Here we are – Advent Sunday. And I wouldn’t mind betting that even though Advent is still only a few hours old you’re already, most of you, thinking about Christmas. In vicarworld we can beat that – we’re already planning Lent and Easter. So let’s just think about Easter for a moment and the words of Saint Augustine: “We are an Easter people – and Hallelujah is our song”.
But away from Easter and back to Advent. We are an Easter people, but we are also an Advent people – a people for whom the world is only temporal and which one day will end when Jesus returns. Father Charles Riepe, an American Roman Catholic, wrote this linking Easter and Advent: Advent then is dedicated to the last things, to death, judgement, heaven and hell, but above all to Jesus’ glorious coming to complete his Easter work. The church goes so far as to set aside an entire liturgical season to the end of the world and the final coming of the Lord, so important a part of the faith does she consider these truths.
An entire season to think about the end of the world! And linked, I would suggest like Charles Riepe, to Easter rather than Christmas, ‘dedicated to Jesus’ glorious coming to complete his Easter work.’Continue reading
Relationships between couples can be problematic. However hard we try sometimes things don’t always work out. Every couple wants happiness, but sometimes it’s rather evasive.
So it was with, I’m sure, the best will in the world that around a hundred years ago Woman’s Weekly gave regular advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy. In those days, of course, it was rather one way! And so Woman’s Weekly gave lots of tips to housewives that would enable them to make sure they had a happy husband and therefore a happy marriage.
Advice such as:
- Make your own clothes
- How to use up leftovers – including a recipe for rhubarb dumplings
- How to pack a holiday trunk
- Talk less
They also had reams of helpful advice for housewives on how to keep the home, and yourself, ship-shape because a ship-shape home and a ship-shape wife meant a happy husband and a happy marriage. Things like:
- Stir mushrooms with a silver spoon to identify the poisonous ones – actually completely untrue, it doesn’t work!
- Store your lemons in sawdust.
- Brush your hair for ten minutes each day to cure insomnia
Thankfully things have changed, and today, of course, we recognise that what creates a good relationship is not a matter of following those kinds of rules that people once thought important. And we know it’s not about one person keeping the other happy by doing all the right things.Continue reading
Here we are once more waiting for the big event tomorrow. Here we are with the story of a new-born baby, of a young single mother, with questions being asked about who the father of her child is!
Well, when the big event finally arrives we won’t be disappointed. Yes, it’s no secret – it’s been in the papers – that the truth about the father of Hayley Slater’s baby will finally come out. Quite how Alfie Moon is going to explain this to his wife Kat should be interesting. The big event, of course, is the Eastenders Christmas special (Note: Eastenders is a British television soap). And one cannot help but wonder, if like me you watch Eastenders, how the future is going to turn out for the poor baby in the middle of all this as she grows up. If you don’t watch Eastenders you won’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about!Continue reading
Since our church has as its patron Saint John the Evangelist, we always keep the Sunday following Saint John’s Day (27th December) as our patronal festival. Here’s what Mother Anne-Marie said on the occasion.
If you were with us over Christmas, we seemed to have a theme in the talks and sermons – at least at the Christingle and Midnight Mass – that of light and darkness. It wasn’t planned. In fact, after my talk at the Christingle service, Fr Jerry said, “you’ve stolen some of my midnight sermon!” You see there was no conferring – the theme emerges from the readings and what we are thinking about – Jesus as the light of the world.
These themes of light and dark interweave in the writings of St John the Evangelist whose feast we keep today. At midnight mass we heard the great Prologue to his Gospel – “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. Today in his first letter we hear “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. These days we hear the phrase “God is love” banded about a lot and it is a comforting, cuddly, warm sort of phrase, also coming from the pen of John, though he didn’t mean it in the rather bland cuddly way it is used today. He was talking of a costly love which involved an agonising death on a cross. Continue reading
Sermon for the Midnight Mass, on the prologue to John’s Gospel.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
In the beginning God had been very busy creating things. And it was tiring! So God said: Wow! I’m worn out. I’ve just created a 24-hour period of alternating light and darkness on Earth.
The angel said: What are you going to do now?
And God said: I think I’ll call it a day! Continue reading
This Sunday we kept the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It’s actually on 2nd February, but the Church of England allows us to transfer it to the previous Sunday when more people will be in church! During the service we had a baptism, and at the end we joined in the candlit procession which ends at the font for the final part of the liturgy. The font is by the main church door, and so we remember that the place where we give our lives to Christ in baptism is right next to the door where we leave worship to take Jesus out into our world.
Here’s what I said.
The birth of a child has always been a cause for celebration. And throughout history different cultures and religions have had their own special ways of celebrating. In our own culture people celebrate with parties, champagne, and often – as this morning – a christening at the local church. Continue reading
This Sunday we kept the feast of Epiphany, transferring it from the 6th, as we are allowed to do in the Church of England. This meant that the feast of the Baptism of Christ, which it displaced, was itself transferred to Monday and celebrated with a mass. One of the things we do every year at Epiphany is bless chalk which is then taken home and used to mark the doorways to our homes. There is a very good explanation of this old European tradition here.
How many of you have taken down your Christmas decorations? Most of you, I suspect! (At this point I got people to put their hands up – only one person other than my wife and I still had them up – an Orthodox Christian who was, of course, celebrating Christmas according to the Orthodox calendar).
Well, we still have them up in the vicarage! Let my explain why! If you follow tradition you’ll at least have kept them up for twelfth night which was on Thursday, and then have taken them down on Friday, the feast of Epiphany. However, we are allowed to keep the feast of Epiphany on the nearest Sunday, so this year you can keep them up an extra two days and take them down today. Apart from the crib scene, of course – our knitted crib figures will stay up in the vicarage until Candlemas.
There’s an old superstition that if you don’t take your decorations down the day after twelfth night it will bring bad luck – apparently, the gods of the greenery might escape and take up residence in your house. Continue reading
This is the sermon I preached at Midnight Mass. For those from abroad who may be puzzled at the references let me explain. Eastenders is one of the top television soap operas in the UK and the Mitchell family are one of its most famous – or notorious – families.
A baby is born. New parents with a tiny child. And at one level Mary and Joseph were no different from any other parents holding a new born baby in their arms. They must have had the same hopes, the same fears, the same questions. A scene repeated millions of times over thousands of years. And like so many parents, as they looked upon their baby, they must have wondered at some level – what kind of person will this baby grow up to be.
Every parent has been there. As you look upon your new child and wonder what the future holds for them, what can you expect? What will they be like as they grow up? What kind of person will they grow into? What will they achieve in life?
Well – I’ve done a survey of a typical area of London and looked at how children turn out when they grow up. The typical area of London I’ve chosen for this survey is Albert Square in Walford, to be exact. For those of you who don’t know where Albert Square is, it’s where the people from Eastenders live. Continue reading
Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. As is so often the custom these days, we kept at in church on the nearest Sunday, two days early. As always, we finished the mass with a candlelit procession to the hymn Ye who own the faith of Jesus, finishing at the font which is at the main entrance of the church. We then have a short ceremony to end with, reminding us that Jesus, the Light for the world, calls us to go out into our world to show his light to others. Here is what I said:
If any day in the year could be said to have an identity crisis it must surely be February 2nd. I erroneously went and told the children at our school on Wednesday that it had three different titles. The curate I live with, when I was telling her about this afterwards, reminded me of two I’d missed out. Five different titles for one day! I’d be amazed if anyone could tell me all five!
The children were able to tell me one of them straight away! Yes – February 2nd is, of course, Groundhog Day! The belief, originating from central Europe and now widely celebrated in North America, is that the groundhog emerges from his burrow where he has been hibernating and pokes his head out to see what the weather is like. If it’s sunny and he can see his shadow he goes back to sleep because winter is coming back. If it’s windy and wet or snowy then winter is coming to an end, so he emerges because spring is round the corner. It’s the same tradition that is celebrated in the old English rhyme which also gives us the second of the five titles:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
If Candlemas Day be wind and rain,
Winter has gone and will not come again.
Though I much prefer this poem about the groundhog which I shared with our school children: Continue reading
Well, the Christmas services are now all over. Here’s the sermon I preached at Midnight Mass this year. As always at the Midnight Mass, the gospel reading was the prologue from Saint John’s Gospel.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
God had been very busy creating things. And God said: Wow! I’m worn out. I’ve just created a 24-hour period of alternating light and darkness on Earth. The angel said: What are you going to do now? And God said: I think I’ll call it a day!
One of our most basic fears is fear of the dark. Today, with electric lighting inside and out – unless you live in Woldingham, of course, where the residents don’t want street lights – we rarely have to face the dark unless it is our own choice. At the time of Jesus, as night fell, the only protection against the dark was a candle or an oil lamp. Continue reading