Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Feast of the blessed Nativity 2014

Luke 2. 6. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7. and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Because there was not room for them in the inn!

All this time I was under the impression that the reason Mary and Joseph ended up in the stable was because the inn was full -- that's what we sing in our  Christmas carols -- that's what we see in all of the movies about the birth of Christ and in all the nativity plays across the country, even of our own childhood  "There is no room -- the inn is full -- you can stay in the stable out back"

But, that's not what Luke says happened here, he doesn't say the inn was full -- he just says that there was no room "for them"
what does that mean?  - "For them" - what was it that made the innkeeper turn them away I wonder on this special night?

Tonight we are celebrating the wondrous gift that came from heaven to earth – the birth of Jesus Christ and we do so at a time when the making room for others is a highly contentious issue in the world of politics and for many of us here in West Hendon very close to our own front doors as we see the regeneration of the West Hendon estate gather pace.

Thinking of Front doors reminds me of the presentation last Sunday by our Sunday school on the great I am sayings of Jesus and linking them to the Christmas story - I am the Door – Jn 10.7

In the book of Revelation 3:20, Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." I wonder if John the author of the book of Revelation  thought back to that time in Bethlehem -I wonder if He thought of the innkeeper as He wrote those words. when Mary and Joseph showed up at the door of the inn and knocked, it remained closed to them.

 In Jesus' time here on earth, many doors were closed to Him.  He knocked on the door of the synagogue in Nazareth and proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy, and was thrown out.
He knocked on the doors of the temple and proclaimed His deity, and was crucified .
He knocked on the door of all that He created, the created order and the hearts of everyone created in his image, and He was rejected.

Tonight there are many in our city for whom the door of hospitality, hope and joy is closed to them. While we sleep tonight and as we feast tomorrow there will be those in our own community, city and the countless refugee centers around the world for whom the door is firmly closed to them. but because of the love and generosity of the few that door is for a moment opened and through the crack of that open door the light from the other side will reflect in their eyes and provide a glimmer of hope in their hearts that have become so used to despair.

There are many who will testify as to when Christmas begins, for me it's the Saturday morning before Christmas when we are able to join with Jesus House and offer a Christmas Hamper to those who open the door of their homes wide enough to receive them. This year 68 hampers were given and received in West Hendon.

Returning to the nameless innkeeper who for reasons known only to him, refused to open his door on that night long ago we may choose to speculate why the inn keeper refused to let in Mary and Joseph, and in doing so touch upon the temptations that we suffer from when trying to live up to the example of this child born of Mary.

Was the door closed to them because of their appearance?
because they weren't wearing fine clothes
because the innkeeper thought they were too poor to have the money for a room?
or did he turn them away because he had heard their story? and did he think that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph?
Was it that he did not want he didn't want that type of person mingling with his righteous guests?

In retelling the Christmas Story year upon year is so that we can, year after year, pledge ourselves to be open, in mind and spirit and strive to accept all who come, the rich and the poor, the saved and the sinner, without judgment or prejudice. This is the good news of Christmas that we see displayed for all the world to see - that the child born of Mary accepts all who come to Him, all who knock on the door and seek His face: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" John 3.16

Amidst all that we could speculate upon, the one thing seems irrefutable is the fact that the Inn Keeper didn’t have an open mind or heart. That he could have opened the door and let Mary and Joseph into the inn from which they were barred.

 As we celebrate on Wednesday night,
as we gather in these precious days of Christmas,
as we encounter the wondrous birth of our saviour anew in the dark sacred night
as we kneel before the crib at the Altar and receive into our outstretched hand the bread of life and into our parched throats the wine of the new covenant with the promise of a renewed life, a fulfilled life….

let our prayer be that our hearts, our minds and yes the doors of our homes and our community will be open to those who come to us in their need, and that this will be true not just at Christmas but on every day of the year

Monday, 22 December 2014

Barnet refugee service end of year party

This has become a regular feature of life for us here at St Matthias. The Barnet Refugee Service has for many years used at Matthias for a weekly drop in and from an initial "mustard seed" grant in 2008 from the Church Urban Fund runs English classes for its members. 
This annual party is put on with the support of Aylth Synagogue and ourselves working together. 
Santa is late this year but we have the Mayor and his wife covering his absence!! 

The  mayot welcomed everyone present to the UK 

Santa proves popular with everyone now that he has arrived. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Last Sunday in Advent

Mary is a great inspiration to Christians throughout the world as she said YES to God, who through the message of an Angel, choose her of all women in all time to bear the Eternal Word of God, whose birth we recall and once again celebrate in four days time.

However it is sad to note that for all the devotion and inspiration she engenders through her obedience she is also for many a source of division and contention, in particular within the great Protestant denominations that took life at the Reformation 400 years ago.

Why is such an easy thing – to say yes – so hard when it comes to God?
Well the fact of the matter is that in saying yes to God we are never really sure what is to come next! Saying Yes to God inevitably means saying no to ones own ego and motives, agenda and will.

As it was for Mary, so it is for us.  The life of God is conceived and nurtured in each of us when we are willing to let it be so.  It happens through God's power, not our own. 

The transforming presence of Christ is not just for Mary - nor just you and me, it is for all who call Jesus Lord. For when we become followers of Jesus Christ we become part of a larger hope for all God's people: and where better to see hear that hope articulated than in the song of Mary that we just hear read in our Gospel reading – the Magnificat

- the hope, indeed the reality, of God's acts of mercy and justice on behalf of those who love Him in every generation,
- the hope that sees God lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things.

But let us turn to this morning, this the last Sunday in Advent, and as we do so there is another choice that has to be made here today

The God who spoke to Mary through an angel now speaks to us through Holy Scripture, announcing that we too have been chosen to give birth,
- to give birth to the "coming again" of the Christ child.

For our celebration of Christmas, when it comes, tells of a story, of events, that happened a long time ago  and at one level still have the power to touch the human spirit and inspire us to live even if only for a day peacefully and cheerfully if not a little merrily!

However the story we will recall in a few days time is really a story about you and me to day, and it is one about letting the holy Spirit touch us, to mould us to challenge us and lead us on. It is an  opportunity to let Christ once again stir in our hearts and minds, as he did in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed his birth in Bethlehem long ago

We have been chosen, at our baptism, we have chosen to be here this morning as a sign of our discipleship and we have a choice to make this morning – and it is this – how will we prepare to receive this gift of new life that we celebrate in four days time?

That, in the end, is what Christmas is about.  It is a story about our lives today and about how each has the opportunity to answer the angel as did Mary and receive the gift of new life.

The Angel is telling each of you this morning,
and will continue to whisper in your ear:
Greetings to you, O Favoured One, the Lord is with you. 

What we do with that greeting, that message from an angel, the message of Scripture is up to you and me

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Mabel's club puts on a nativity

Mabel runs an afterschool club throughout the year. This nativity complete with songs and dances tells of a star who cannot shine bright until he sees the baby Jesus and then his light fills the heavens and acts to guide and lead us all to this wonderful sight

Now we are all having a party

Having left yr7 performance of Cinderella at SMSJ, nativities and Carol services all completed earlier in the week, it's now churches together in hendon and confe Carol singing outside sainsbury in Colindale raising money for Shelter.

I fear we may be asked to leave as we are frightening the shoppers !!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Advent 3

It is only because of the gospel of Luke and Matthew that we have the celebration of Christmas. Between these two writers we have the stories that make up a myriad nativities across the county in churches and schools. The Gospels of Mark and John choose to tell us nothing of the birth of Jesus Christ, but instead choose to begin at another point in time

 Last week we read the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ recorded by Mark, and Mark chooses to begin with words of prophesy spoken some 400 years before the birth of Jesus and with the appearance of the enigmatic figure of John the Baptist.
For the writer of the gospel according to John, the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ was aeons ago, in the very beginning, when Jesus was part of God’s activity in creation, in the first words of the bible recorded in the book of Genesis.

In this third Sunday of Advent we are given a familiar image to reflect upon as we prepare for Christmas, the image of light and darkness, of day and of night.

These days we can turn night into day, almost, at the touch of a switch. King’s Cross or Trafalgar Square, Canary Wharf or the  new glass and steel towers of the city are lit up night and day, they are alive with people around the clock.

In New Testament times, in an agrarian economy, the night was the time when no one could work, not when your only light was a candle or a small oil lamp.

So we find writer after writer in the Scriptures calling us to be people of the light and not of the darkness, and telling us what that means. The Bible has hundreds of references to light, using 20 different words in the Old Testament and 16 different words in the New Testament to make the meaning clear, to remind us that we are children of the light: we have received a revelation from God and we have also received the spiritual capacity to see the light and to live in the light.

John proclaimed, ‘The light has come, I have come to testify to that light’. So what are the dreams of darkness? Surely they include power, money and sex – the power that corrupts, the money that talks, the sex that lures people with power and money to their destruction. Our papers and news bulletins are filled with their stories. Worldly success and social status and physical beauty ... the things that so often perish even before we do.
These are among the dreams of darkness in our time.

Yes, the great faiths do have some common teachings about how we should treat each other, we even share some of the same imagery but For us as Christians what sets us apart is the idea, the truth,  that Jesus is the light that enlightens everyone for Jesus is God. This is the core meaning of Christmas and the people of Christ, we are called, not to control, but to be the servants of all.

Some times we in the church need to be reminded of this that we are not here to control but the serve as indeed our Lord himself said I have not come to be served but to serve. And we are called, not to take refuge from the world, but to engage with the world, to challenge principalities and powers, as John did and as Jesus did by his actions and in his teachings.

John the Baptist was called to be a witness to the true light which enlightens everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord. And so we too are challenged to do this in our lives – and in particular ask ourselves what this might mean for our preparations in Advent.

So what does the image of light say to us? Three things at least:

We begin with a puzzle. John testifies that Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus says that we are the light of the world. How can this be? We must reflect the light of Jesus as the moon reflects the light of the sun. The first chapter of Genesis tells us that the fourth day of creation God separated the light he had created: God appointed the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. We now know that the lesser light is a reflection of the greater light. The Christian community can bring light into a dark world, we can give others light for their life’s journey, but only if we reflect the light of Christ. Otherwise we are as much in the dark as they are.

Secondly-- we, like John the Baptist, are called to point to the greater light. We cannot say ‘look at me’ – we cannot glory in our possessions or our appearance or our achievements. We are called to say ‘look at Jesus’, look at his glory, look at his love, look at his healing power. We are all called to testify to Jesus the Christ, and we are all given the opportunity, in what we say and in how we live. We are not all called to preach, but we are all called to witness. So John testified to Jesus and Jesus testified to the Father.

Thirdly, when we call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, our identity is linked with his. Have you noticed how often we are identified by our relationship to other people? So I am Desiree’s husband, or Roschelle and Jodies father, or Jesse’s grandfather, depending on who I am with. This is true for all of us and it should be true of each of us as Christians where we are one another’s brother and sister.

The early church called itself the people of the way, but the people around them called them ‘Christians’; people who said their different life-style came from following in Jesus’ steps. Their way of life revealed something of the nature of Jesus. And so should ours.

John knew that he, too, had been called to bring good news to the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, as Isaiah had been called to do. But he was emphatic that he was not the Messiah, nor Elijah the prophet come back to earth, nor the god-like prophet promised in the book of Deuteronomy.   How John identified himself is how we are called to identify ourselves -- as heralds, as people who bring the Good News of Jesus Christ into the lives of others.
And this is true not just for us as individuals, who pray and read our bibles in the warmth of our homes but should be true of our life when we come together as a community and work together as a parish. If we all lived as today’s epistle calls us to live: if our own light shone a little brighter – if we prayed a little more, and gave a little more, and loved a lot more, if we gave thanks to God in all circumstances, more people in this community would see the light, and want to cast away their own dreams of darkness. So many things St John’s and St Matthias could do are left undone because so few people offer to do them.

Again, we can learn from the contrast between the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus. John called the people to come to him. Jesus went to them, he went out among the people, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  Most parishes are still stuck in a John the Baptist style of ministry – ‘Come to us’, they say ‘ We will welcome you’.

Not many people respond to the invitation, so the churches can easily become spiritual ghettoes, like-minded people who care for each other, who support each other, but they do not engage with the community.

Only a few parishes care enough to follow Jesus, to go out among the people and proclaim the good news of the kingdom, as we are called to do. In two weeks time, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus – God with us – Jesus is the God who comes to us. If we take the Christmas story to heart, we will want to follow his example: we will want to go to others, to reflect the light of Christ into their lives, to help them cast away the dreams of darkness, which can so easily become nightmares. They, too, are called to be children of the day.