Archive for December, 2011

My Favourite Carols

Here’s a Christmas carols playlist.  39 minutes of Carolling glory while you wrap your presents.  You’re welcome!

And here’s the first one:

Unto Us a Child is Born

Thou Who Wast Rich

Hark The Herald

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Angels From the Realms of Glory

See Amid the Winter’s Snow

From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O Come All Ye Faithful

While Shepherds Watched

We Three Kings

Once in Royal David’s City

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And here’s the closed captions for my video (you click on the little CC button at the bottom right)

Continue reading for the transcript…


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Dear Christmas Preachers,

Did you know that Christmas is about the incarnation?  No, but seriously, did you?  Cos I aint hearing much theology of incarnation.  Which is odd, don’t you think?

Visiting the worthy sermon repositories in England and the US, I’ve listened to dozens of “Christmas sermons” over advent.   Yet I’ve found that, if the incarnation is mentioned at all, it’s mentioned as a stark fact – something merely to wrap our heads around: “God in skin. Weird huh? Anyway…”

Or as an excuse to talk up ‘history’: “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…”

Or as a line in some Anselmian argument: “God basically wants to acquit his elect and so needs a Scapegoat to take the fall. So there he is the manger. Weird huh?  Anyway…”

In my experience, even that kind of mention is about as incarnation-y as it gets for your average Christmas sermon.

Where is the whole “He became what we are, that we might become what He is”?  (Are we so functionally unitarian that we can’t really make Athanasius work for us?)  Where is a theology of God-with-us?  (Are we so Latin in our theology of the atonement  that ontology seems irrelevant to the question?)  Where do we exult in the “divine-self-emptying”?  (Are we so wedded to a theology of glory that we refuse to countenance the little LORD Jesus?).

Anyway, it’s Thawed-Out-Thursday so here’s an old article on Incarnation from the ‘freezer’ (and links to two more).  The three are:

Incarnation and Trinity

Incarnation and Creation

Incarnation and Salvation

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

Below is Incarnation and Creation.  Have a read.  Or, much much better, go and read On the Incarnation.  Seriously, it’ll make your Christmas!



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It’s very rushed. I’d only just written it when we filmed, so didn’t memorize it.  We shot it in haste and had big trouble with the sound.  We’ll try to do a proper version for next year.  But… you get the idea.  Share it around if you like:


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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, and I spose that’ll do.

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,
In fact I’m attacking 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.


Based on this former rant…

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Sermon: Luke 1:26-38

Less of a sermon, more of an advent calendar…




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Psalm 72 – one of my favourites

Student Carols – Isaiah 9

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

Evangelistic carols service – Light shining in darkness – Isaiah 9:2-7 (different to the other Isaiah 9)

Luke 1:26-38

In the beginning… – John 1:1-2

The Word became flesh – John 1:14

Christmas brings a crisis – John 1:15-18

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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