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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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.

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Based on this former rant…

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Sermon: Luke 1:26-38

Less of a sermon, more of an advent calendar…

Text

Audio

Slides

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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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Here’s a simplified guitar tab for From the Squalor – one of my favourite carols.

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The proper tab can be found at Christisinn’s excellent channel with over a hundred hymns for guitar (really loving his latest upload O Jesus My Hope).

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Audio.

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Reason and will would ascend and seek above, but if you would have joy, bend yourself down to this place. There you will find that boy given for you who is your Creator lying in a manger. I will stay with that boy as He sucks, is washed, and dies . . . There is no joy but in this boy. Take Him away and you face the Majesty which terrifies . . . I know of no God but this one in the manger.

— Martin Luther, Christmas Sermon 1527.

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Not the spirit of Scrooge – which makes its home in the darkness

Not the spirit of Winterfest – which denies the darkness

Not the spirit of Santa – which remains above the darkness

The Spirit of Christ – who enters the darkness.

Audio.

Slides.

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Santa giving Arius the slapdown at the council of Nicea.

Read about it here.

Happy St Nicholas’ day!

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Hot off the press – NEW KIDS SONG (though it’s not really for kids ;-)

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And, previously on Christ the Truth…

A song about the OT’s wait for Christmas…

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This one’s meant to be sung as a round…

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And here’s my favourite of all my little ditties…

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That is Adam’s race.  Cut off from its LifeSource.  It flourishes for a while.  It can look and smell good.  We can dress it up with all kinds of bling.  We can surround it with feasting and fun.  But there’s no life in it.  It’s decaying by the minute.  And it’s end is the rubbish dump.

 

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Happy Christmas!

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Just did a crib service meditating on the littleness of the little LORD Jesus.  Most of the congregation were not regular church goers.  And so as I spoke there was another voice in my head.

It was the voice of a hundred other Christmas sermons I’ve heard.  You know the part where you’re meant to challenge the saccharine sweet domestication of Jesus with an embarassed: “But of course the baby in the manger grew up.  We mustn’t leave Jesus in the crib!  He’s a full grown man now you know!  Don’t look down on Jesus.”

Familiar?

It’s the attempt to wake people up from their preconceptions and show them something surprising.  But you know the way to really shock people.  Dwell on the manger.  Make a determined effort to look down on Jesus.  And proclaim that here – right here – is the true and living God.  That’ll wake em up from their preconceptions.

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A Repost

6 Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil 2:6-11)

Divine humility.  Sounds contradictory?  You don’t understand Christmas.

Jesus Christ, existing in the form of God, made a judgement.  That’s right.  Before Christmas morning, Jesus took a decision.  (btw, v6 is proof that it’s ok to call the pre-incarnate Son ‘Jesus’ – but that’s for another time…)

Now you didn’t decide to get born.  I’m guessing if you had been offered the chance to get born, you’d have taken it.  But Jesus had to choose to get born.  And I promise you, if you were in His shoes, you’d never have chosen what He chose.  If you were in very nature God, surrounded by the worship of heaven, able to do whatever you pleased, you would not have chosen what Jesus chose.  Because this is how Jesus considered things:  Being in very nature God, He chose not to grasp at His power or to exploit it.  Instead He chose total self-emptying.  He chose servanthood.  He chose to humble Himself.  He chose obedience.  He chose death.  He even chose the death of the cross – lifted up as an accursed thing.  That was Jesus’ consideration – being the God that He was.

Question:  Would you have chosen that?

Answer:  No.  Every day I fail to give up even the smallest of comforts.  Let alone to give up my very life!  Let alone to suffer godforsaken hell – and that for enemies!  Would I have chosen this path?  No!

Question:  Well if Jesus did make this choice, did that stop Him from being in very nature God?

Answer:  By no means!  He is ongoingly, continually ‘in very nature God’.

Question:  Well then, is Jesus’ self-emptying a major detour from His glory in the form of God?

Answer:  No this is what equality with God actually looks like!  This is the very expression of the Father’s glory – not exploiting but emptying.

Since He is in the form of God so He took to Himself the form of a slave!  And in this self-emptying He shows what true equality with God looks like.  It looks like the crib and the cross!

Christmas morning and Good Friday are not detours from the glory of God.  They show us that divine glory at full strength.  In eternity Jesus made this consideration.  He chose His history as the incarnate Servant to be that which truly expresses His equality with God.  And the Father affirms this choice – hyper-exalting He who hyper-humbled Himself.  And into all eternity we will gladly serve the Servant.  (And don’t forget, He will serve us! Luke 12:37!)

Implication:  The baby in the manger, the victim on the cross – this is what it means to be in very nature God.

What is God’s nature?  Don’t simply look to the crown.  Look to the crib and to the cross.  God’s nature is disclosed as one of utter self-giving.  Divine humility.

Glorious!

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A sermon by Darrell Johnson on this passage (one of my favourite sermons ever!)

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See other Christmas posts here.

And of course the ultimate Christmas sermon:

 

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I’ve only caught snatches of the BBCs Nativity, but two scenes interested me.

When Gabriel appears to Mary he doesn’t tell her the news.  There are no words from on high here.  No, no, that would be oppressive and authoritarian.  Instead he invites Mary to look within to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit gives her an experience of the truth.  A very modern (or should that be ‘post-modern’) take on revelation.

And faith?  Well the Magi (from a very brief viewing) seem pretty much in the dark about the whole thing.  Only one of them has any kind of certainty about what they are seeking.  And even he keeps his cards close to his chest.  They seem a lot more sure about the astronomy than about the Child.  And what really matters is the journey.

Now, back to preparing our own nativity…

 

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