Monthly Archives: December 2007

An uncertain world

 
Sermon for Christmas 1
 
Psalm 148
Matthew 3.13-23

We live in an uncertain world. It’s a beautiful world—as Psalm 148 says, it’s a world of mountain ranges, great trees, wonderful animals, glittering stars… But it is an uncertain world. We can’t tell what’s around the corner.

Mary found that out for sure, as did Joseph. Their lives were turned upside down by the coming of Jesus. Of course, you could say that of any family! Karen and I were quite under-prepared for Erin, our first child. And I’ve found that no matter how many children you have, parenting is a full-time job. Not only that, it’s a lifetime occupation—you are always the parent.

Babies add to the beauty of the world. It’s normal to love a baby. But it is an unpredictable world, and like every other baby, Jesus was born into its uncertainties.

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Two of my favourite things

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:  

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Joyeux Noël

 

 

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For Christmas, Karen gave me the DVD of Joyeux Noël, the 2005 film about the Christmas truce, which occurred in a few places in 1914 between British/French and German troops stationed on the Western Front. It’s a wonderful film, full of humanity. We’ve just finished watching the film with Ben and Sam. The picture above shows a German officer with British soldiers in their trenches. On wikipedia, I found this excerpt of a letter sent home by a British soldier who participated in the truce:

This will be the most memorable Christmas I’ve ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don’t think theres been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs. The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us—

wishing us a Happy Christmas etc. They also gave us a few songs etc. so we had quite a social party. Several of them can speak English very well so we had a few conversations. Some of our chaps went to over to their lines. I think theyve all come back bar one from ‘E’ Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir. In spite of our fires etc. it was terribly cold and a job to sleep between look out duties, which are two hours in every six. 

First thing this morning it was very foggy. So we stood to arms a little longer than usual. A few of us that were lucky could go to Holy Communion early this morning. It was celebrated in a ruined farm about 500 yds behind us. I unfortunately couldn’t go. There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as to day we are all on top of our trenches running about. Whereas other days we have to keep our heads well down. We had breakfast about 8.0 which went down alright especially some cocoa we made. We also had some of the post this morning. I had a parcel from B. G’s Lace Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc. We also had a card from the Queen, which I am sending back to you to look after please. After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We’ve had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week. He was about a 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him.

About 10.30 we had a short church parade the morning service etc. held in the trench. How we did sing. ‘O come all ye faithful. And While shepherds watched their flocks by night’ were the hymns we had. At present we are cooking our Christmas Dinner! so will finish this letter later.

Dinner is over! and well we enjoyed it. Our dinner party started off with fried bacon and dip-bread: followed by hot Xmas Pudding. I had a mascot in my piece. Next item on the menu was muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate etc followed by cocoa and smokes. You can guess we thought of the dinners at home. Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans: a party of them came 1/2way over to us so several of us went out to them. I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I’ve also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc. and had a decent chat. They say they won’t fire tomorrow if we don’t so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday—
perhaps. After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner.

We can hardly believe that we’ve been firing at them for the last week or two—it all seems so strange. At present its freezing hard and everything is covered with ice…
 
The truce was ended on the insistence of the generals, and under threats of court-martial.
 
On 21 November 2005, Alfred Anderson, the last remaining veteran of the truce, died in Newtyle, Scotland, at 109. He was Scotland’s oldest man.

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Erin in Barca

 

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?): 

 

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I did find a site today that lets me translate English to Spanish so I can text her en español! So I did—¡Hola, Erin! ¿Cómo anda hoy?

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Christmas is shocking

 

Sermon for Advent 4

Matthew 1.18-25

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…

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Christmas, the great reversal

 

 

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;

thunder entered 

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. 

Nativity 11.6-8

St Ephrem the Syrian, 306-373

 

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From John the Baptist to Philip Pullman in <15 minutes!!?

 

Sermon for Advent 3

 

Isaiah 35.1-10

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.

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