’s control. We think we can save everything, even Christmas.

There are things we can’t conquer – people are not on an upward trajectory towards perfection. Together and as individuals we daily bear the consequences of selfishness, lack of love and unforgiveness. Look at the comments below an article in the newspapers if you want to see selfishness and unforgiveness. We see that in our own behaviours and in organisations that we just can’t find the way to act rightly. We cannot save ourselves. But God can. The gift of salvation that we see in this infant in the manger is not just offered to some people, but to all.

And that is the theme of the song of the angels. The very seams of heaven split, and with cartwheels of delight they announce the news – God has come as saviour and everyone is included.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas

(Eleanor Parker) ‘Farewell, Advent, Christmas is come!’

15. This time of Christ’s feast natal,
We will be merry, great and small,
And thou shalt go out of this hall;
Farewell from us both all and some!

16. Advent is gone, Christmas is come;
Be we merry now, all and some!
He is not wise that will be dumb
In ortu Regis omnium. [At the coming of the King of all things]

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

(CLJ) Hans Urs von Balthasar for Christmas–Setting out Into the Dark with God

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you Good News of a great joy . . . This day is born the Savior,” that is, he who, as Son of God and Son of the Father, has traveled (in obedience to the Father) the path that leads away from the Father and into the darkness of the world. Behind him omnipotence and freedom; before, powerlessness, bonds and obedience. Behind him the comprehensive divine vision; before him the prospect of the meaninglessness of death on the Cross between two criminals, Behind him the bliss of life with the Father; before him, grievous solidarity with all who do not know the Father, do not want to know him and deny his existence. Rejoice then, for God himself has passed this way! The Son took with him the awareness of doing the Father’s will. He took with him the unceasing prayer that the Father’s will would be done on the dark earth as in the brightness of heaven. He took with him his rejoicing that the Father had hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes, to the simple and the poor. “I am the way,” and this way is “the truth” for you; along this way you will find “the life.” Along “the way” that I am you will learn to lose your life in order to find it; you will learn to grow beyond yourselves and your insincerity into a truth that is greater than you are. From a worldly point of view everything may seem very dark; your dedication may seem unproductive and a failure. But do not be afraid: you are on God’s path. “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God; believe also in me.” I am walking on ahead of you and blazing the trail of Christian love for you. It leads to your most inaccessible brother, the person most forsaken by God. But it is the path of divine love itself. You are on the right path. All who deny themselves in order to carry out love’s commission are on the right path.

Miracles happen along this path. Apparently insignificant miracles, noticed by hardly anyone. The very finding of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger—is this not a miracle in itself? Then there is the miracle when a particular mission, hidden in a person’s heart, really reaches its goal, bringing God’s peace and joy where there were nothing but despair and resignation; when someone succeeds in striking a tiny light in the midst of an overpowering darkness. When joy irradiates a heart that no longer dared to believe in it. Now and again we ourselves are assured that the angel’s word we are trying to obey will bring us to the place where God’s Word and Son is already made man. We are assured that, in spite of all the noise and nonsense, today, December 25, is Christmas just as truly as two millennia ago. Once and for all God has started out on his journey toward us, and nothing, till the world’s end, will stop him from coming to us and abiding in us.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church History, Theology

JI Packer on Christmas

The crucial significance of the cradle at Bethlehem lies in its place in the sequence of steps down that led the Son of God to the cross of Calvary, and we do not understand it till we see it in this context…the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows us how we should ever view it–not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.

–J. I. Packer, Knowing God, (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press; 20th Anniversary ed.), p.42

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Soteriology, Theology

A Prayer for Christmas from the Church of England

Almighty God,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

Sharon’s Christmas Prayer

She was five,
sure of the facts,
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
was revelation.

She said
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof.
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars.
The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air
whirled around, dove into the sofa
and buried her head under the cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.

–John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for Christmas from Frank Colquhoun

O Heavenly Father, as we celebrate again the nativity of thy Son our Saviour, we pray that, like the angels, we may sing his joyful praise; like the shepherds, we may go even to Bethlehem and see the Child lying in a manger; and like the wise men, we may offer to him our worship, and give him the love and loyalty of our hearts; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

Karl Barth on Christmas–A Real Closing of the Breach

God with us means more than God over or side by side with us, before or behind us. It means more than His divine being in even the most intimate active connection with our human being otherwise peculiar to Him. At this point, at the heart of the Christian message and in relation to the event of which it speaks, it means that God has made himself the one who fulfills his redemptive will. It means that He Himself in His own person at His own cost but also on His own initiative has become the inconceivable Yet and Nevertheless of this event, and so its clear and well-founded and legitimate, its true and holy and righteous Therefore. It means that God has become man in order as such, but in divine sovereignty, to take up our case. What takes place in the work of inconceivable mercy is, therefore, the free overruling of God, but it is not an arbitrary overlooking and ignoring, not an artificial bridging, covering over or hiding, but a real closing of the breach, gulf and abyss between God and us for which we are responsible. At the very point where we refuse and fail, offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him and in that way missing our destiny, treading under foot our dignity, forfeiting our right, losing our salvation and hopelessly compromising our creaturely being at that very point God Himself intervenes as man.

Church Dogmatics (IV.1) [E.T. By Geoffrey Bromiley and Thomas Torrance of the German Original] (London: T and T Clark, 1956), page 12

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church History

Music for Christmas 2021–Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss – The Wexford Carol

Lyrics:

Good people all, this Christmas time
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
‘Prepare and go, ‘ the angels said
‘To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went, this babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side the virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of life
Who came on earth to end all strife
Good people all, this Christmas time
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer for Christmas Eve from John Hunter

Almighty God, who hast revealed the glory of thy love in the in the face of Jesus Christ, and called us by him to live as thy children: Fill our hearts, as we remember his nativity, with the gladness of this great redemption; that we may join in the heavenly song of glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and goodwill towards men; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

Happy Christmas Eve to All

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

Making a Blog Transition for Christmas 2021

We are going to take a break from the Anglican, Religious, Financial, Cultural, and other news until later in the Christmas season to focus from this evening forward on the great miracle of the Incarnation–KSH.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Christmas