Monthly Archives: December 2007
Over the past few weeks, I have been regularly delighted by rainbow lorikeets feeding in the callistemon flowers. I see them in the church’s garden, and from my bedroom window. The splash of colour, and their lack of fear when I walk by, have gladdened my heart on many occasions. Sadly, they’ll soon be gone until spring comes again. Here are pictures of each:
We had a great Christmas this year—the services were creatively put together, with dance on Christmas Eve, and carols sung in French, German and Tamil on Christmas Day, and the band in full force. Many thanks to all involved, not forgetting the AV team!
But Christmas Day was different. My lovely daughter Erin is in Barcelona, and so for the first time the family wasn’t all together (though we had my sister and her two sons!). For the first time, I had to peel the prawns alone! Here is a picture of Erin in ‘Barca’, as she calls it (¿or is this Madrid?):
Sermon for Advent 4
There is a shockingly widespread ignorance of the Christian story today; and it’s an ignorance that even includes the Christmas story. Some years ago, a teacher friend was telling Karen and me that she had been talking to her colleagues in the staff room. Christmas was getting near, and a student had asked her what Christmas was really about. She was astonished that the student didn’t know. But before she left the staff room, another teacher quietly came to her and said, ‘What is the real story of Christmas?’ When teachers are ignorant of Christmas, it’s time to wonder.
Of course, there is a story of a kind-of-Christmas that’s well known; it’s a distorted story, one that encourages us to spend and spend while others in the global village have little. This distortion is a combination of consumerism and the ‘Disney-fication’ of Christmas, with a dash of half-remembered bits and pieces of the biblical story.
Listen to the Christmas story as it may be told, with the fables and changes which our culture has built into it. Let’s hear, all in one go, what has happened to Christmas…
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God…
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
John 1.1, 14
O Lord, your mother
is a cause for wonder;
you joined yourself to her
and became a servant;
the Word entered
and became silent within her;
and made no sound;
the Shepherd of all entered,
and in her became the Lamb,
bleating as he came forth.
Your mother’s womb has reversed the roles:
the Establisher of all entered in richness,
but came forth in poverty;
the Exalted One entered,
but came forth in meekness;
the Majestic One entered,
but came forth in lowliness.
The Mighty One entered,
and put on insecurity from her womb;
the Provider of all entered
and experienced hunger;
the One who gives drink to all entered
and experienced thirst;
naked and stripped
there came forth from her
the One who clothes all.
St Ephrem the Syrian, 306-373
Sermon for Advent 3
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear! Isaiah 35.3-4a
These words could have been written for John the Baptist. Last week, we saw him confronting the very powerful religious authorities of his time. We see him today after he was arrested and thrown in jail, despondent and doubting. Soon, he will lose his head through the machinations of a spiteful queen and the weakness of a vain and prideful king.
Strengthen the weak hands… John needed strength. Jesus wasn’t doing quite what John wanted, so he sent messengers to ask if they’d got it right—was Jesus really ‘the one’, the one who was to come and set things right? It didn’t look right to John.
Apology: My main problem is that I don’t have the background in philosophy to actually debate Philip Pullman, the atheist/agnostic/whatever author of His Dark Materials, a fantasy trilogy in the teenager’s section of your local bookshop. (The three books are Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the USA), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. The Golden Compass has been made into a film that starts on Boxing Day in Oz.)
The world created by PP is a series of universes, some similar to ours, others quite different. Here, ‘God’ is the first angel who came into being, who convinced all others that he had created them and that they owe him their worship. He is ‘The Authority’, but he is also ‘God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty’. This is certainly the God of the Bible (though not the Koran!—Allah is not mentioned. Is there a fear of a fatwah?).
There was a war in heaven, as in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, but the wrong side (i.e. God’s side!) won. The Authority now exercises supreme control, but there are those who are willing to rise against him. In the end, God dies, with ‘a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief’. (Of course, this ‘God’ is actually not the living God. And if PP were killing him for the sake of God, he would be a prophet. But he isn’t killing an idol god for God’s sake.)
Please allow me to put my main problem—one of personal deficiency—aside, and mention some problems I do have with PP and his books.
Over at the Ship of Fools, Steve Tomkins is asking why, if people grow out of their belief in Santa (note: it’s Santa-ism, not Satanism!), why can’t they grow out of their belief in creationism?
I think he’s got a point. No need to give people like Richard Dawkins free shots, after all…