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Showing posts from December, 2009

Love in the Shape of a Cross

John 1.1-14

Now that we've talked about our own presents, it's time to open another one - a present for everybody here today but, as I hope you can see, it's not a very big present.

Someone helps me to open it and it turns out to be an empty box with the words 'Love' scrawled on each of it's six sides.
Well, an empty box of love. That's a bit of a lightweight gift, isn't it? I'm reminded of the priest who went on holiday to Spain. He was a visiting a church one day and when the sexton discovered that he was a priest he said to him, 'Would you like to see our most holy treasure? Normally we only get it out on feast days, and then we parade it around the village, but - as you're a priest - I'll give you a special glimpse of it. And he led the priest down to the crypt under the church and there on a tiny stone niche under the high altar was a golden box with a glass lid. The sexton lifted it down carefully and the priest looked inside. As his …

The Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9.2-7, Luke 2.1-14, Titus 2.11-14

The zeal of the Lord of Hosts versus the boots of earth-shaking armies on the march. It's a slight over translation but it's a wonderfully evocative image and if you went to the cinema, to see Schindler's List or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then you'll have a vivid idea of the sort of clash which Isaiah has in mind.
In Schindler's List the confrontation is between an enterprising man and a group of Jewish prisoners on the one side, and the might of the Nazi war machine on the other, symbolised by a cohort of SS soldiers parading through the streets of Cracow. The whole street seems to shake as they march past the camera.
In The Lord of the Rings the confrontation is between Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring on one side, and the huge armies of the dark land of Mordor on the other. As the vast column of soldiers heads for the battlefield where they will confront the forces of goodness, the whole canyon through whi…

Big Things in Small Packages

Micah 5.1-5, Luke 1.39-45
Last week all eyes were fixed on Copenhagen, and no wonder for the very future of the world hangs in the balance. Will the world's leaders be able to settle their differences and save the human race and many other creatures from extinction, or will they continue to bicker and prevaricate while one half of the world fries and the other half drowns?Great hopes were invested in President Obama. Would he or wouldn't he even go to Copenhagen, and if he did would he be able to break the deadlock? Sadly, his keynote speech seemed only to make matters worse by putting all the blame on China and humiliating the Chinese delegation. Is something as basic as injured pride going to be the cause of humanity's downfall?Micah describes a similar situation. It's not the world that is under threat in his prophecy, of course, but the tiny country of Judah. The people have had to flee the land and take shelter behind the walls of their cities while the Assyrian ho…

God's Grace at Work in the World

Baruch 5:1-9, Philippians 1:1-11, Luke 1.57-64

Baruch is a book which didn't make it into the Protestant version of the canon of scripture, although you will find it in the Roman Catholic version. It purports to have been written soon after the Exile of the people of Jerusalem to Babylon and other parts of the Middle East. The author claims to be Baruch, the person who wrote down the prophecies of Jeremiah, but because no copies have survived in the Hebrew language - if indeed there ever were any - people have long suspected that it was written much later, probably during a time of rebellion against the Greek rulers of Palestine about 150 years before the birth of Christ.

The opening image of chapter 5 pictures Jerusalem as a woman, perhaps a widow or an orphan, who is exchanging the garments of mourning for a wedding dress. Now at last, after a long time of exile and sadness, it is the time for celebration.

When I went with my daughter, Jenny, to see her try on the wedding dress wh…

The Gift of Hope

Malachi 3.1b—2 , Luke 1.68—74 When I was small my grandfather used to tell the story of his most memorable childhood Christmas. I always used to find it unbearably sad, but it's important to say that he didn't tell the story to get sympathy, or as a way into a rant about how young people don't know how lucky they are these days. He always told it as a funny story, and - of course - as a warning about what happens to naughty children.The story goes like this, when he was small - about five or six years' old - he slept in the same bed as his younger brother. On Christmas morning he woke up very early and decided to look in his Christmas stocking. And guess what was in it? An apple, an orange, a six pence and - one toy. It was a clockwork train. He wound it up and it ran along the bed. Then he wound it up and it ran along the bed again. And then he wound it up and, again, it ran along the bed.And then he got bored. So he decided to have a look in his brother's stockin…

The Perfect Leader

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Luke 21:25-36As we enter a new liturgical year, with the beginning of Advent, how appropriate that the Old Testament reading should be about the perfect leader, because - before the year is out - we shall be thinking a lot about what it takes to lead a modern nation state out of economic crisis and through the uncharted waters of global warming.

The prophecy was first spoken in the context of impending disaster. The days were surely coming when the Kingdom of Judah would be crushed like a bug, and the Prophet Jeremiah had been warning about this for a long time. He had even been put in prison for spreading defeatism and being unpatriotic. Now is the time to say, 'I told you so!' But instead the register of the prophecies changes just at this point and the prevailing tone of despair at the climate of corruption and faithlessness surrounding the nation is replaced by a new note of hope and expectancy. All manner of things will be well after all!

Actually, these…