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Four Kinds of Christmas

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, creative, My videos, poetry, videos | Leave a comment

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WORDS:

“Every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” Ebenezer Scrooge.

SCROOGE

I like the darkness… at least it’s cheap,
I keep adjusted to the gloom, the creeping doom,
that soon consumes the earth in tombs,
I hum its tune. Assume its tone and make my home right here
in the only world we know.
This world of woe.
Let others throw their festive flings,
I think I’ll keep my five gold rings.

SHOPPER

Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves,
She loves the doves.
Yeah shove it on the card above.
…No never fear my dear, I’ll pay it all…
Next year.

For now we’ll drink to Christmas cheer!
And deck the halls with tinselled bling,
Forget what our tomorrows bring
We’ll raise a glass of festive sherry,
Eat and drink and be quite m…

SANTA

Merry Christmas everyone! And what’s your wish for me, my son?

A hamper full of festive fun!
With snowdrops, rainbows, furry mittens;
unicorns and mewling kittens.

Santa’s sleigh may bring them near, but were you good for me this year?

Why YES, I think. I didn’t sink as low as some I know…
although…
Hey, No!
Father Christmas, mind your own business!

The kids might believe but they are naive.
I know for certain, I see through the curtain.
But when you strip it all bare, what exactly is there?

See Scrooge looks darkness full in the face,
embracing the chill but he loses the will to hope

The Shopper copes better, throws off fetters,
wears garish sweaters, but becomes a debtor,
spending now but nothing later,
tending down into death’s crater.

Santa offers Christmas cheer,
the most wonderful time of the year,
but is it real?
At least Scrooge knew the deal with the dark.

In this stark world can we face facts like Scrooge?
Then paint it rouge like the Shopper?
Proper banter like Santa,
But below the Ho, Ho, Ho, can we know a truth beneath treacle?

Good news of great Joy for all people?

STABLE

Are we able to strip back to the stable,
This fable made flesh, our Maker enmeshed in the mess.
To bless us, possess us, and be heaven’s Yes to our race.
To embrace us in grace, evermore in our place.
Pledging flesh, blood and bone. To exchange a throne for a manger.
Endangering all to be present to you. To be God’s present to you.

If you’re Santa or Shopper, or any such thing.
If you’re shepherd, or Mary or Joseph or king.
For this the herald angels sing.

In Him the Light shines and all is forgiven.
To you this Christmas Child is given.

 

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Sermon Prep…

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, preaching | Leave a comment

It’s time for preachers to think about the Carols services, Christingles, Nativity plays, etc.

It’s also a time to miss a golden opportunity.  The golden opportunity is to preach a theology of incarnation. But, year in and year out, this chance is missed in evangelical churches.

Our mentions of incarnation boil down to the Abrupt, the Apologetic or the Anselmian.

The Abrupt:

“God in skin. Weird huh? Anyway…”

The Apologetic:

“Jesus shows up in time and space which means that we can verify the truth through historical methods, and really the New Testament documents are very reliable don’t you know…”

The Anselmian:

“God basically wants to acquit his elect and so needs a Scapegoat to take the fall. And there he is the manger. Weird huh?  Anyway…”

My twitter feed is full of encouragements to preachers to ‘get beyond the manger’. Many people seem worried that preachers might focus on the wonder of the incarnation itself. At Christmas! The very idea.

I completely agree that crib and cross go together, but if that’s true, where are all the Easter encouragements: “Hey preachers! Don’t forget the incarnation on Good Friday!” The answer is nowhere. Which is a problem.

I’d love to hear three different ‘A’s this Christmas. I’d love for preachers to bring out the Athanasian, Atoning, and Abasing themes.

The Athanasian Incarnation:

“In this marvellous exchange, He becomes what we are, that we might become what He is”?

The Atoning Incarnation:

“Here is God-With-Us, come to make us at-one in His very Person!”

The Abasing Incarnation:

My God is so small, so weak and so helpless, there’s nothing that He will not do… for you!

I wonder if we shy away from the Athanasian incarnation because we don’t want to get into (or don’t properly understand) the trinitarian theology that makes sense of it.

I wonder if we shy away from the Atoning incarnation because ontology has no place in our thinking about atonement. This is also why our Easter sermons contain no theology of resurrection – only a ‘proof that the cross worked’.

I wonder if we shy away from the Abasing incarnation because we default to a theology of glory and are uncomfortable with the little LORD Jesus.

If any of these guesses are anywhere near the mark, let me suggest a remedy.  Read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and hear the kind of Christmas message that has warmed the hearts of millions down through the ages.  Get started here as you listen to Mike Reeves read extracts.

And for what they’re worth, here are three of my own posts on incarnation:

Incarnation and Trinity

Incarnation and Creation

Incarnation and Salvation

(For good measure here’s a paper on Athanasius and Irenaeus)

These are some talks in which I’ve tried to preach this theology…

 

Christmas is God laying hold of us – Hebrews 2:14-18

Evangelistic carols service – Four Approaches to Christmas (and to Life) Isaiah 9:2-7

Christmas is for Dark Places

 The Coming King – Psalm 72

In the beginning… – John 1:1-2

The Word became flesh – John 1:14

Christmas brings a crisis – John 1:15-18

Student Carols – Isaiah 9  (different to the other Isaiah 9)

Luke 1:26-38

All-age: Christmas turns slaves to sons – Galatians 4:4-7

All-age Carols Talk: Christmas is weird – Phil 2:5-11

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Here are some all-age songs on the same theme and our Christmas videos

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What resources have you found helpful?  Please share the wealth in comments…

Comfort, Comfort My People

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, hell, judgement, sermons | Leave a comment

Isaiah40Our comforts never work.

In fact those with the greatest “creature comforts” often have anxiety, stress, depression and dissatisfaction through the roof.

What gives true and lasting comfort?

Isaiah takes us to the depths, then raises us to the heights. In Chapter 40:1-8, God gives three messages to be proclaimed by a human voice. And here’s the essence of these messages: Take heart… Judgement is coming… You’re all perishing.

That’s a shocking way to comfort a people but if we follow Isaiah down, he’ll raise us up to true and everlasting comfort…

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O Christmas Tree

Posted on by Glen in 321, Christmas, creative, evangelism, My videos, videos | 2 Comments

They look fresh, bright and lively, surrounded by family, fun and festivities – Christmas trees are a great picture of our human condition. We too may dress ourselves up in achievements and surround ourselves with great experiences, but we’re perishing – cut off from our true Life-source in God. Thankfully, Christmas gives us the answer. Real life has been born into our world. In connection with Jesus we “may not perish but have eternal life.”

Please share the video and offer true hope this Christmas.

See our previous Christmas videos here.

Christmas: The Fairytale Come True

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, sermons | Leave a comment

Tolkein quoteThe final Hobbit movie is now out: The Battle of the Five Armies. The whole series of Hobbit films takes 9 hours to watch but the book, written by JRR Tolkein, takes about 5 hours to read. I’d still put money on more people going to the movies to see it. But the Hobbit is a Fairy Story – a tale about Middle Earth – about Hobbits and Dwarves and Elves and Orcs. It’s make believe right? There’s no truth to stories like these, is there? They’re just fantasies – they’re about Dragons and magic rings, there’s nothing real about these stories, is there? It’s all just escapist entertainment, right?

That’s what CS Lewis thought, at one point. CS Lewis went on to write the Narnia books but to begin with, Lewis was not a believer in God nor was he a believer in fairy tales. He loved fairytales. But he thought they were “Lies breathed through silver.” He said this to Tolkein while they were walking along the Cherwell River in Oxford – they were both Oxford dons. CS Lewis was then very shocked by Tolkein’s response.  Tolkein, who was a Christian – a very devout Catholic – said to Lewis “No. They are NOT LIES.” Fairytales are NOT LIES. What on earth could Tolkein mean?

Well he spells it all out in an essay called “On Fairy-Stories.” And he says, there’s something in fairy stories that appeals to our deepest intuitions about the way life ought to be. And in all fairy stories you’ll find some combination of the following:

Love without parting.

Life triumphing over death

Good triumphing over evil.

Heroes winning through sacrifice…

 

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Christmas Carols Radio

Posted on by Glen in Christmas | Leave a comment

ChristmasCarolsRadio (@CarolsRadio)Tune in to Christmas Carols Radio for festive tunes and Christmas thoughts 24/7.

Great to have on in the background while you work, wrap presents, put up the tree etc. And great to share with friends – the carols are interspersed with Christmas messages.

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Protecting the Unborn Because Christmas Begins Today

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, ethics | 4 Comments

waterhouse_the_annunciationIt’s the feast of the Annunciation. Today we remember Gabriel’s announcement to Mary:

“You will conceive and give birth to a son” (Luke 1:31).

To be honest, the date’s probably out by 3 months. It’s more likely that Christ was conceived on a date around December 25th and born at the feast of tabernacles in September (cf John 1:14), but let’s go with the church calendar… March 25th is 9 months before “Christmas” and so today we remember the conception of Christ.

Now, think about it. The beginning of Christ’s life as man (and for man) was conception. That’s a vital christological truth. If you can’t affirm it, you will fall into all sorts of errors. You see, there isn’t an independent humanity to Christ. It’s not as though there might have been a Jesus of Nazareth who wasn’t chosen to be the vehicle for the Son’s incarnation. The Word did not look upon a pre-existing bunch of cells and say “That’ll do, I’ll jump in.”

No, “the Word became flesh” – He didn’t adopt some flesh that looked promising. And the point at which He became flesh must be conception. You can’t have the Word slipping into a pre-existing flesh without altering the gospel. All orthodox Christology demands it and Luke, the doctor, confirms. At conception God the Son became a man. To deny this is to embrace all sorts of heresies condemned down through the years (adoptionism or apollinarianism for instance). 

With all that said, the feast of the annunciation ought to be the day we value the unborn more than any other. Yet today we are reeling from the revelation that thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals.

The world recognises that this is wrong. When confronted, the Department of Health immediately put a ban on the practice. But then why is it wrong to dispose of these remains as “clinical waste”? In cases where parents have chosen to rid themselves of their little ones, “clinical waste” is exactly how such lives have been treated. Yet over the last 24 hours there has been an outcry about such practices. Well, rightly so. But let’s think about why it’s wrong.

Surely it’s wrong because we recognise the humanity of the unborn. They are not remains to be incinerated – or, worse, fuel for our central heating! They deserve respect in death. But if they deserve respect in death, then surely – please! – they deserve protection in life? Our hearts cry for it and Christmas demands it.

 

Ultimate Christmas Sermon

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, videos | Leave a comment

It’s a Christmas tradition here to post Paul Blackham’s sermon from Christmas Eve, 2000. A wonderful proclamation of Christ, the Hope of the ages (find the full sermon here). Enjoy, and have a very Happy Incarnationfest.

Santa vs Jesus (with words)

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, creative, My videos, videos | 2 Comments

Please feel free to download and use the video wherever you like (but don’t charge for it!). Remember, there’s also Christmas in Dark Places – our 3 minute spoken word video from last week.

Be aware that there’s also a great kinetic typography version of Santa vs Jesus produced by 10ofthose – that might be more appropriate for your context.

And the words to the poem are below. Feel free to quote the poem if you want, just don’t  change it. If you feel like changing it, that means you’re a poet and should write your own. Go to it!

They say there’s a big man who lives far away,
Supposedly jolly but it’s hard to say.
I’ve never seen him, and neither have you.
But the children believe, whether or not it’s true.

He’s known as a loner, with many a quirk
No time for a chat, he’s embroiled in his work
He keeps to himself, for most of the year,
I reckon we’re grateful he doesn’t appear.

We send him requests, for particular needs,
But we never hear back, who knows if he heeds?
We try to be good, give his arm a twist,
To merit our place on his blessed little list.

And maybe one day if we do what we should,
He’ll give us our things, so long as we’re good.
I’ve had it to here, I’m calling his bluff:
He’s a weird moralistic dispenser of stuff!

Granted, this rant is a strange one to pick
But listen I’m not really after St Nick
As strange as he is, and Santa is odd,
I’m really addressing most folks’ view of God.

It’s God who we see as a distant Big Guy –
An ancient, invisible, St Nick in the Sky.
“He’s sees you asleep, He knows when you wake
He’s watching and waiting to spot your mistake.”

And just like with Santa, requests we hand in,
We want all his things but we don’t want him.
That’s our connection with old Father Christmas.
We might dress it up, it’s essentially business.

Throughout the year, good behaviour’s our onus
When Christmas rolls round we’re expecting our bonus.
“Just leave us the gifts Nick, we’ve been good enough!
And then please push on, now we’ve got all your stuff!”

I mean Santa is interesting, curious, quirky
But no-one wants him to share their Turkey!
I’m sure his “ho, ho, hos” are sublime,
But I fear what he’ll say once he’s drunk our mulled wine.

That’s old St Nick, but the picture rings true,
It’s how we imagine what God is like too.
But Christmas resounds with a stunning “Not so!”
The One from on high was born down below.

To a world in need He did not send another.
God the Son became God our Brother.
He drew alongside, forever to dwell,
Our God in the flesh, Immanuel.

This God in the Manger uproots all our notions:
A heavenly stooping, divine demotion.
Born in a stable, wriggling on straw,
Fully committed to life in the raw.

Santa gives things and then goes away.
Jesus shows up, to befriend and to stay.
Santa rewards those with good behaviour.
Jesus comes near to the broken as Saviour.

If you don’t like God, I think I know why…
You probably think He’s St Nick in the Sky.
You’re right to reject that far-away stranger!
This Christmas look down to the God in the manger.

Ho Ho Ho Friday

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, My videos, videos | Leave a comment

Today we lay into Santa with relish.

Here’s our reboot of an oldie: “Santa vs Jesus” (For the evolution of the rant see here)

 

This is Epic Rap Battle’s: “Santa vs Moses”

 

And finally, Jack Bauer takes on the big man:

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