Our Christmas Gift

•December 23, 2022 • Leave a Comment

A written sermon for Christmas Day, based on Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

What a privilege it is to be sharing with you on this Christmas Day.  I pray that whatever this day brings for you, you will know God with you.

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When I moved to my first appointment as a Presbyter, I had always lived in cities, big, bright, lively cities.  That appointment included several small villages.  I had been several times to those villages and thought I knew where I was and what I was doing.  Until one evening, as Autumn drew in, I went to a meeting at someone’s house, parked my car and we got on with the meeting.  It was only when we came out and it had gone dark that I realised there were no streetlights, and I could not see my car never mind pick a way to it.  How different somewhere looks in the dark. Needless to say, my Christmas present that year was a torch and I learned never to go out without it!

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Life at the moment can feel pretty dark.  Crisis after crisis seems to be hitting the news and our personal lives.  Darkness can be overwhelming.  It can feel that we are groping around in the dark.  We do not know what is happening, can’t see how to put it right or find a way out.

Isaiah sees that the people are walking in darkness and are struggling (9:2).  But a light is here to shine.  Into their deepest darkness comes the greatest light. A child is born who is whatever we need (9:6-7): Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Whatever it is we need, this child brings it, born for us, given to us, bringing the peace that the world needs.

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Isaiah’s promise is borne out in the message to the Shepherds, “to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)

Imagine being minding your own business, getting on with your job like you do every day of your life, and suddenly an angel lights up the sky and tells you that the Saviour is born, and you are invited to see him.  That this is the Messiah, who everyone has been waiting for, the one who is bringing God’s light and life, who is coming to physically show God’s way.

Titus, writing much later with the hindsight of the life and work of Jesus, also reminds us “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (Titus 2:11)  Jesus is not just an interesting person, a birth of note , a life like any other, Jesus is the grace of God, living, breathing showing us God’s love for us and how we can live God’s love for others.

The shepherds were given an invitation to “go and see”, but they had a decision to make.  Should they stay looking after their sheep?  Was that the responsible thing to do?  It was a dark night, did they want to go all that way?  Perhaps they had misunderstood, been blinded by something and imagined all the rest?  Was there really a Saviour, the Messiah to see?  The only way they would find out was by going to look, to the place of encounter and understanding.  So they went and no longer had any doubt.

Isaiah’s promise, the shepherd’s encounter, Titus’ words after knowing the reality of Jesus, are all of discovery of the love and power of God.  God who loves us so much he comes to live among us as a child and then a man.  A human who showed us God’s way to live and offers that way to us.  We need no longer grope in the dark, because Jesus shows the way – to live, to love, to hope. 

That is God’s promise to us still today.  We too can have that place of encounter, of seeing the light shining, hope dawning, peace ruling, God’s love winning.  Our gift this Christmas and every day to ourselves and one another is to take time is to accept it and let it work out in our lives. Today, and every day, may you know the presence, the hope, the light and the peace of Christ, God among us.


Advent Pilgrimage – Week 4

•December 22, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This year I am sharing some Advent Reflections online. The theme is Pilgrimage. I have to confess that I wrote these a few years ago, and have no idea what the inspiration I used was. My apologies if I have inadvertently plagiarised anyone else’s work, but the setting is definitely mine.

This week – The New King is Coming

luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

If you prefer the text version:

Handing yourself over to God …

I wonder if Mary realised, as the angel spoke to her, how far-reaching and momentous this event was.  She must have been totally ‘gob smacked’.  How would you feel if God came to tell you in that something totally impossible was going to happen in your life?  Something that should make no sense?

I wonder how long it took for it to dawn on Mary that this child was the fulfilment of an ancient promise.  That this baby was the Messiah, the ‘Son of the Most High God’ the one whom the prophets had foretold, and the one for whom the people, with mounting despair, had waited for through the long centuries.

Angels in the bible are God’s messengers.  They speak on his authority.  They are also signs of his presence with his people.

For Mary, and her fiancé Joseph, Gabriel’s visit and his words, would change things for ever.  What was asked of them was an act of supreme obedience – Mary’s response, ‘I am the Lord’s servant; may it happen to me as you have said.’

How do you respond to the presence of God in your life?  How do you respond when God asks something of you?

Grant to us Lord, like Mary, a faith that takes you at your word and seeks to do your will.  Lord, whatever you ask of me, I am your servant, may it happen to me as you have said.

What Are You Doing for Christmas?

•December 18, 2022 • Leave a Comment
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I keep being asked “what are you doing for Christmas?”
Well the honest answer is – not a lot, and not a lot different. Because Chronic Illness is for Christmas as well as life (even without the current exacerbation of symptoms that is showing no sign of clearing up)

I wish it were different, but you don’t feel less ill just because it’s a date on a calendar. There is no more energy, no less pain, no convenient abatement of symptoms. I won’t suddenly have to not take my regular meds, that need to fit in around specific times and food, and I won’t be able to have a glass of whatever I fancy because it doesn’t mix. I will still struggle to eat and swallow some food and my hands will shake uncontrollably as I try to cut it and get it in my mouth.

I will still be exhausted and need to sleep. And much as I love the company, sensory overload of too many people at once will still be a reality. I will still struggle with my mobility and accessibility in any space that isn’t my usual one. Oh, and I’m allergic to Christmas Trees, so that rules out anywhere with one of those too – even if I had the energy!

That is my reality. Others will have different realities that make Christmas Day no different to any other day, or even worse because of their pressures. Painful memories; missing people; people who no longer know who they are; those whose day will be spent caring; with bad news hanging over them; no-one to share with when they want to; people they need to be away from and can’t; simply not enough food, warmth or money to make the day any different – and nowhere open to escape to; the list goes on. As well as those who will be working to keep others safe.

So what are we doing for Christmas? Trying to get by as best we can. And grateful for those who love and hold us every day of the year.

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