Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Restful Holidays

POSTSCRIPT

Thoughtful reading for the holidays here Universalism, Augustinianism, Calvinism, Limited Atonement, Limited Reprobation, God is gracious and just but how, and in which world?

Anglican Down Under Blog Holiday

Time to replenish the "little grey cells". While reserving the right to post should peace and unity break out ecumenically, or a new gospel be added to the canon of Scripture, I intend to take a holiday from blogging until c. Monday 19 January 2015. (For northern hemisphere readers, it is summer Down Under and the nation more or less shuts down, people switch from blogs to detective novels for their reading, beaches entice, etc.)

Until then,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers :)

And, thank you for reading and commenting through the past year.

Peter

Some Christmas thoughts (apres Christmas)

Interesting to be part of two full Eve services, pick up, via Tweets etc, news of other full churches in NZ. Visible evidence to my eyes of young people present, not all of whom were with their parents. Christianity has not died here!

But what can we learn from the connection with church building/liturgical worship/heritage church rather than fresh expressions being appreciated at such a season?

I might come back after the holidays with some thoughts ...

Some Christmas Thoughts (prior to Christmas)

As a matter of fact I am pulpitless this Christmas but that doesn't mean I am not thinking about what could or even should be said this Christmas about the reason for the season.

Somewhere in my hypothetical sermon I think I would be mentioning that this Christmas the message of Jesus Christ is a little, perhaps even a lot harder to preach because this past year has been a very, very bad year for religion.

The violence and hatred expressed murderously in the name of one or two religions makes it harder for all religions to communicate their message. That some atheists in the 20th century murdered millions in the name of atheistic anti-religions such as Marxist-Leninism is a pretty bleak counter to those who wonder why any religion should be taken seriously when in the name of religion children are being beheaded in front of their parents, girls are being kidnapped, both girls and adult women are being sold into slavery and forced marriage. The list goes on and in 2014 has been viciously horrible.

There is something deeply wrong with religion in general when religious reasons are proffered for ill-treatment of fellow human beings, especially the most powerless in the face of men with guns: children and women. Could 2015 be a year when religious leaders start talking to one another and uniting in condemnation of humanity's inhumanity to one another?

Yet the dark religious clouds hovering over Christmas this year highlight the beacon of light which shines from the manger in the stable. That light is the light of the world, born in miserable circumstances to bring light and life to the whole world, to every man, woman, and child.

The light that shines from the stable is not the light of truth, if truth means we may maim and kill those who do not agree with us, and it is not the light of goodness and purity, if goodness and purity means that we may torture and destroy those we perceive to be bad and impure. It is the light of life, the light of love, the light of God who so loved every man, woman, child (i.e. 'the world') that he sent his own Son to all humanity to rescue us from precisely the darkness which threatens to engulf the world today.

The challenge of Christmas (if we may put it that way - it does sound serious and heavy in the midst of celebration) is to move beyond religion (if that means 'my religion' versus 'your religion') to the heart of God which is love. If religion does not serve this God, it is nothing. If the religion known as 'Christianity' does not serve this God, it has misunderstood the announcement God's heart makes to our hearts in Jesus Christ.*

In many ways the sermon is now preached. But I have also been thinking through this year about the awesomeness of the Incarnation. I think in my hypothetical sermon I would also want to at least mention this. The common accord with the reflections above could be this: when God takes up human flesh, God signals the true worth and value of every human being - God's love for the world is so great that God becomes the world, identifies and shares with us in our plight, and leads us to God's new creation.

There is a risk when we talk about the Incarnation that we reduce it to a kind of cosmic magic trick. "Look, God became a man. How awesome is that?" But that is not the Incarnation, and nothing in John's beautiful Prologue suggests anything like a display of awesome magic took place when Jesus was born.

Rather, when Jesus was born, God made a new birth for humanity possible. By becoming us, God opens the way for us to become God. Salvation is so much more than moving from the wrong side of God's ledger to the right side, from hell to heaven: it is to be drawn into communion with the Communion of Father Son and Holy Spirit.

But after 2000 years, have we made much progress as Christians in understanding this?

Let 2015 be the year when theology moves from its preface to its first chapter, when the church moves from infancy to childhood, and when religions wither on the vine!

*(Unfortunately there is evidence that Christianity is a religion which misunderstands this message! Here is but the latest, in this morning, 20 December, evidence of not understanding our calling to serve the God who is love).

11 comments:

liturgy said...

Amen!

Hot Rev said...

Amen from me too!

arowhenua said...

Hi Peter

The first Christmas Day sermon I have read : ) !

Despite the way truth has been used (my truth, your truth etc) it is I believe a part of the love and light born in the manager. For Christianity to be true of course, we need to be preaching and followinng the truth, Jesus Christ - the love of God who has a human face - not a truth or our truth. It was Christ himself who said He was the truth.

There is no doubt the religious violence we have seen this year has no defence. Neither does the non-religious violence which may not be in the media, but is just as horrific. The Lord's Resistance Army in the DRC - did you know as many people die in this country in a year because of violence as died in the Tsunami?

Perhaps the greatest offense we see with religious violence is people saying they do it in the name of God. That they believe a lie - that killing someone will get them into paradise. I do not know this God they serve and that one would teach this to a child makes me cry.

When I think of the church travelling far; I remember how before the Berlin Wall came down brave pastors in East Germany preached for weeks on Love, which led to peaceful walks by millions, which lead to the wall being broken down and not a shot fired.

I think of the chiinese Christian's who now total around 60 million and demonstrate love and sacrifice for the sake of the truth of the gospel, even as we blog. Along with many in the persecuted churches.

I think of how the denominational barriers ''on the ground' are beginning to be less important to the younger generation. Even in Ireland, albeit the continuation of violence there ended up being more about gun running than religion.

I think that (thank goodness), rather than the violent crusadees of history christians are more likely be found working in countries with the poor and for peace, such as Paul Brand and many saints who remain nameless to us (NB: I do not consider the US government a representative of Christianity, it is a government).

And I see Christianity although tagged as a religion repeatedly re-iterrating it is about relationship with Christ, not religion.

I see a spark of hope in relgions where groups are now speaking up against the acts done by their own (e.g. the Taliban's School massacre).

While I find the link to the blog of Franciscan monks whose 'treasurer' defrauded the organisation sad. And his actions have not gone without consequences. I rejoice at an Order that is prepared to be honest, as they say to bring things into the ligh as Christ commands, to review their practices so it doesn't happen again.

For to err is human and Christian's have no immunity against that, but it takes courage to face mistakes with transparency; especially in our culture of blame.

All the best for Christmas Day 2014

Jean

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
Merry Christmas 2014!
Yes, there are sparks of hope and may 2015 see the sparks become a stream of light.

tachesterton said...

Wonderful stuff, Peter. Thanks.

Tim

MichaelA said...

There is something deeply wrong with religion in general when religious reasons are proffered for ill-treatment of fellow human beings..."

I don't follow your reasoning.

In 2011, a man killed and mutilated the body of his elderly mother because she wouldn't buy him Avril Lavigne tickets. So:

"There is something deeply wrong with Avril Lavigne in general when Lavinesque reasons are proffered for ill-treatment of fellow human beings..."

Or, consider the Manson Family multiple murder and tortures in 1969, inspired by the Beatles song Helter Skelter:

"There is something deeply wrong with the Beatles in general when Beatle reasons are proffered for ill-treatment of fellow human beings..."

Best of all, try inserting the word "government", since virtually all wars are carried out by governments. ;)

Peter Carrell said...

They are not very good analogies, Michael.

When religious people quote their own texts in favour of their evil actions there is more going on than a nutty bloke enraged about tickets for a music show.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Peter for concluding this 'sermon' with the notion of theosis. The doctrine of the Trinity affirms among other things that the reason God became a human creature in Jesus is so that humans may participate in the very life of the triune God - which perhaps explains why the Christian Faith is often less than fulsome when this doctrine is misunderstood or ignored, even denied.

MichaelA said...

I beg to differ Peter.

You decided to add the words "in general" to your statement, thus drawing a conclusion about all religion (and therefore all religious people) due to the actions of a few.

You sit in judgment on all religious people because of the actions of some nutcases. All I did was point out the (rather simple and obvious) fallacy in your comment.

Peter Carrell said...

I may need to sort my thinking out, Michael, but what I am trying to get at is religions are linked in many people's minds, whether it is "religions are all the same aren't they" or "all religions involve belief in one sky fairy or another", thus all religions suffer when one (or more) religions are involved in wickedness and terror against human beings because it is deeply tempting to reject all religions, not just the present offending one.

Perhaps we cannot do anything about this situation and have to suck up the consequences. But it would be worth religious leaders asking themselves how any religion is helped when one religion goes bad.1

Peter Carrell said...

(Comment from MichaelA-posted under my name as I inadvertantly pressed the Delete rather than Publish button on my smartphone)

Peter, I didn't mean to convey that I disagree with all aspects of your comment. For example, in terms of public perception - what one does affects us all.