Sunday, 30 December 2012

Thought for Christmas 1

In our Gospel reading today we find Jesus at 12 exploring and discovering who is. Just as many of us were doing at 12.

During the 40 days of Christmas our reflections in liturgy have us leaping about from Jesus teaching in the Temple at 12 on Christmas 1 to His Naming and Circumcision on the 1st January at 8 days old. The flight to Egypt is remembered on the 28th December during Holy Innocents and we return to Bethlehem on the 6th January for the visit of the Magi. During the Sundays after Christmas we follow Jesus growing up and beginning his ministry in Galilee and then he return to the Babe being presented at the temple.

This is great for an understanding of the mission and nature of Jesus, but it does mean that we miss the narrative of Jesus growing up. We don't remember a crucified baby or believe that God beamed down at aged 30. We believe in a God who was born, grew up, was part of a family and work out who he is.

God shared in our humanity, all of it - even the messy and uncomfortable bits, so we might share in His divinity.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Holy Innocents

Matthew's gospel tells us the story of the Holy Innocents, which we commemorate today. Herod slaughtered the young children of Bethlehem, whilst Mary and Joseph take the child Jesus to safety in Egypt, Joseph having been warned in a dream of Herod's intentions.

For the first readers of this gospel, the passage would be rich in resonances. Just as the People of Israel, sometimes referred to in the Old Testament as 'God's son', had been led to safety in Egypt, after a massacre of the firstborn from which God's chosen one Moses had been spared, so too Jesus, the Son of God and chosen Messiah, is taken to Egypt and kept safe from slaughter. Jesus 'sums up' the history of Israel, God's history of saving his people; he fulfils and completes it. Just to make the point more forcefully, Matthew mentions that all of this happens in response to someone called Joseph having a dream. This should sound familiar.

So we celebrate today the fulfilment of God's purposes in Christ. But we also remember that those purposes are worked out in a world that is often tragically violent. Massacres are not a thing of the past. The violence of the powerful remains with us; today's papers carry more bleak news from Syria. Refugees still look for places of safety, and often find themselves unwelcome when they get there - the scapegoating and hostility directed at asylum seekers in this country by sections of the media is disgusting, and is something that those of us who worship a Lord presented in the gospel as himself a refugee are bound by our faith to resist.

So today we give thanks for God's plan of salvation, we pray for victims of violence and for refugees, and commit ourselves anew to working for their liberation.

Heavenly Father,
whose children suffered at the hands of Herod,
though they had done no wrong:
by the suffering of your Son
and by the innocence of our lives
frustrate all evil designs
and establish your reign of justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Happy St John's Day!

As well as carrying on with our celebrations of Christmas, we keep today the feast of St John the Evangelist. The author of the Fourth Gospel, he is our patron at St John's, so today is a special day for us.

His message that the 'Word was made Flesh' is the Christmas gospel. God became one of us, so that we might have life in its fullness. We need to share that message with those around us.

Almighty God,
  who through your apostle John
  unlocked for us the hidden treasures of your Word,
grant that we may grasp with fuller understanding
  the message he so admirably proclaimed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.

Christmas in Colindale

Here are some pictures from our Midnight Mass at St Matthias:

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

On the Feast of Stephen!

Today is the Feast of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr. There is an account of his death in the Acts of the Apostles.

Yesterday we remembered God's gift to us of his Son. Today we are reminded that this gift demands a response from us. In St Stephen we see self-giving love answering God's call in the Word Made Flesh.

Give us grace, Lord, to practise what we worship.
Teach us to love our enemies
  as we keep the feast of Saint Stephen,
  who prayed even for the men who stoned him to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Sermon from Fr John

He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable,
And his cradle was a stall;
With the poor and mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Saviour Holy

There has been much in the public realm recently concerning communication.
Lord justice Leveson enquiry has created a fierce debate with those on the side of the freedom of the press decrying any infringement on their rights to tell the world what they think the world wants to hear: and those on the side of people who's privacy has been invaded, usually at a time of heightened personal crisis or tragedy. It remains to be seen how far this debate will go in changing the nature of our society and the way in which we stay informed.

This month of December marked the 20th anniversary of the first txt message sent. Given  that I expect everyone of us in church has sent or received a txt message it  seems incredible that it they have only been around 20 years. Can you imagine your day without a txt, can you sustain your friendships and express your love and concern or simple delight in another person without txt? I expect for many of us it would seem inconceivable.  From the moment that first text was sent our world and society changed for ever.

And finally there was the tragic results if a hoax call, Mel Grieg and Michael Christian, the Australian DJ’s behind the hoax call to King Edward 7th hospital  . A harmless bit of fun turning into shocking loss, a moment of foolishness having  far reaching  consequences.  For Nurse Jacintha Saldanha it was moment of communication that changed her life for ever and resulted in the terrible consequences of her suicide.

At the heart of the Christmas story is the desire of God to communicate, us his creation his sons and daughters. To send a message, to reach out, to create a story that still has the power to change peoples lives and the life of our world.

But God is no hack, or devious reporter determined to use any means necessary to get his story, his Good News,  into the public domain.
God choose to use a seemingly ordinary event, the birth of a child, to herald an event of world changing proportions.
God choose not to use the wonders of technology, the ability to instantly connect and convince, but the everyday and ordinary around us, dreams, stars and lowly shepherds.
God choose to intervene in human history, a decision that in some people's eyes is as foolish as a hoax call, but one that has far reaching implications, not for death but for life.

This month gave the world another first – the first Tweet by the Pope. Indeed I too have joined the tweeting community by following his example and sent my first tweet two weeks ago.

Some see texting as destructive to traditional forms of communication, and although it is a view that I have a great deal of sympathy with, there is some truth in the claim of those in favour that it is simply another form of communication which has become part of the fabric of our modern world.

Greg Burke, the senior media adviser to the Vatican, explained that the @Pontifex Twitter name was chosen because it means Pope and it also means 'bridge builder'.

Such bridge building through different avenues is part of the Christian tradition. The Christmas story celebrates  a God who communicates in diverse and creative ways –A drama which features the worlds of prophets, angelic visitations, and then supremely, God becoming a human being. “ He came down to earth from heave, Who is God and Lord of all”

It’s the way of building a bridge in a way that human beings can receive and understand. 

Indeed it is estimated that around 8 trillion txts are sent a year, I wonder how many of the worlds 7 billion humans will wish another person a happy Christmas today by sending a txt?

And that would be an interesting challenge, if you have not already risen to it this Christmas, when you have a moment why not send a message of no more than 140 characters – a tweet – to convey all the joy and hope and love that is revealed as we gaze anew on the child born of Mary.

I will finish as I began with words of another well known hymn which we will sing togthter at the end of our service, words that for me  powerfully convey the esense of what our celebration at Christmas is all about

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings
ris’n with healing in his wings;
mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.

And if you are interested that is 195 characters- I think?

Happy Christmas!

The words of my favourite carol say it all:

The great God of heaven is come down to earth,
his mother a Virgin and sinless his birth;
the Father eternal his Father alone:
he sleeps in a manger; he reigns on the throne:
Then let us adore him and praise his great love:
to save us poor sinners he came from above.

A Babe on the breast of a Maiden he lies,
yet sits with the Father on high in the skies;
before him their faces the Seraphim hide,
while Joseph stands waiting, unscared, by his side:

Lo! here is Emmanuel, here is the Child,
the Son that was promised to Mary so mild;
whose power and dominion shall ever increase,
the Prince that shall rule o'er a kingdom of peace:

The Wonderful Counselor, boundless in might,
the Father's own image, the beam of his light;
behold him now wearing the likeness of man,
weak, helpless and speechless, in measure a span:

O wonder of wonders, which none can unfold:
the Ancient of days is an hour or two old;
the Maker of all things is made of the earth,
man is worshiped by angels and God comes to birth:

The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains;
he is that he was and for ever shall be,
but becomes that he was not, for you and for me.

St Matthias, ready for Midnight Mass