Skip to content

1

christmas-in-dark-placesHere's my sermon from Sunday night.

Just before I preached they showed our video: Christmas in Dark Places. That's essentially the theme of the sermon - Christ joins us in our darkness, to bring us His light. He joins our family to bring us into His.

At one point I also refer to WestJet's Christmas video which raises questions about the real spirit of Christmas (and the spirit of consumerism). Listen to hear more...

DOWNLOAD

9

christmas-in-dark-places

On Saturday I spoke at a carols concert near Eastbourne. I was picked up by a man I last spoke to in March. "How's your wife?" I asked. "I'm afraid she died last month" was the response that crashed through all our small talk. She'd been a perfectly healthy 65 year old. Diagnosed with cancer in April. Buried in November. And now Christmas looks very different.

After the concert many people spoke about the loved ones they had lost this year. One woman - a regular there - had been hit and killed by a truck while cycling. Others had buried spouses.

Yesterday I spoke at a carols by candlelight. Before the service a man in a wheelchair was pushed in. I didn't recognise him at all. The vicar of the church introduced us. "Glen, this is my father."

"Barry??" I asked. Barry was a member of another church, but he'd always been a great supporter of All Souls, Eastbourne. Always full of faith and encouragement. Recently he has suffered a massive stroke and Parkinsons has taken hold. Now he is in a nursing home, finding it difficult to swallow let alone eat. "So nice to see you Barry!" I say. Inside I was thinking "So sad to see you Barry."

I preached again on Christmas in dark places (sermon here). Afterwards a woman told me she'd buried her husband that week. Another man told me his daughter had just lost her child in labour. Another spoke of a divorce this year. Everyone agreed Christmas was hard.

At the end I spoke to Barry. I took his hand and he grasped it hard. He whispered a phrase. I pulled in even closer: "Say again Barry?" He said it again. I thought I caught it but I wanted to make sure. Now my ear is right by his lips. "One more time Barry?"

-- "He shines in the dark."

That five word sermon blew mine clear out of the water. These were not the words of an ill man to a well man. This did not come from a trapped man to a free man. This was from heaven to earth. This was divine wisdom from a man so battered he can barely move his lips. Yet in his suffering Barry knows - and he preaches! - in the valley of the shadow, Christ truly shines.

 

What is the true spirit of Christmas?

The spirit of Scrooge?

The spirit of Winterfest?

The spirit of Santa? Or

The Spirit of the Christ Child

PS - this sermon was the birth of the Anti-Santy Ranty.
Isaiah 9

DOWNLOAD MP3

TEXT

Here's the Original Video. But someone's asked for versions to be sung in church. So here's a Karaoke version - no vocals.

And here's a version without the speaky bits:

And here's the Powerpoint.

 

2

DOWNLOAD FOR USE ANYWHERE

Big thanks to Sam at Cinematic Tide for the video and Josh Lucas for the music. On the page the poem is very unimpressive, but they've brought it to life incredibly!

We're hoping and praying to reach many non-Christians through Youtube/Facebook/Twitter. To that end we have a landing page for follow-up where we offer a free book and a free online evangelistic course (321). Currently there are a few things wrong with the page, so I'm not mega-pushing the video. Once we fix the landing page we'll be blitzing social media. Feel free to do the same! And please pray that folks would encounter Christ through the video and follow-up.

.

WORDS

It used to be summer when Christmas came round,
Neath tall southern skies, over sun-scorched ground,
With the backyard cricket, the barbies, the beach,
And munching on mangoes to watch the Queen's Speech.
The slatherings of sunscreen, the glorious glare
And toasting the glow in the warm evening air.

It used to be summer... when I was young.
A golden age in a land far flung.
But there came a point, I crossed a divide,
Went up in the world and summer had died.
December is dark now, the nights close in,
So we huddle together as kith and as kin.

It's winter now when Christmas rolls round,
We celebrate still though with different surrounds.
We mull the wine and strike the matches,
Light the fires, batten the hatches,
Gather around the warming beam
Of family love or a TV screen.
So safe inside, no place to go,
We toast marshmallows and let it snow.

Our summer's gone, if you've been around,
you've felt the fall: life’s run aground.
We've gone up in the world, seen summer die.
So what's our hope? The dark defy?
Stoke the hearth? Retreat indoors?
Rug up warm with you and yours?
The shadow reaches even here,
But THIS is the place for Christmas cheer.

It’s dark, in the bible, when Christmas is spoken.
Always a bolt from the blue for the broken.
It’s the valley of shadow, the land of the dead,
It’s, “No place in the inn,” so He stoops to the shed.
He's born to the shameful, bends to the weak,
becomes the lowly: the God who can’t speak!
And yet, what a Word, this Saviour who comes,
Our dismal, abysmal depths He plumbs.

Through crib and then cross, to compass our life.
To carry and conquer. Our Brother in strife.
He became what we are: our failures He shouldered,
To bring us to His life: forever enfolded.
He took on our frailty, He took on all-comers,
To turn all our winters to glorious summers.

It’s Christmas now... whatever the weather,
Some soak in the sun, some huddle together.
But fair days or foul, our plight He embraces.
Real Christmas can shine in the darkest of places.

After yesterday's reboot of How Long O Lord Till Christmas here are some other Christmas songs - mainly for all-age but some grown up ones too....

.

DOWNLOAD Martian Came Down

.

DOWNLOAD The Boy Who Fell Down A Hole

.

DOWNLOAD My God Is So Small

.

DOWNLOAD Don't Be Afraid

.

DOWNLOAD Earth Was Waiting Spent And Restless

.

DOWNLOAD From the Squalor

.

DOWNLOAD Rising Sun - Luke 1:78

.

DOWNLOAD How Long O Lord Till Christmas

3

This is basically a child-friendly version of "O Come O Come Immanuel" the way Johnny Cash might do it.

 

CHORUS - THE PEOPLE SING:

How long O Lord till Christmas
How long till Jesus appears.
I know my Saviour, He's coming,
Pass on this hope throughout the years.

VERSE 1: GOD THE FATHER SINGS

Gonna give my Son to the human race
Gonna bring them back into my grace x3
Pass on this hope throughout the years

VERSE 2: GOD THE SON SINGS:

Gonna crush that snake, Gonna stomp his head
Though he strike my heel, Gonna kill him dead x3
Pass on this hope throughout the years

VERSE 3: GOD THE SPIRIT SINGS

Gotta wait for Him through thick and thin,
Gotta set your hope on the Coming King x3
Pass on this hope throughout the years

ALL TOGETHER:

Gonna give my Son to the human race
Gonna bring them back into my grace.
Gonna crush that snake, Gonna stomp his head
Though he strike my heal, Gonna kill him dead.
Gotta wait for Him through thick and thin,
Gotta set your hope on the Coming King

 

 

More kids songs here

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/124045662" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

DOWNLOAD

 

 

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...

 

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

6

Christmas in Dark Places 2

Ok, quick help needed. We've just filmed a reflective spoken word for Christmas. It's about Christmas in dark places. At the beginning we're thinking of displaying a couple of statistics to show that Christmas can be tough. Which should we use:

This year 500 000 UK families lost someone.

On Christmas Day, 250,000 elderly Britons will be alone...

In the UK, 80 000 children will be homeless at Christmas.

Post-Christmas is the busiest time for divorce lawyers.

“Sandy Hook”

“Boxing Day Tsunami”

Any others?

We can only use 2, three at most.

And also, should it be called "Christmas in the dark" or "Christmas in dark places"?

Something else?

Your help will be gratefully received and stay tuned for the video. It'll be out very soon!

Twitter widget by Rimon Habib - BuddyPress Expert Developer