Category: Christmas

A Christmas message

Sermon St Peter’s Milton Lilbourne, 24th December 2018, 11.00pm
Midnight Communion: Isaiah 9.2-7 and Luke 2.1-20

As a child, I often spent Wednesday afternoons with my grandmother. I particularly remember one afternoon: we were going to leave a message in a bottle. I don’t quite remember what the message was, but I remember well the sense of excitement as I stood in the middle of the bridge crossing the river, ready to throw my bottle into the unknown. I have remained fascinated by the idea of leaving a message for someone you don’t know.

christmas-in-a-bottle.jpgSo last week, my eye was caught by the story you may have read or heard as well. It was the news item that a young girl had found a message in a Christmas card she was about to write: a message that claimed to have come from within a Chinese prison. Someone wrote in English “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison in China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.”

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What if God was one of us?

What if God was one of us?
A reflection for the Feast of Candlemas

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?

You may know the song What if God was one of us by Joan Osborne, which was released in 1995. Last month, when we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany, this was one of the songs we used in our All Age service.

candlemas

It’s an interesting question to ask ourselves, and maybe some of us do occasionally: What if God was one of us? And, as the song continues, ‘Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?’ One can reflect philosophically on this question: is the idea of a God who is both transcendent and immanent logically coherent? But that’s not what I want to now, as it would require some more than a few hundred words.

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Trust, expect and be generous

The Feast of the Epiphany
A reflection for at the start of the New Year

epiphanyOn 6th January, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. It is the twelfth day of Christmas, and so traditionally the last day of this season of celebration. Epiphany literally means manifestation or appearance. The Gospel set for this day is the well-known story of the journey of the wise men, who after having followed a star find and recognise the child in Bethlehem, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This is Matthew’s version of the Christmas story: no stable, donkeys or shepherds, but instead a star, wise men and gifts. It is a story full of signs and significance all pointing towards aspects of Jesus’ identity: a star signalling the cosmic significance of his birth, the gift of gold indicating his royal status, and myrrh to foreshadow his suffering.

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Expect the unexpected

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 30th December 2018
First Sunday of Christmas: 1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26 and Luke 2.41-52

Jesus in the templeTraditionally, well, at least since the 1970s, this first Sunday after Christmas is often celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. As we hear about Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we are invited to see them as a model for all Christian families, and, I suppose inevitable, reflect in how far we live up to that standard. I think whoever had the idea of placing this particular celebration just after Christmas, either did not have a family, or had a good sense of humour, or was one of those people who had the perfect family – a person I have yet to meet!

Of course, hopefully, over the past few days, most of us will have had the opportunity to spend time with family, or families in some way or other. Time with children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, or with friends who have become like family. Time to celebrate, be together, and eat together – often a bit too much. But, no matter how much we have enjoyed our celebrations, I think we also realise that the perfect family – whatever that may look like – does not really exist. For many of us, this time will also remind us of the more painful moments in our lives, often connected with what has happened to those nearest to us, or between us and them.

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Christmas: An image of home

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 24th December 2018, 11.30pm
Christmas Midnight Communion: Isaiah 9.2-7 & Luke 2.1-14

Earthrise
“Earthrise” taken by Apollo 8 on 24th December 1968

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered”. They are familiar words for many of us, and I guess that whenever we hear them, we think of Christmas. Just as when we hear the opening chords or “Silent Night”, smell the sweetness of mulled wine and Christmas pudding, or see a beautifully decorated Christmas tree through a window.

Apart from the things we have in common, we will also have our own rituals: things we say or do to mark the start of Christmas. It may be a particular meal for Christmas Eve, a film you watch year after year, or indeed, coming to Church tonight.

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The last day of term

Address for the Lower School
Marlborough College Chapel, 12th December 2018

end of termHere we are, on the last day of this term. It has felt like a long term, and the lists we just had, were a good reminder on how much we have achieved in these last few months; of how much you have been giving to this College community over this last term. As I said at the carol services, I think it is worth repeating, that at Christmas we have an opportunity to celebrate who we are, the gift we are, and to say thank you for this. Maybe in many ways, not unlike the lists we just had.

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The gift we are

Homily Marlborough College Carol Services
December 2018

Christmas is only a couple more weeks away, or, for us here at the College, only a couple more days away. Today, we celebrate together, but later on, we each will celebrate in different ways. For some, it will be a large gathering with family and friends, whereas for others, just those closest to us. Some will travel to sunny or snowy places, whereas others will not travel any further than the Berkshire border.

Chapel

But, no matter where we go, or what we do, there is – I think – one thing we all have in common: in some way or other, we will all be involved in exchanging gifts: we will all be giving something, something of ourselves. For many, of course, this will be actual gifts, great or small. But it also may be giving of your time, or your skill: providing the music or cooking the turkey. Giving is so instinctive to us human beings that often we forget that we are doing it.

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Wait, trust and see

A sermon preached at Marlborough College on 28th January 2018
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple: Luke 2.22-40

simeon and annaFriday evening has always been my favourite evening of the week. Before I was a vicar, it meant it was the beginning of the weekend. When I became a vicar, it meant the only evening without meetings or sermons to write. And when I joint the College, it became my duty evening in New Court, on of the girls’ boarding houses. Certainly aided by the Housemistress’s hospitality and a glass of wine, I really enjoy the range of conversations you girls have in your houses, and the way in which you let tutors share in them. Continue reading “Wait, trust and see”

The Holy Family

A reflection on Christmas, the New Year and the Church family

Based on a sermon preached at St Mary’s Marlborough
on the First Sunday of Christmas

Following earlier thoughts and reflections on Advent, Christmas and the New Year

holy family 2On this first Sunday after Christmas, in many churches, the Holy Family is the central theme. There are times in the Church year when we remember Mary and Joseph individually, but this day we are invited to think about them as a family. What struck me a couple of years ago, when reflecting on this theme, is how Joseph, despite not being Jesus biological father, is fully given this father-role in Scripture and tradition. Joseph, as foster-parent or adoptive parent is not only taking the responsibility as Jesus’ father, but is also treated as such. For me, this is already an early sign that God in Jesus embraces all complexities of human life, including the complexities of family life.

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The Greatest Gift

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Nativity

Most of us will be able to think of moments of great significance in our lives. Often you recognise them at the time, even though you don’t always know precisely how until much later. I would like to suggest that most, if not all, of these moments involve an encounter: an encounter with the other, in which suddenly something is revealed that we hadn’t recognised before.

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