Daily Archives: December 31, 2011

The Bishop of Derby’s Christmas Address

The challenge of contemporary politicians was enormous. Bishop Redfern said that Prime Minister David Cameron’s task, just like the Emperor Augustus in Jesus’ day, was to hold all those different tribes together: “Modern politics is about the challenge of creating a kind of public space which brings together many disparate elements.”

Here, said Dr Redfern, the Church also had a mammoth role to play: “Remember that Jesus was born in the public space. The Innkeeper took them in and he made them part of his family.

He added: “Jesus, of course, was to continue this work of taking people in from all families, tribes and the sense of a family identity was expanded. “The Church is there to serve all people, we are there for everyone. That is the reminder which the story of Jesus’ birth brings.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops

The Bishop of Ely’s 2011 Christmas and New Year Video Message

Read it all and take the time to see the video (just under nine minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops

Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales' 2011 Christmas Sermon

…the religious leaders of Jesus’ day regarded God….[chiefly in terms of His holiness] ”“ [they viewed him as]…a God set apart from His world and separate from everything that might be unclean and messy and unworthy.

So the emphasis is on the importance of dignified worship, carried out in church buildings with due reverence, awe and majesty which nothing must interrupt or disturb ”“ the world kept at a respectable distance so that it doesn’t sully what is going on inside the sacred space. The holy must not be contaminated with the unholy, or the spiritual with the material or political.

But it is precisely this view of God’s holiness that Jesus shattered. He spent most of His ministry out of doors, not in synagogues or temple but preaching to ordinary people, attempting to relate ordinary everyday events to God. He saw everything within that world as having a connection to God such as treasure in a field, a lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost son. And He was born in a cowshed amidst the mess and smell of animals. God, in the midst of the warp and woof of real human existence; the link between holy and unholy, inextricably joined.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of Wales, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

(Rector of Saint Michael's Charleston) Al Zadig's 2011 Christmas Sermon

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Faith in the eternal Word of the Father is faith in Jesus of Nazareth or it is not”¦Christian faith

But the object of divine action in the Incarnation is man. God’s free decision is and remains a gracious decision; God becomes man, the Word becomes flesh. The Incarnation means no apparent reserved, but a real and complete descent of God. God actually became what we are, in order actually to exist with us, actually to exist for us, in thus becoming and being human, not to do what we do-sin; and to do what we fail to do”“God’s, His own, will; and so actually, in our place, in our situation and position to be the new man. It is not in His eternal majesty”“in which He is and remains hidden from us”“but as this new man and therefore the Word in the flesh, that God’s Son is God’s revelation to us and our reconciliation with God. Just for that reason faith cannot look past His humanity, the cradle of Bethlelhem and the cross of Golgotha in order to see Him in His divinity, Faith in the eternal Word of the Father is faith in Jesus of Nazareth or it is not the Christian faith.

–Karl Barth (1886-1968)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

The Bishop of London's 2011 Christmas morning sermon

This is a time of great anxiety about what lies ahead. The global balance of power is changing and here at home at a time of financial stringency there is an urgent search for how human beings and communities can flourish at a time when having and consuming more and more things no longer seems a plausible road to happiness.

Today’s good news is that God so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to wean us away from our obsession with power over things and people. The way of Herod the Great and the way of the Emperor who decrees that “all the world should be taxed” is contrasted with the future opened up by the infant king born into a poor family. He comes to initiate us into a way of generous living; in love with God and his world which involves loving ourselves and our neighbours equally.

A few years ago the former President of the Royal Society published a book about the prospects for the human race worryingly entitled “Our Final Century” ”“ without a question mark ”“ although he has ascribed this to a publisher’s error. There is a question about whether we shall develop the wisdom to channel the power we have acquired from the scientific knowledge and discoveries of the 20th century? Where indeed, to quote T.S.Eliot, is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge and the knowledge we have lost in information.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Provisional Feast day of Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Almighty God, who didst rescue Samuel Ajayi Crowther from slavery, sent him to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to his people in Nigeria, and made him the first bishop from the people of West Africa: Grant that those who follow in his steps may reap what he has sown and find abundant help for the harvest; through him who took upon himself the form of a slave that we might be free, the same Jesus Christ; who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Province of West Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of Nigeria, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

Another Prayer for Christmas to begin the Day

O Gracious Father, who sent not thy Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved: Fulfill the good tidings of thine angel and bring great joy to all people through the nativity of him who is the Prince of Peace; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be glory in the highest, now and for evermore.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-za’tha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

–John 5:1-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Song of Christmas: A Christmas Message from Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina

A shameless lover of Christmas carols, I have found support for my sentimentalism in a most unlikely place; an essay by Dr. Lewis Thomas, one-time dean of New York University School of Medicine. He notes that the human faculty for language is rooted in a specific collection of neurons in the left hemisphere of the brain. This corresponds with a similar center of neurons in the brain of a song bird. It is there that the bird’s song is “recorded,” that is, if the bird learns it as a nestling. If the bird hears the proper song at that stage it will have it in mind for life. It can then add its own arpeggios so that it is the song of the species and at the same time the bird’s own recognizable voice””“perceptively different from the song of all his relatives.” But, according to the dean of medicine, if it does not hear the song as a youngster, the collection of neurons cannot compose the song on its own. Sadly enough, “what comes out later when it is ready for singing and mating is an unmelodious buzzing noise.” The song isn’t instinctive. The urge to sing is instinctive, but not the song. The little bird must first be sung to if it is to know and sing the song.
I think of this fascinating fact as we draw closer to when we shall sing again the Song of Christmas. Like the brain of the song bird we cannot nor did we compose this song on our own. It was a song sung to us. Sung to the human race, to our species, by angels. They sang it to the shepherds out in the fields near Bethelehem on that first Christmas night. It is the song of the Savior, the God-Man Jesus Christ. We did not create it, for Christmas was not an idea of the human race. In our sinful condition we could never have composed it. We tend to want to save ourselves””to find a way out of our problems by our own ingenuity and effort. But we never get there. All we produce in our attempts to save ourselves is the “unmelodious buzzing noise” of human pride and striving. The truth of the matter is that we are saved by God’s grace or we are not saved at all.
There were many who were striving to save themselves when the Angels first sang the song of Christmas to the shepherds. Caesar Augustus tried to bring peace to the world by the power of the Roman Empire””by its unique blend of politics, statesmanship and military might. Among the Greeks, the intellectual sophisticates of the day, it was the aspirations of culture, science, art and thought that promised from year to year a salvation for humankind that never came. The Priests in Jerusalem sought salvation by the sacrifices offered daily in the temple. The Scribes and Pharisees tried to deserve God’s favor through their religious perfectionism, by keeping the demands of the Law. But religion then, as it too often does today, brought only conflict to the individual’s conscience and from there to one’s relationships with others. Instead””from politics, culture, and religion””there came only the unmelodious buzzing noise we hear all too often in the world around us today.

But, to certain poor shepherds the song was sung; they, in their everydayness, represent all of our race, the entire human species””existing somewhere between animals and angels””to such the angels came. And the Glory shone around them and the song of salvation, the song composed in heaven (to be lived out on earth) for our species was first sung”¦. “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will come to all the people, for unto you is born this day, in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Of course the shepherds””just as you and I would have done, for this is hardly a story of their virtue but of God’s grace””ran with eager steps to Bethlehem. It was God’s grace-filled invitation that sent them breathless across the fields.

After the angels departed, and the glory that shone around them had given way to the normalcy of the night; after the shepherds returned from the stable, the night song of the Savior, once heard, was never forgotten. Sure, the night was still dark; the air cold; the duties still needed to be done. The wolf and bear still lurked in shadows of the glistening moon. Nothing had really changed, and yet everything was different. I remember. For that’s how it was for me when Jesus Christ came into my life as a college student some 38 years ago. Nothing had changed, and everything was different. It has been that way for me ever since. The Song of Christmas, the song of Salvation, the hope of Jesus the Messiah, once heard, was never forgotten. And like the song of the songbird, it can be heard in the darkest of nights, and on the coldest of mornings.

I have heard it myself in the waiting rooms of hospitals. I have sung it as I have walked before a hundred caskets”¦leaned my ear near to the beds of the dying to hear it whispered in the last breath of the faithful. It is why the trees, and lights; the eggnog and the parties are only a preparation. For perhaps you’ve noticed, as one preacher has put it, “the hurt of life does not become suspended, magically put on hold until the festive days are done.” And he is right. It is not only priests and preachers who live with these things. You too find yourself going from a divorced friend’s loneliness to another friend’s wedding; From hospital room to holiday party; From toasting champagne to tossing dirt on a coffin. And among the glow of Christmas lights are a score of grieving memories for each of us””grief and worries that trouble our hearts even while we are digesting the evening’s dinner. Yet that is why we gather for the Christmas Eucharist. To sing again the song that the Angels first taught our race to sing. The song that announced the Savior was born. Born in a stable; “ right between the mystery of the angels and manure of the cattle.” (J. B. Shepherd) In that very intersection where we so often live our lives. That is where the song was first sung to our race; and once the Angels had sung it, it is now ours to sing. It is the reason we will gather on Christmas Eve: singing the song of our Savior; experiencing anew the birth of his grace in our lives.

You can hear it again this Christmas season. Hear it in the words of the Gospel; in every poorly crafted, but faithful sermon. It vibrates in the strings of the harp; in reed and brass and flute. In the chords of carols and anthems. Once you have heard the melody, like the young song bird, you will never forget it. You may add your own arpeggios; your personal witness to his salvation. For each human voice is unique and like no other. God made it that way. Just as he also made your voice to sing the song that heaven composed for our human race””even when you sing with wounded voice. His birth and his cross are the only things that can keep us from singing again that old unmelodious buzzing noise of a fallen and sinful world. It may be your instinct to sing. But this song, composed in heaven, sung first on earth by angels to shepherds, lived out from crib to cross by Jesus Christ, shall be passed on person to person and sung again soon in a thousand thousand churches around the world; sung by voices all around: wounded or angelic: it is the same song they sing”¦The Song of Christmas.

–First penned to the Diocese of South Carolina in 2009 but well worth a rereading I think

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Mark A. Hadley: A Christmas Carol for adults

Dickens and Disney’s Tiny Tims both hope that those who feel pity for a poor crippled boy in church “”¦ will think of Him who made lame men walk” at Christmas time.

This was a lesson that Dickens meant for adults, as well as children.

There is no separating the generosity we owe to others from the generosity God has shown to us by sending his son to give us new hearts. Christmas shouldn’t just bring out the best in us once a year; it should transform our lives””as it did for Scrooge. Dickens knew where he wanted to end his story, and finished it accordingly:

“Some laughed to see the alteration in [Scrooge] but he let them laugh … he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed that knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Books, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

Music For Christmas–O Magnum Mysterium [T. L. de Victoria (1549”“1611)] from Holy Trinity Coventry

Listen to it all. A reminder of the English translation of the words:

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.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Music

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 * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Soteriology, Theology

A Church Times article on recent Christmas Sermons and Addresses

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said that “those of us in Weste­rn Europe cannot go on con­suming more and more when so much of the world has so little.” He called for “a new moral vision of what we do with our wealth and how we ensure that everyone has a fair share in it”.

The Bishop of Whitby, Dr Martin Warner, in a Christmas message on his website, said that Britain was “riven by inequality of opportunity and the enjoyment of material wealth. . . This year we should be concerned not only about the rise of unemployment towards the three million mark but more particularly about the fact that so many young people are bearing the brunt” of it.

The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, preaching at Bath Abbey, said: “There is a sense of the very fabric of society being torn apart. Accompanying this is a feel-ing of loss about the way we used to live our lives, the way we managed our relationships, the way education was. . . There is something missing.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics