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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Rich Owen and I have updated the words to a great old hymn by WC Smith: “Earth was waiting, spent and restless.”  Rich did one version to the tune of Cwm Rhonda.  I’ve set it to the tune of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.”

World awaiting, fallen, fainting,
Certain hope with mingled fear;
Hard the dying, long the sighing,
‘Surely, Lord, the day is near;
Come Messiah, Earth’s Desire,
Hope of nations, generations,
Speed the hour when you appear,
Speed the hour when you appear!’

Dead in Adam, Israel barren,
where the Lord shall claim His own.
God’s elected, now rejected,
under curse and law they groan.
Sin abounding, hope confounding,
Wisdom darkened, hating, hardened,
In our pit He made His home,
In our pit He made His home.

Spirit sending, Christ descending,
To a virgin, meek came down.
To exchange a throne for manger,
Through the cross to claim His crown,
Sorrows sharing, burdens bearing,
Weakness shouldered, man enfolded,
Adam’s flesh became His gown.
Adam’s flesh became His gown.

Jacob’s story, stooping glory,
To retrace the path we trod,
Heaven’s Dearest, coming near us,
Bearing Man back home to God.
Loving Neighbour, Prince and Saviour,
Priest and Ransom, Brother, Champion,
Son of Man and Son of God,
Son of Man and Son of God.

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HT Jonathan Black and his excellent blog

CHARLES WESLEY:

Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend;
Now God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows Himself our Friend!
God the invisible appears,
God the Blest, the Great I AM,
He sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is His Name.

Him by the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King;
Lo, tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring;
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn,
Our being’s Source begins to be,
And God Himself is born!

See the eternal Son of God
A mortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod
Whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

So do the sons of men rejoice
The Prince of Peace proclaim,
With Heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s Name;
Our knees and hearts to Him we bow;
Of our flesh, and of our bone,
See—Jesus is our Brother now,
And God is all our own!

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It’s twelve years since I first heard this. Think it’s still my favourite sermon:

The full 20 minute sermon.

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Luke 1:26-38 Sermon

Luke 1.26-28Sermon Audio

Sermon Text

This is Jesus: The Son of Mary. Our Brother in every way. A pure gift of the Father. God the Son entering our Family that we might enter His. A true Joshua bringing us rest. A true David crushing our Enemy and setting the world to rights.

And He’s for you.

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I’ve done you a mix tape.  Yes.  I know.  This relationship is getting serious.

Here are 12 of my favourite carols to accompany your present wrapping…

If it doesn’t work in your browser, go here.

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“Rachel Weeping”

Rachel Weeping For Her Children.
Click for source

 

Audio

 

Full Text

In the light of the news from America you may be asking, What can Christmas possibly say to Newtown, Connecticut?  Isn’t Christmas now inappropriate?  How can we dare to teach these children about the joys of Christmas when children just like them were gunned down in a school on Friday?  After all that’s happened, how can talk of Christmas go on?  After these events Christmas has been cancelled for scores of families.  How can we speak of Christmas??

I suggest to you that the real question is: How can we not??  How can we NOT speak of Christmas when the evil and suffering of this world is unmasked in such a horrific way?  How can we NOT speak of Christmas?  Christmas is FOR Newtown, Connecticut.  Christmas is precisely FOR this evil and suffering world.

If we feel that Christmas doesn’t fit with the horrors of Friday’s shooting, I suggest we’re thinking about the wrong Christmas. I hope you know that Christmas is NOT about elves and tinsel and warm cocoa and X-Factor number ones.  It is NOT about wandering blank-eyed through shopping malls and maxxing out the credit cards. It’s not even about sweet Carols and even sweeter Nativity plays. There is NOTHING sweet about the real Christmas.  There is NOTHING sentimental about the true Christmas story.

Matthew chapter 2, verse 16:

16 When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under… 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in [the region of] Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” {Jer. 31:15}

That’s the real Christmas. Christmas happens in the dark…

Full Text of sermon

 

Audio download

 

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Will Mackerras has done a fantastic job with the Banjo Bible: The greatest story ever told, as Australian poet Banjo Paterson might have told it!  He takes you through the whole bible in the manner of a bush balladeer.

Here’s a Christmas version of “There was movement at the station” – based on Paterson’s original poem here.  Will’s video is so authentic, he even trained flies to crawl across the lens on cue!

There was movement in the heavens for the word had passed around,
That overnight the Son of God had got away,
And then had joined the wildest mob that ever ran upon the ground –
A race of creatures fierce and feral, scorned and stray.
For he had taken on a body in a human mother’s frame,
And so the angels gathered, readied for the fight,
For any cherub loves adventure where redemption is the aim,
And all the seraphs snuff the battle with delight.

There was the Father, God Almighty, who it seemed had made a plan
For the manoeuvre many centuries ago,
For he was briefing all his minions that this little Son of Man
Would bring an end to the rebellion down below.
And then the Spirit of the overflow, the Holy number three,
Was there to muster all his power in the lead,
For with the Father and the Son he was the Lord – the Trinity,
And it was up to them to make the plan succeed.

“Now there’s a little while to wait”, the Father said in measured tone,
“For he’ll be in his mother Mary longer yet.”
“However Joseph, her fiancé, needs a briefing of his own,
For when he notices he could be quite upset.”
And so an angel known as Clancy went to make the matter mild,
And as he left the Father wore a tender grin –
He added “Clancy, tell him ‘Jesus’ is the name to give the child,
For he’ll be rescuing a people from their sin”.

And so he went; they next assembled forty weeks or so from then,
When Mary saddled up her small and weedy beast.
It had a touch of Timor donkey; three parts thoroughbred of ten –
A hard and tough and wiry burro of the east.
And it would carry her to Bethlehem with Joseph at her side,
And it was there the Saviour joined the atmosphere,
And in the firmament above, the gathered heavenlies applied
their very all to give a hale and hearty cheer.

And now from Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
To the wildly busy cities, where the lamps and headlights blaze
Into the midnight of the vast and starry sky;
Indeed wherever gospel messengers have held a little sway
Across out beautiful and well created earth,
A Saviour known as Jesus is a household word today,
And joyful millions tell the story of his birth.

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You can listen to two further samples here.  The rest of the recordings will be up on December 17th.

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Carols Talk on Luke 2

Prometheus2

Talk Audio

Talk notes:

Prometheus is the Christmas story in photo-negative!

Intrepid humans make treacherous journey into heavens

We try to make contact with our makers

They turn out to hate us and seek our destruction

Only our own efforts can save us from our makers

Christmas is the polar opposite

It doesn’t begin with intrepid humans but with Luke 2:8…

Farm-labourers on a night-shift.

But all heaven breaks loose.

Verse 9: The opposite of the science fiction stories

He doesn’t say “Take me to your leader”, but “Here, have our Leader!”

Verse 10: The Messiah – do you know Handel’s Messiah?

Here’s the One promised throughout the Scriptures

The Hope of the ages, the Desire of all nations

One filled to overflowing with the Spirit

Like the top glass of a Champagne fountain

In Luke 1 He’s called “The Son of God”

This is who God is: A Father pouring the life, love and joy of the Spirit onto His Son

Here’s the good news… the Son is given to us…

To share everything He has and everything He is with us.

God the Son became God our Brother…

Verse 12: A baby, wrapped in rags, laid in a feeding trough

Lo within a manger lies He who built the starry skies.

Why?  Verse 11 – He is Saviour.

What does He save us from? Disconnection

The human race is disconnected, like a Christmas tree.

All that’s wrong is because of a foundational disconnect with God.

This Christmas will be hard because of disconnection…

Death, Divorce, Disease, Depression or simple Disappointment will ruin Christmas

We need re-connection and so…

The One connected to God connects Himself with us.

Will you receive Him?

He is a Gift “to you” – verse 11.

Around the ankle of the baby Jesus, imagine a gift tag “to you”

Will you receive the ultimate Christmas Gift?

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Rich Owen has dug up a great old hymn by WC Smith, added a verse and reworked it.  I tinkered some more and we’ve now got two fairly majorly reworked versions.  The first is to the tune of Cwm Rhonda (Guide me O…)

Earth was waiting, spent and restless,
certain hope with mingled fear;
Hard the dying, long the sighing,
‘Surely, Lord, the day is near;
Great Desire of all the nations,
Speed the hour when you appear,
Speed the hour when you appear!

In the barren streets of Israel,
where the Lord would make his home,
there a lost, rejected people
under curse and law they groan
this old world because of wisdom,
Neither Lord nor God had known,
Neither Lord nor God had known.

Then the Spirit of the Highest
to a virgin meek came down,
Mary bore the Lord’s Anointed,
through the cross to claim His crown
weakness shouldered, man enfolded,
Adam’s flesh became His gown.
Adam’s flesh became His gown.

Earth for Him had groaned and suffered,
since the ages first began;
faithful men who longed to see Him
now beheld the Promised One
God’s Salvation, Son of David,
Son of God and Son of Man,
Son of God and Son of Man.

And here’s a version that departs even further from the original.  Here’s one to that well known meter: 447 447 44447!

In other words it’s to the tune of Infant Holy, Infant Lowly which I love (Youtube of tune).

World awaiting, fallen, fainting,
Certain hope with mingled fear;
Hard the dying, long the sighing,
‘Surely, Lord, the day is near;
Come Messiah, Earth’s Desire,
Hope of nations, generations,
Speed the hour when you appear,
Speed the hour when you appear!’

Dead in Adam, Israel barren,
where the Lord shall claim His own.
God’s elected, yet rejected,
under curse and law they groan.
Sin abounding, hope confounding,
Wisdom darkened, hating, hardened,
In our pit He made His home,
In our pit He made His home.

Spirit sending, Christ descending,
To a virgin, meek came down.
To exchange a throne for manger,
Through the cross to claim His crown,
Sorrows sharing, burdens bearing,
Weakness shouldered, man enfolded,
Adam’s flesh became His gown.
Adam’s flesh became His gown.

Jacob’s story, stooping glory,
To retrace the path we trod,
Heaven’s Dearest, coming near us,
Bearing Man back home to God.
Loving Neighbour, Prince and Saviour,
Priest and Ransom, Brother, Champion,
Son of Man and Son of God,
Son of Man and Son of God.

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Well it’s nearly Advent so it’s time for preachers to think about 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…”

Where are the Athanasian, Atoning, 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, making 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’re wedded to a theology of glory that refuses to countenance 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

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

Evangelistic carols service – Light shining in darkness – Isaiah 9:2-7 (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 songs on the same theme and the Anti-Santy video

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

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My God Is So Small (Christmas vs A Theology of Glory)

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Rising Sun (Luke 1:78-79)

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Good News of Great Joy (Luke 2:10)

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How Long O Lord Till Christmas (Christmas in OT)

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Fell Down A Hole (A Theology of Incarnation)

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From the Squalor (for guitar)

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For Thawed Out Thursdays, I thought I’d show you a couple of older videos that gave rise to an exciting new video, released only today

First there was this extract from a sermon…

Then, the following year, we hastily filmed a poetic version. The sound didn’t work at the time, which is why we had to dub the voice later…

And today 10ofThose have just released a kinetic-typographied version…

Please share it on Facebook and/or use it in your Christmas services this year.

And sorry to jump the Christmas gun!!

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Here’s one for the Christmas services and outreach…

And stay tuned for an update of the Anti-Santy Ranty….

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Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women

My soul doth magnify the Lord

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Mine eyes have seen thy salvation

Behold, there came wise men from the east

Gold and frankincense and myrrh

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Thanks to Vincent Marty-Terrain for translating!

On dit que tout là-haut vivrait un grand barbu,
Soi-disant très joyeux, mais… difficile à dire :
Je ne l’ai jamais vu, en fait, et toi non plus.
Mais les enfants y croient, ça peut bien nous suffire.

On le dit solitaire, et puis plein de mystère,
Pas le temps de parler, il a bien trop à faire !
Et s’il vit en reclus tout au long de l’année,
Nous, on est bien content qu’il se montre discret.

Quand on s’adresse à lui, pour nos besoins urgents,
Jamais de réponse : qui sait s’il nous entend ?
On veut être sages, raisonnement simpliste,
Pour mériter nos places sur sa belle liste.

Et peut-être qu’un jour, mais c’est sans garantie,
Il nous donnera tout, pourvu qu’on soit gentils.
Alors moi j’en ai marre, et je crie au scandale :
C’est un distributeur qui nous fait la morale !

Ce coup de gueule peut paraître un peu étrange
Mais c’est pas le Père Noël qui me dérange,
Aussi drôle qu’il soit, et il est bien curieux,
Je m’attaque en fait à l’idée qu’on a de Dieu.

C’est Dieu que l’on voit comme un vieux barbu distant,
Père Noël antique, invisible géant
“Il te voit quand tu dors, il te vois éveillé,
Il regarde et attends pour te voir te planter”.

Comme au Père Noël, nos souhaits, on lui envoie,
On veut bien ses cadeaux, mais lui on n’en veut pas !
C’est la vérité bien qu’on ne la reconnaisse :
On peut l’embellir, mais ce n’est que du business.

Il faut que nous soyons gentils pendant l’année
Pour avoir un bonus lorsqu’elle est terminée.
“Donne-nous nos cadeaux, on a été bien sages !
Puis va-t’en, on a tout ce qu’on voulait, vieux mage!”

Car le Père Noël est piquant, singulier,
Mais personne ne voudrait qu’il reste à dîner !
Je suis sûr que c’est un hôte haut en couleur,
Pourtant nous craignons son discours révélateur.

Voilà donc ce que l’on croit du Père Noël
Et c’est l’idée qu’on a de ce Dieu dans le ciel.
Mais Noël nous illumine de son éclat,
Car voilà : le Dieu Très-Haut est né ici-bas.

Il vint en personne au sein de notre misère:
Dieu le Fils, lui, est devenu Dieu notre Frère.
Il vint à nos côtés, pour y être à jamais,
Lui, notre Emmanuel, notre Dieu incarné.

Ce Dieu né humblement bouleverse nos clichés:
Il descend de son ciel, il est destitué,
Bercé dans la paille, bébé gesticulant,
Car pour nous sauver c’est notre place qu’il prend.

Le vieux Noël donne les cadeaux et repart,
Jésus vient pour nous connaître, il vient pour nous voir;
Le vieux Noël récompense les enfants sages,
Jésus guérit, pardonne, nous sort de nos cages.

Si tu n’aimes pas Dieu, je crois savoir pourquoi…
Tu le prends pour ce Père Noël de gala.
Tu fais bien de rejeter cet épouvantail !
Mais regarde, aujourd’hui, ce Dieu né sur la paille.

– Adaptation du poème de Glen Scrivener,
par Vincent Marty-Terrain.

 

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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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