Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Very tired indeed, but very happy. There were about 150 at 3pm crib service. There were perhaps as many as 350 at 5pm. There were about 200 at Midnight Mass... so all went well!

Below is my sermon from Midnight Mass... have a blessed and holy day...

I was flicking through the channels on tv last night trying to find some inspiration for what I wanted to say tonight, and was struck by how much post-pub tv focusses on sex - whether in chat line adverts or in programmes themselves. I am saddened to discover this because none of what is on offer is real or lasting... the chat lines will only cost large amounts of money, the beautiful men or women remain unobtainable media icons, and ultimately all of it leads to at best short term pleasure, but lacks long term, lasting emotional satisfaction.

Friends tonight I want to let you into a secret. In a world obsessed by glossy sex, surgery and gym built bodies, and pleasure at all costs - Christians make better lovers. The reason I can confidently tell you that is because I know it’s true. Christians know what to do, and how to use what they have been given better than any relationship guru on the planet. The reason I know that it’s true is because I have experienced it for myself and you can too tonight.

Tonight friends I can offer you the secret of how to be a great lover. I can offer you the chance to find life-long lasting satisfaction. I want each of you tonight to hear for yourselves how to give pleasure and delight and how to be in the most fulfilling of relationships. I need to share with you some tips and then you will have a chance to try some techniques out for yourselves - so this is a sort of hands on relationship seminar.
How to be a better lover hot tip number one. Have a baby. Babies force you to prioritize your life and to focus of what is really important. They also challenge you to work closely with your partner and others to provide for their needs. I can offer you a baby tonight, and he will do the same. He will force you to reprioritise your life and to focus on what really matters and he will challenge you to work closely with others, not just for his benefit, but for yours too!

How to be a better lover hot tip number two. Become a step father/mother/ brother/sister. Another key to becoming a better lover involves welcoming a stranger into your life and your family. This is risky stuff and will stretch you sometimes to breaking point - and will challenge all your other existing relationships in the same way, but it will be worth it. In time and lots of work, your life and the lives of others will be deeper and richer as a result.

How to be a better lover hot tip number three. Accept change. A key to becoming better lover involves change - not trying to change others - however subtly - but allowing others to change you. This is not some sort of exercise in style, but change on the inside; change in attitudes, motives, and drives.

The story that hear tonight is the epic conclusion of the greatest love story the world has ever heard - the story of God’s love for people. Jesus’ arrival in our world opens up the possibility for us not only to hear the story, but to experience the love of God, but more than even that... to be part of the story ourselves.

The baby that we celebrate being born tonight will force each one of us to re-prioritize our lives and to focus on what really matters. Tonight, in fact every night, all that really matters (even in our sex obsessed world) is love. When you boil it down all of us long for love. The birth of God’s Son offers us love; a love that accepts us no matter what, a love that shines (to use St. John’s imagery) like light in the darkness. God’s love is never ending, and offers long term satisfaction.

The baby that we celebrate being born tonight encourages each of us to become a step father/mother/brother or sister and to welcome a stranger into your lives. The baby tonight is not for cooing over and cuddling. The child born tonight should be treated with the respect he deserves as he is the Son of God, and was with God before anything came into existence, and as the Word in tonight’s reading, created everything that is. Tonight he stands with us as a grown adult too, a stranger to many, asking each of us to weigh up for ourselves who he is - was he mad in his claims, was bad in duping millions of us, or is he who he says he is. As you make your choice tonight, remember that your choice will affect the rest of your life.
The baby that we celebrate being born tonight asks us to accept change. Jesus didn’t just talk about love, he demonstrated God’s love for each of us. If you want to know what it means to be loved then you have come to the right place and the right person. God’s love calls us to change. None of us like it, but as you get to know more about love as it should be from Jesus, the more willing you become to be like him.

The birth of God’s Son amongst us tonight offers us the love of God - in person. It is love that is eternal and fulfilling. It is love that will give and offer pleasure and delight - the pleasure of knowing that we are loved by God for who we are not who we could be - and the delight of knowing that we do not have to be who or what society tell us - with or without the beautiful young thing on our arm, or the perfect body.

This baby tells us that God loves us for being us, just as he made us to be.

So as to techniques you can try - become part of God’s love story yourselves. As you come close to the crib tonight, as you open your presents in the morning, as you take Alka Seltzer on Wednesday - thank God for his love for you, ask him to move from being a stranger to becoming a friend, and allow the life of this baby as a grown man show you what true love is all about. If you want to know more - part two of this workshop begins tomorrow morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just checking in here... Christmas sermons are coming but they are hard work this year!

This year's Christmas services's look like this:

23rd 4th Sunday in Advent
3.00 pm Taditional Candlelit Nine Lessons and Carols

24th Christmas Eve
3.00 pm Family Crib Service
5.00 pm Family Crib Service
11.30 pm Midnight Mass

8.00 am Said Eucharist
10.00 am Sung Family Eucharist

26th St Stephen
10.00 am Said Eucharist

27th St John
10.00 am Said Eucharist

28th Holy Innocents
10.00 am Said Eucharist

30th First Sunday of Christmas
10.00 am All God's Children - a service for all

See you at one or more of these I hoope!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Afternoon! Look I am early! Here's tomorrow's sermon... today!

Harry Potter - couldn’t help but look to the end of the story. I have to say that it made no sense, not until I had read the rest of the story... Same is true of Advent and it’s twin season of Christmas. The trouble is that we think we know the end of the story. We think that this time of waiting that we call Advent is all building up to the joyful time of Christmas. In fact, it can hardly be called a time of waiting at all.

The Christmas lights and decorations often precede Advent, and some people are well into their Christmas shopping. No shocks for us; we know what to expect. When we’ve celebrated the birth of the baby, everything will get back to normal again until this time next year.

So who is this strange, hairy man, striding out of the desert; doesn’t he know that this is a time for the family, not a time for unpleasantness? Why is he shouting about repentance? And he seems to have skipped all the bit about the angels and the shepherds, surely the real point of Christmas, and gone straight on to something about baptism and the Holy Spirit. That’s not part of this story as far as I recall it. Doesn’t that come in some other story, which we’re not really interested in? No thanks, let’s get back to the baby...

Isaiah seems to be getting into the mood rather better. At least he’s talking about comfort and tenderness. But, no, there he goes, too, ruining a perfectly nice message. He seems to think we only get to the comfort when we’ve faced the devastation. He’s on about the wilderness, as well. What’s more, he seems to think that we are sitting in a desert because that’s what we have made of our lives. He suggests that we’ve pulled up our roots, and turned away from our ground, our source of water, which is God. Now we are so weak and dry that we drift about aimlessly.

For Isaiah, the coming God is not a sweet little baby that we can coo over, and then ignore while we get on with our party. Instead, God is like a breath of fire on the dried grass of our lives. When he breathes on us, all that is left is the wilderness and God. When, at last, we have noticed that there is no life in us, then we will see the beginning of the extraordinary transformation of the desert.

Where there was the empty waste that we made, there will be paths, heralds, shouting; a huge crowd following the glorious king through the wilderness. Everywhere he goes, life springs up, life that is directly dependent upon him, and knows it.

All the Christmas presents, tinsel and plastic reindeer are just a wilderness without the life of God.

So perhaps the birth that comes at the end of Advent is not the end, but the beginning. That would make sense, after all. Most births are the beginning of something.

When we have met this strange God at Christmas, we must resist the temptation to pack everything way until next year, but we must start the journey with him, watching him grow, finding out what he is like, waiting to see the story unfold.
There is such a lot of waiting in the Christian story. Each time you get to a point that you think is the end, you find it is actually another beginning. After the birth, there is the ministry of Jesus, which seems to end at the cross.

And then, suddenly, there is another beginning in the resurrection, and things start up again, and end again, as Jesus ascends. This time, the new beginning is the Christian community, living by the Holy Spirit. The history of the Church’s life has been a series of deaths, or near-deaths, and rebirths, each one unexpected and unpredictable.

What is John the Baptist really doing here though? Surely he is here to remind us, not of an austerity and simple living that we should buy into to prepare ourselves for the gluttony of the immanent birthday party, but that the completion of God’s work of creation promised in this coming infant begins with the hope of our own transformation promised in Baptism.

In Baptism we align ourselves and our will, our story and history, with Christ’s. St. Athanasius reminds us that the incarnation restores in sinful men and women the divine image that they were originally created and Christ’s dying and rising overcomes death, the result of sin. Baptism, our baptism, allows those events to echo down through history and to be heard and seen and felt in our lives.

Advent challenges the world to hear and answer John’s call to repentance again. Our Baptism must mark our lives as part of God’s work of perfection, transformation and glorification of all creation which began with the birth of Christ. As St Augustine put it ‘...He [the Christ Child] is wrapped in cloths but he clothes us with immortality...’ for that baby also comes as judge placing a special onus on the Church to ready herself and the world for his return. This is why the Advent readings always contain the sombre note of warning. You think you want the coming of Christ: are you sure you know what you are asking for? So make the most of this period of waiting; be grateful for Advent and use it, not just to prepare for the birth of the baby, but also to prepare a world where this baby, righteousness incarnate, will be at home and prepare to have this world - yours, mine, ours transformed, perfected and glorified by him.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Yet another week when I am not at HT!!! Herewith the sermon I preached at St B's this morning. Advent carols this afternoon...

You, like me, might have already received at least one Christmas card so far. I have to say that I find myself becoming more and more depressed at the encroachment of Christmas earlier and earlier into the rest of the year. Now I hasten to add that I am rather concerned that I might be sounding a bit ‘bah humbug!’ about all this but I long for Advent each year.

Advent is becoming more and more about spiritually preparing for Christmas, but it never was intended that way. Advent was always traditionally about longing for change and hoping for liberation, and the coming of God. Traditional Advent themes focus on the prophets, patriarchs, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary who fortell these events, and on death, judgement, heaven and hell. Advent is not about the Christmas lights, cards, shopping or whatever it is we are more than likely reoccupied with.

I long for Advent as it traditionally is, because I am reminded annually that the mess I make of my life, the pain and suffering that I see, the pent up screams for justice, and the need for life-changing hope.

Hopeful. Advent is the season where we long for God’s coming to us. For centuries faithful men and women throughout the Old Testament had watched and waited for God to come and liberate his people - freeing them from oppression, slavery, and occupation. With the angel’s words to her, Mary knew that generations of waiting were soon to be over. In this holy season as we anticipate remembering God coming to our world bringing justice and judegement, we need to be hopeful that God has moved the constant battle with evil and suffering, into it’s endgame.

The coming Christ is the one who can open the gateway closed by God at Eden because of sin and who stands at the door open in heaven inviting us in. In Advent, Christ is called the Key of David - a symbol of authority at the palace of Jerusalem - and it’s bearer had the authority to admit people into the royal presence. The key in question was a cumbersome affair carried on the shoulders, and the analogy between key and cross cannot be downplayed.

With the coming of God comes wild hope, but not a crazy utopian dream. Peace in nations begins with peace in people. Free nations begins with free people. Liberation of lands and political systems begins with liberating the human heart. Advent people are hopeful people, people who know that it is only the coming Christ child who can unlock the doorway to God and the doorway to humanity as God created it to be.

Trusting. Mary’s words to the angel. “Let it be to me according to your word.’ show a radical obedience to the will of God. In this holy season, as we anticipate remembering God coming into our world - restoring, healing - we too need to become people who trust God. As God entrusts himself to his creation in the vulnerability of a helpless baby, so we need to entrust ourselves to his will. In advent, Mary reminds us that her trust is not a blind acceptance. All that she had been told would happen had happened.

We need to trust God, as incredulous and unlikely as that might seem. God is trustworthy and true and does not revoke his promises. In Christ, all God’s promises already in place. His first coming at the Incarnation confirmed the reliability of all the Old testa ment prophesies. The enduring presence of of the Holy Spirit in his church, by which the endgame has begun, assures us that he will return again. God’s future has begun, here, now.

With the coming of God comes a need to trust him, but not a crazy utopian dream. What Mary knew, we must know. God has consistently proved himself to be faithful through the pages of scripture and the lives of men and women over the ages, all that Mary heard from the angel she saw fulfilled. Advent people are trusting people, people who have come to know that trusting God is not a last resort when all else fails, but the place to start.

Proclaiming. Mary’s words ‘My soul magnifies the Lord!’ remind that Advent’s purpose is to proclaim God in a world that largely ignores him. As a tiny baby, that is to say so unobtrusive in his humility, he needs to be magnified to been seen. In a world that ignores him and yet needs him more and more - the we need to sing the Magnificat in our live all the more loudly. In a world that gives status dependent on wealth, on body image, on clothing, yet longs for love, forgiveness, healing and hope, we need to proclaim him all the more.

Advent longs for coming of God to us, but it also is the time to remind us that God waits for our coming to him. At the incarnation he comes to us and will come again at the end of time, in the meantime he watches out like the father of the prodigal son - waiting to embrace us in eternal love.

Advent is traditionally as season of repentance - seeking to mend broken relationships, hearing words of forgiveness - so we also need to return to God, discovering as we do in this holy season, that it only when we return to our creator that we find our true status - as children of God - forgiven, healed, hopeful and reconciled.

In the Magician’s Nephew, C.S Lewis describes a wood the children reach by magic - the wood between the worlds. Through it they enter Charn - a dying world, Narnia in the making, and then on back into their own world. In the wood, time is stopped and they can hardly imagine the adventures that await them. Advent is the wood between the worlds, between the wold that cannot imagine Christ and the world in which he comes to be the only picture of reality that we have. At this point we stand in a world where God’s great act of incarnation and redemption is only a shadow, a child growing in the dark of the womb. To be Advent people is to be people in the wood between the worlds, longing for the Coming God, and to allow him to bring to birth in us, the coming of his Kingdom.