Christmas 3 Matthew 3 Baptism in the Jordan

Matthew 3.13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

The Christian is Baptised. He is drawn down through the waters and then drawn back up out of them again reborn.

You enter Christ and become one of his people, a member of his Body. If you are baptised you have been given a very high office. There is no higher status than Christian. By baptism you became a king, priest and prophet, and you became a son and heir. You did so because at baptism you entered the body of Christ, the communion of his holy people. There is nothing higher than this. It takes a lifetime of discipleship to discover how vast this dignity is.

At the beginning of our Christian life we are babes, vulnerable, who need the protection, supervision and teaching of the church immediately around us. The church – starting with the specific Christians and congregations – has to take care of you and give you the best start, so that you can grow. They have to ensure that your growth doesn’t stall. They have to accompany you so that you learn to recognise and follow the voice of the master and discern his voice among all the other voices huckstering and dinning all around you. All those other voices want something from you; they want you to join their club and so bolster their power. They want to manipulate you and use you. All the Christians around you want you to grow up, become strong, and grow independent, able to defend yourself from all the charlatans. 

Only Christianity says that persons are individuals, and says that they are not individuals because they make themselves such, by cutting themselves off from all others. To cut yourself off is to put yourself at the top of the chute that will send you sliding away down into the isolation of utter aloneness.

But they are individuals because God calls each of them by their name, and hold them before him, so that it is his relationship with them that makes them utterly distinct from every other person. Their uniqueness flows into them from him. By loving us and calling us, and waiting for our response, God makes us who we are, and refuses to let us lock ourselves into to any smaller or vicious identity. We may attempt to close ourselves down and lock ourselves in, but by continuing to call us God keeps us open.

Scripture is the waters of baptism in which we should stay immersed. Our fathers taught each other the bible, and they knew that all truth and their own identities were revealed to them by the bible. They learned parts of the bible off by heart, so that they were always ready to quote some part of it to help them weigh up how to respond to each situation and decide on the best course of action. They became a more self-controlled and not so easily upset and not stopped by any setback.  They got further on the way towards personal maturity and adulthood. They were disciples, and we should become disciples too. All the virtues of discipleship will help us to deal with all the shocks and adjust to all the changes that life will bring.

The waters are cold deep and the current is powerful. The unruly forces that push their past us and over us will not hear anything we say. They want us to lose our footing, so that we are swept off our feet and carried along. These forces make us helpless babies. Our rulers present us with screens through which pour all forces of the world, the whole current pushing against us and attempting to take it with us. In putting screens into the hands of our children we are recklessly pushing them out into a flood of unhappy human experience without the means of dealing with it. We are pushing them out into rough waters and letting them become immersed in the fear and violence of the unhappy world, in which all is flux and flow, in which the current bears everything away. 

This flow comes at us through our electronic devices. The screens we hold in our hand are the altars towards which we direct our gaze, our desires, prayers and adoration. Each delivers a torrent of images, messages and action, which tumbles together every motive and desire and identity, jumbling everything up with everything else so that no settled individuality emerges and we remain entirely fluid, our identity undeterminable. They set us in an entirely non-reciprocal, asymmetrical and so unjust relationship, in which technology and media owners are everything and we are nothing. We must let go of them and allow the one true flow of holiness that comes from God bears away all that does not belong to us, so that our baptism results in our standing solely on the solid ground of Christ. 

When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

Now we hear this voice. Now we may put down our phone, look up to the altar and see the Beloved Son of God and know that his gaze holds ours, and we are out of the river and on solid ground at last. Out of the torrent and the flood steps the unchanging truth of man with God.

Second Sunday after Christmas Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

Luke 2.15-21

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Angels come to earth, bringing to us the gospel and the worship of heaven. Angels are bearers and personifications of the message. Through them, heaven reaches down to earth.

The shepherds are the people of Israel. They are the least regarded and lowest status, since their lives are semi-nomadic, almost never bringing them into the city or political life. Nonetheless, shepherds are representative of Israel. The prophets liked Israel’s rulers to shepherds, either good rulers or bad ones, good guardians or predatory ones.  

The shepherds said Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place…

Bethlehem is the city of David. The shepherds come to worship the Lord. Shepherds are both outsiders, and they represent Israel’s rulers who are often referred as shepherds of their people.

This is the search for man. This is the revelation – which is what ‘epiphany’ means – of the truth of man. Here is the true man, the real and complete man. Now we can say, Show us this man! Show us what a real man is! Where can we see the truth of man? We want to see Jesus. 

Jesus Christ is called the Son of Man. He is the truth of man, and the personification of man. He is the best product of mankind, the prototype and the finished work. He is man who is made holy, brought into the presence of God. As we go through the world we hope to discover more of this true man. We look for intimations of him. A real man can stand through life without becoming a victim – to envy, resentment, to rage or to all the forces that stoke up his resentment and use it to manipulate him. As soon as a man lashes out – at those nearest to him, who he can hurt without consequences – he has failed to be a man. A real man is a disciplined man, which means that he must be a disciple. 

At the centre of our Christmas celebration is the scene of the nativity of Jesus, the crib. Here set out in this cabinet we see Mary and Joseph, the ox and the ass, the shepherds and the kings. This scene is static, but it allows us to direct our worship in the right direction in the same way that the cross and the altar do. It directs our gaze to our true Lord, and so away from false lords, towards the truth and away from fakes and falsehood.

But we leave church and this nativity scene, where does our gaze settle? There are all the many other cabinets of figures, each presented by some institution broadcasting its identity through spectacle. In all these other cabinets the figures move, and the spectacle is live action, loud, repetitive, formulaic. We may watch these spectacles in the isolation that our screen gives us, so we are simultaneously on our own, and part of the vast crowd of spectators. We cannot hear or see this crowd, yet as long as spectacle is streamed to us, we are a member of it. We are held here, rendered supine and voiceless by this show. The point of the show is the power of those who mount it. Their power is the power to make you their audience. As long as you have this show on, you belong to their demographic. Their power comes from your reception, receptivity and susceptibility.

But if you watch the nativity scene you are watching the antidote to the shows now appearing on all other screens. The scene of these figures gathered around this manger in this stable is not too fast moving to take in or to question. It is slow enough for you to deliberate and make your judgment. In the same way, the Easter scene, in which the Lord was similarly flanked by the other figures who make up the scene (they crucified him, one on the left the other on the right), directs us gaze to the one true object and subject of our love.

Any child who watches is gazing at an altar on which a particular religious event is taking place. It looks as though he is merely watching and therefore detached from it, not taking part in it. But this show is the performance by which the powerful lure the gullible, and by catching and holding them, making them powerless. It is an event in which power flows from the watcher – the watcher is drained of the ability to act and the performer and provider of that spectacle draws to himself the power of all those he has rendered powerless. So simply by watching the viewer is inadvertently taking part. It is an event of child-maiming and stunting. It is a religious event in which they surrender their child to the forces which will prevent him from growing up. They surrender not only his childhood but his adulthood to. He enters a form of captivity which is permanent. He cannot live now without the torrent of images, which flash past him too fast to be queried, digested, challenged. He cannot live without this level of over-stimulation. It cannot be produced within any small community, but only by the whole vast financial and technical resources of the global media, the purpose of which is to dissolve all locality and create this single global economy, this single cultic form of obedience. They are stunting their own children, and ensuring that they will never be able to grow up because they received and don’t know what love is, or that human relationships are entirely about face-to-face, reciprocal relationships, in which we listen and speak to one another, in which we hear and are heard by one another. They are giving their children away to the gods, and the gods are not kind. This child-abuse is becoming child-sacrifice, worship of Moloch.

The Son of Man

Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, meaning that he is the offspring and true product of Mankind. He is the true figure and representative of Man, the best of Man, all mankind in one. He tells us that he is the first-fruits, brought to the temple, and there found good by God. There is a test, and he passes it. Summarising the Book of Hebrews, there is a trial, and though many start the course, only one has ever arrived and withstood all that has been hurled at him, which is all the aggression and accusation men have ever hurled at one another. He is the real outcome and achievement of all human striving.

The gospel we have inherited has brought us a very high account of mankind. It is good and true, and reliable and trustworthy. It is ambitious for us in a way not rivalled by another other tradition. It pins us to the hope of love and truth and freedom. It insists that we are men for one another, people in a community, bound by love, and it insists that we learn what is true, and adjust ourselves to the truth, that we develop good judgement in order to explore and its saying that we should abandon our fantasies and let reality be our judge. We should discover that creation is good, that there is a very significant role for us, and that nature is to not simply to be defied.

We are men, we already are human, but we also have to learn how to be men or how to be women. Man and woman are roles that we have to grow into. We grow into them in the same way we grow into any other set of skills; we learn and practice a set of disciplines until we have learned a certain facility, a certain capability and freedom within them. So, we are not up against nature, and not bound to struggle against everything it represents for us. Nature gives us the opportunity. Nature gives us a starting place, and without taking this starting place from nature, we cannot very well make a start on becoming either a man or a woman and so cannot become truly and fully human. In the same way, the formation and education and enculturation we received from our families and neighbours give us opportunity and a starting place.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus…

By this circumcision Jesus becomes a member of Israel. The people of Israel have been chosen to be the example of what mankind is intended to be. Israel is the model of mankind, and therefore it is also our coach and trainer. Israel is the sketch and prototype, so there are many – many false ways explored and finally abandoned. All the errors and mistakes are remembered and still visible as much as the successes. It is the people with the experience and they are therefore the teacher for whoever wants to learn and follow. Israel’s experience and history are written down in order that there be a public record of Israel’s long apprenticeship. Israel is elect to be the eldest son, the eldest of many brothers. He is to make life easier for them by showing them the way and leading them. He is their pioneer and trail-blazer.

Each of us is given an identity. It is a Christian identity. We are who we are, because our parents and families name us and call us and affirm us. for these many centuries they have done so in confidence, understanding your unique identity, because they received their identity from the gospel. We have understood that God knows us, and calls and names us, and waits for us and hears us and answers us. He has given us this name – Jesus – just so we can call him. 

First Sunday after Christmas Matthew 2 Infancy

Matthew 2.13-23

After the wise men had left an angel appeared to Joseph and said Get Up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him…

Jesus Christ is the Truth of Man with God

Christ became man so that we may become God. He has come to make us God’s companions. When we are companions of God, we may become companions of one another too. Christ comes to us, as we are, and so as children, and he will take us with him to adulthood and responsibility. With Christ we will become mature persons, able to use our own judgment well, for ourselves and for one another. Without him we are pushed about by powerful people and swept along by forces we cannot name, and so we remain their victims. Without Christ we are stuck in a childhood which is enforced on us, which we never grown out of, so that though we may be adults in years, we never achieve maturity. The powerful want us to remain children forever. Christ has come in order to free us from their power. The childhood of Christ is so that we do not remain infantile. The first we learn of Christ’s childhood is that a new pharaoh was on the hunt, intending to destroy him so that his parents took him on the same course as Israel, to Egypt and when danger had passed, back into Israel again, to Galilee of the Gentiles.

Christ became a child in order to grow up with us and before us. In this way we could see what a fully mature human being is like, and so discover from him how huge and wonderful human life is, and so become ready for our part in it.

We want to become grown-up, responsible mature people. Christ became a child in order to grow up with us and so show what it is to become responsible and mature. He shows us the whole range of human being and experience, from smallest and weakest up to the greatest self-mastery and preparedness for all human experience.

Jesus Christ will allow us to grow up. He will help us become the sort of people not in the power of others, not always pushed and guided. He will not leave us on our own but will come with us and show us the way and provide the strength and insight we need to meet each challenge. He will help us resist and endure the responsibility-removers and independence-deniers.

He is born for the rising and falling of many. Many powerful people will lose their power. Many who have been kept down will learn to stand up tall for the first time.

Herod sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under…

Herod does not want us to grow up. He wants us to remain dependent, so that we always turn to him to ask him for what we want, and we always ask for what he has taught us to ask for. The powerful want us to remain children. They watch us and intervene at any sign that we are able to live without them and are able to make ourselves independent of them.

Our masters do not want us to become independent. They do not want us to discover for ourselves the sources of happiness, which are the sources of self-control. They do not tell us what all previous generations knew. They tell us that what all previous generations knew is obscure or too difficult for us. They do not want us to develop any concentration or curiosity.

Our masters use us to watch one another and hold one another in check. Herod given to each of us the weapon by which we can see without being seen and so elevate ourselves above one another and isolate ourselves from one another. Through this universal hand-held, face-shielding medium he has shaped our wants so that we want only what cannot satisfy us or teach us how to be satisfied. He has taught us to be helpless and needy. Every electronic device is the eyes and ears of the regime. Every camera and screen is Herod searching for our children, finding them and neutering them so that they can be no threat to him. He seeks total surveillance that will eradicate freedom

A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation; Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted because they are no more…

The British are grieving and crying because their identity has been taken away from them. They do not know who they are. They have fallen into the hands of a cult that has sat them down before a screen, put a keypad in their hands and now they find themselves unable to move and powerless to help themselves. They cannot turn to one another, speak to or hear from one another, without reaching for this screen and keypad. Every relationship is mediated through this device, so that every person holds this screen before them, averting their face and so separating themselves from those around them. Like people sitting in cubicles forced to talk through a glass partition that prevents one from reaching out to touch the other. The universal presence of the screen, mediating every relationship with a time delay, has turned them into a people in a trance.

They have become the victims of a religion that does not give its name, celebrated by the powerful, imposed on the powerless. This cult is turning the English into powerless, voiceless, memoryless, passive, inarticulate, distracted, fearful people. They consume all those things that they are told are free, without seeing that they themselves are paying the costs which are loaded on them but concealed from them. 

But the Christ child has come so that we may grow up. When you see the Christ child, you see who you could be. You see the truth of you. You are not merely watching someone else, but seeing the point in which you yourself may come into the action. You are watching a sketch of your own true identity and vocation. As you watch, you are coming to yourself, getting up and entering the action.

As Jesus is wrapped in swaddling so we must be wrapped in all the education our people can give us. We need the protection of this swaddling in order to grow. But instead we have let ourselves go naked into a hostile world in which our rulers have concealed from us the means by which we can challenge their monopoly. These wise men brought gifts to the true king, just in order that we should see and understand the gifts that our king gives to us. These gifts are the virtues with which man is supplied by God.   

Our rulers have averted the eyes of our people from the scene of the nativity of our Lord, and so from the event of the incarnation and the revelation that God is with us. This scene is the point at which all human love, life and true emerge into our view. By distractions that block our view of this sight, our governors have taken our children into their power. They have withheld from them all the virtues that made our people strong, and rewarding only simple emotional responses. Their intention is to turn us all into children. They want us to conceive of ourselves as the beneficiaries of their services, and so conceive ourselves as their wards. They do not want to hear that we are moral agents. Their agenda is to reduce our freedom to act for ourselves, which they justify by claiming to provide for those who can’t or won’t provide for themselves. Their entire effort is directed towards keeping us in a prolonged childhood. Modernity is a vast conspiracy to keep us from the sources of our identity and authority. When we cannot control ourselves, and cannot say no to whatever is presented to us, we have become pitiful.

But they not our guardians, and certainly not our moral guardians. They have no power of attorney over us. The Lord has arrived to free us to act for ourselves or for one another. We rejoice to hear him say, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my Son’.

January – Epiphany

Epiphany is the revealing of the Son of God and Son of Man, the true God and true Man. The truth of Jesus’s identity is revealed through the events in which he grows to manhood and takes on his public identity and mission. He is the leader promised to Israel who receives from God the anointing of Israel’s king. Israel is the witness of God to all nations, and so is the model to the gentiles of the life that God intends for all humanity. 

What is man that thou art mindful of him, the Son of Man that thou carest for him?

The gospel we have inherited is good and true, and reliable and trustworthy. It has brought us a very the high account of mankind. It is ambitious for us in a way not rivalled by another other tradition. It gives us the hope of love and truth and freedom. It insists that we are people who live for one another, in communities bound by love. It insists that we learn what is true, and develop good judgment so that we can discover and recognise what is true. It insists that we should abandon fantasies and let reality be our judge. We should acknowledge that creation is good, and that nature and biology give us our role, and so are to be feared or defied.

We are human. We are men already. But also have to learn how to be men or how to be women. ‘Man’ and ‘woman’ are roles that we have to grow into, in the same way we grow into any other set of skills. We learn and practice a set of disciplines until we have learned a certain facility and freedom within them. We are not up against nature, and not bound to struggle against everything it represents for us. Nature gives us our starting point. Without accepting the starting place that nature represents, we cannot launch into becoming either a man or a woman and so cannot become truly and fully human. In the same way, the formation and enculturation we received from our families and neighbours are our starting place and our opportunity.

The gospel is good, and like whatever else is good, it attracts emulators. The fake versions look like the real thing at first. The fake gospel tells us that each Christian is an individual, able to look for and find their own self-fulfilment without effective relationship with any other Christian or source of Christian refreshment, and in defiance of our nature and place in creation. Such fake gospels suggest that each one of us is on his own, without any organic link to Christians around them, or to the Church of the past or future, or to their nation and culture. It is not so. God is with us. we live in his company, and the life that we regard as our own comes to us from that company. Each Christian is a member of this company, and so is accompanied, taught and enabled by this company to grow up into their full status. The company of God does not leave us on our own. Their presence and support enable us to become sovereign individuals, to take up our responsibility, learn to form good judgments and give our reasons for them. With their aid we become more able to exercise our conscience, and no matter what the pressures on us, to do what is right and grow up towards the full human stature promised to us.  

Christmas Day Luke 2 She gave Birth to her Firstborn Son

Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord

Someone is waiting for you. This universe contains this someone. The single significant feature of this universe is that this someone is intending to meet you in it. They are waiting for you in patience. They let you have your time and space, and make your decisions and be a moral person.  The whole universe is yours to move around in, and so is the distance you can keep between you and them. They do not crowd you, or hurry you or take any decision away from you. They are content to wait. But it is you that they are waiting for. They are waiting for you no matter how you act or what character you display. Nothing you could do would make them give up and go away. You cannot outwait them. You cannot satisfy them with someone who is merely like you. You are not replaceable or substitutable. You are unique. You are so because this is what they believe you to be. You are unique because they regard you so. You may avoid them or send them other people in hope of keeping away from them forever, but you will not succeed in doing so, for they know the difference between you and all others. All the space of the universe may seem to separate you from God, yet this is only how it seems to you. The vastness of this space is only distance to you. You live in a place that is directly before God, which is his hospitality and the way he protects you until you are ready.  

To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord…

The Lord has come to us, and become incarnate, flesh just like us. We celebrate the doctrine of the incarnation in this season of the Nativity. He is Emmanuel, God with Us, who has taken on our whole experience. He proceeds through the stages of childhood to adulthood and start work. He takes on in his ministry all our disastrous and very damaged experience. We follow this by reading the gospel throughout the year, and with greater intensity through Lent. He picks up our sins and loads it onto himself. He takes on our increasingly determined opposition. He has taken on our sin. It is our sin, not his sin. At the end of this process of taking on our sin, on the cross, it looked as though he was this sin, had become identical to it, indistinguishable from it, definitively and irreversibly bound up with it. He could never get out of that. That was what death assumed, as it took him down into the cave of hell there to consume him. He’s gone. That’s the last we’ll see of him, said all Judaea’s political leaders. Let’s all agree on that, at least. He brought us together. In this act of killing we are united.

The entire Western intellectual tradition however values the worldview in which solitary confinement is assumed to be our greatest wish. It is all about shaking off the demands and expectations of other people, closing down and making predictable whatever is open and unpredictable. Dividing each person into a number of things, and separating out each thing, and bringing each thing to a halt, so that it is still and no longer moves. The perfect universe is homogenous, neutral and empty and can be seen at a glance from end to end. Nothing blocks our view, and nothing makes us wait before we can see what it is.

In modernity there is no one to respect you, to acknowledge you thank you and tell you your worth. When there is no one to appreciate you. You are then in solitary confinement, for fear of others you have walled yourself up in a cell. Our existence as people is entirely dependent on there being other people around to recognise us as one of them. We depend on their recognition and they depend on the recognition and respect we give them. We are in a covenant of mutual evaluation and esteem. It is the very high dignity of each of us to esteem and encourage others, and by our praise help give them some direction.

The gospel we have inherited is good and true and reliable and trustworthy. It has brought us a very high account of mankind. It is ambitious for us in a way not rivalled by another other tradition. It pins us to the hope of love and truth and freedom. It insists that we are men for one another, people in a community, bound by love, and it insists that we learn what is true, and adjust ourselves to the truth, that we develop good judgement in order to explore and its saying that we should abandon our fantasies and let reality be our judge. We should discover that creation is good, that there is a very significant role for us, and that nature is to not simply to be defied.

Each individual Christian is sovereign. Each of us is responsible; each of us capable of forming judgements and giving our reasons for them. Each of us is given a conscience; very occasionally there are things that are wrong, which we must refuse to get involved in, even though everybody around us is telling us to do so. We must do what is right, as far as we can see what that it, no matter what pressures are on us.

The Heavenly Host

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Glorifying and praising God….

The angels worshipped Christ and then the shepherds worshipped him. What is worship? Worship is the respect and recognition we give one another and receive from one another. It is our acknowledgement and our esteem, our judgement and evaluation of you. We give you your worth, and we do this clearly and publicly so that all other people can see what esteem we hold you in. We say that you are worthy, at least worthy of our time and attention. We pay you attention, we value your company and treasure what you say. We look up to you or we look to you as to an equal, or at the very least we look upon you fondly. We meet your eyes, return your look, we do not avert our eyes from you.

When it worships, the church takes the worship of heaven and repeats it here in the language of our societies here on earth. It receives the breath of life and it passes on that breath simply by singing and worshipping God. The Church brings the words of life. These are not simply words, but life. They are the oxygen supply that makes every creature live. The Church does not simply issue words but blows life into the world. What we receive from the Lord is not simply information that we then have to assess and act upon. It is that life supply makes everything possible in the first place, and which makes it possible for us to judge well, act well, recognise our true Lord and give our worship to him only. All creatures and creation sing Holy, Holy, Holy. They point forward, and point you forward, to our perfection., when we will be complete and holy.

Advent 4 Matthew 1 The Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 

The Lord has come to Man

Christmas is the feast of the Holy Family. Joseph serves the future by taking Mary as his wife and so securing the nest in which the future is born. The holy Family is a revelation that God is with Man. And that Man is with Woman. That man is with woman, and that together they are with the next generation, and that generation will succeed generation and so man will be renewed is the fundamental truth about man. Though mortal, he is renewed

The Holy Family. The family is the source of our life. It is inviolable, and fundamental, and nothing should push it way into it. It is the evidence of our sovereignty. As Mary and Joseph, we can willingly give birth to the future. We can give birth to man, to someone who is not simply ourselves. We can take the risk and pass on life. We can take the risk with anyone, with other people’s teenage children and young people, those who are not parented – even though this will be difficult and often unsuccessful (and so take up our cross)

In this nativity scene there are four actors. We see two before us, and we ourselves are a third actor. The fourth actor are those who see us, as we first watch and then participate in the action of the two before us. God is the first actor here, and the initiator of this event. God gave to humanity his Son. In sending his Son, he gave himself. God whom we cannot see gave us God whom we can see. God whom we can see lives in responsible to God whom we cannot see, and we can see this life as this response. The Son lives before the Father, but also before us. The Father and his Son are the first and second actors, and we are the third. The Father gave this son to Mary. He gave her his Son. She took him for us. She received him, and so we have received him. Mary represents all humanity here; she receives the Son of God as she receives this child. Mary hold Jesus; we all cluster round. Holding Jesus, gazing at Jesus and adoring Jesus is Mary’s job; clustering round is our job. Then we can also gaze at Jesus and adore the two of them together. Jesus is the perfected and perfecting form of humanity. In accepting, receiving and holding him, Mary is the perfected form of humanity. She is perfected by the one she holds, and perfected by holding him. And we are the humanity that is perfected by gathering round, gazing and adoring this child, and so by giving him, rather than anyone else, our worship. We do this publicly, before the fourth actor, the world that looks on and decides whether or not to join us.

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife

We are men and women. We are not undifferentiated beings. We are differentiated from one another, and the primary differentiation that generates all others, is our sex. We are male or female, either one or the other. This differentiation is prior to any decision of ours.

We are beings oriented toward one another, by the differences of gifts. Each of us lacks some gift or other, and has to receive them indirectly through the agency of someone else who does have that gift. We require each other and desire each other. We go looking for that particular person who can provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves, for that person who is ready to do this, and willing to do so for good. 

But when we admit to desiring someone, we have made ourselves vulnerable, for they may not want us. None of us like being let down, so none of us enjoy being open and vulnerable. Perhaps none of us likes being dependent on someone else for our identity. No one likes being weak. Women punish men because women don’t like relying on anyone other than themselves. Some people say they don’t like the fact that the world is differentiated into these two divisions, sexes A & B. They are angry and they direct their anger at men. Of course, all this is chiefly the preoccupation of middle-class men and women in the West.

Do not be afraid to take her as your wife

Our society has set itself against men. It is becoming a man-punishment session. It is sexual differentiation-denial session. But to punish, humiliate and push out men is inevitably to punish women also. To rob men of their dignity and purpose function is to rob women of their dignity too. For each of us has dignity because someone else gives it to us; dignity comes through being acknowledged and thanked by someone for whatever they have received from us. 

All this is evidence of a great howling unhappiness. For we know we are not complete, we look for what we do not have, we search for what we need. And yet we do not like to be not in control of our own future. We do not want to be dependent on something we cannot command, or summon and make obedient to ourselves. We yearn, but we don’t like doing so. We stretch towards this or that quality, but what we want can only ever be that other person, who has this quality, and who can always supply what we will always need. We need them to plug our gaps. 

Men have taken this all very seriously. They have believed what they ought not to have believed. They should have resisted, but many have capitulated. They have been told that they are not worthy and disastrously many of them have come to believe it.  

All this is all nothing but a vast exercise in self-harm. We are complicit in it until that moment at which we finally stand up and declare that it is untrue. Men are not unworthy. Men are good. Men are good enough for women, and that in all probability that there is a woman who able to acknowledge that this man is good enough, and she will respect him, live with him, allow him to serve her, and so love and live with him. She will be able to give him what she has but he doesn’t, receive from him what she does not have but he does, and above all to give him his dignity. Of course, there is no complete identity or equality or symmetry between them. But together they build one another up to become more robust and resilient, ready to compensate for what the other cannot provide and so together able to cope with whatever comes their way. These can grow and serve one another, and so they can become more supportive of one another and more worthy of one another. 

The world is determined by these two sexes. Their symmetry is never complete. There is just enough asymmetry to allow movement. Things do not remain as they are. People age, and people are born. Young people grow up, become our rivals, and push us aside, fill the place that we thought was ours, and take what we wanted, and become what we wanted to be. The world of human beings is not static. It lurches and shuffles forward. We are mortal. To acknowledge this is to concede only what is true. To seize the present moment, and to attempt to seize and hang on to what we have and make it permanent and set ourselves against a future that is not identical with the present, is to turn ourselves into tyrants and idols, and to insist that we are immortals. It is because there is no complete equality between the sexes that the present generation and the next generation are not in a perfectly balanced equilibrium, but the present generation, despite itself, is always crumbling away and ceding place to the new generation that is pushing up through it. Whether the old generation is willing to acknowledge the new or is determined to resist, the new generation must make its way, and as soon as it succeeds, acknowledge that it is only for a time. The perfect equilibrium of equality between the sexes could be realised only in conditions of immortality. The demand for equality for the sexes is a denial of our mortality, and so of our createdness. The demand for an ever more exact equality is only ever an attempt to secure power by one sex over the other, and of one class and one generation over another. Christians cannot commit themselves to power games such as these.

The Church stands for the continuity and continuation of human society. Our society like those of the first and second centuries may stand for its own unhappiness and dissolution, but the Church defies this impulse to suicide, and so it must insist on its own continuity and faithfulness to what it received, and so it can give our and any society the one thing it lacks the wish to go on, continue and survive. Those who demand a break with the past are demanding that we anoint man and hand all power to them. They show no comprehension or pity when our society is suffering doubt, and so many individuals are in despair. They are sawing off the branch on which they sit, and so destroying what our children could have expected to inherit.

A huge misstep has been taken. Whatever church pursues this path with always wither and disappear. It cannot prosper, and cannot be the Church, for it is ultimately just a cult justifying the power of those who presently wield it. But wherever the Church proclaims this Christmas news, truth and hope arrive, and the world has a future.

Advent 3 Matthew 11 Good News for the Poor

 Isaiah 35.1-10    Psalm 146 James 5.7-10    Matthew 11.2-11

Go and tell John what you hear and see:5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’ 

Our leaders don’t think much of Christ. They are waiting for another leader. They don’t think much of us.  They don’t want people who can think for themselves and see that their claims are absolutist and cultic, and who can charge them with idolatry. They seek a power without limit, which is in effect a power that is divine. They want us to regard them as our superiors, and as people beyond our challenge. They want a pliant people, without a memory have no means of comparing now with twenty years ago. Who are not able to notice what is happening to them because they have no memory and who are in a permanent state of frenzy. They have fobbed us off with a diluted gospel. 

They want to browbeat the educated and those able to make cultural comparisons into silence, by telling everyone that they are elitist. We would like an elite that is educated (and educated particularly the modesty of the mandates of public service) But unfortunately it is not the educated who are our elite, but those who have driven the educated out of positions of influence. Our education men have gone into internal exile. They have done what they were commanded. They have shut up. They should never have done so. They had education and but they should have led us by reminding us who we are, what we have received. But you cannot give in to the pushy for they will never be satisfied enough to stop pushing, but they will identify more and more groups that opposes them (at least by not identifying with them and affirming them).

Our leaders have diluted our education. They present our history as a jumble of unrelated themes and they present it with interruptions from other cultures that had no connection to ours. They have diluted our culture. They have blended with other cultures that are not ours, and that were unknown and that made no contribution to our national life, and which are the very opposite of our culture and values. They have diluted our population. They have imposed new populations that are dependent on benefits paid for by taxing us, so that our own children say that they cannot afford to have children. But they are paying for these new populations to come in and have children.

They have diluted our money supply, which is the grace that functions as the universal medium of our interchange with strangers. When we want something at home some member of the family gives it to us. When we are among strangers or people who don’t owe us anything, we have to make our request in that very formal and ritual way in the medium that we call money. We use currency or credit. We pay them. That is, we give each other credit.  But this medium of credit that we call money is sustained by the behind-the-scenes machinations of a cabal that wants to give the impression that this medium is absolutely unchanging and reliable – but which is actually always devaluing it in order to divert value out of our control and into its own. It pretends to be a reliable organ of state, but is actually working as a foreign power, a state within a state, always doing this unseen, unchallenged, beyond our ability to call them to account.

Everyone dilutes the gospel. Everyone looks down on everyone else and assume that they will be satisfied with some abbreviation of it. You have to ask again and again. You have to nag and rattle their door and waylay them whenever they appear and ask them for more. We have to besiege them.

It is a possibility that here for us in this country, there may not be a Church with any public presence.  There will be Christians, but they will be just as beleaguered as Christians under the great totalitarianisms of this or the last century. The Church may be driven underground. This could only happen if the leadership of the Church is seized by those who and who believe that they have to re-educate Christians, drawing them away from their unchanging gospel toward some more politically-acceptable agenda. If those who lead the Church introduce and attempt to drive through their agendas, replacing the unchanging worship and proclamation of all Christians everywhere, the witness of Christians may be effectively stifled. Only the gospel brings to us what is new, and prevents our society from becoming overweening.

Those who want to replace the gospel with some fake gospel of their own do so because they enjoy the power that want to enjoy pushing others around.

Which Sins are Mine?

The problem is that the distinction between the sins that I have committed, against others, and the sins that others have committed which I have to suffer. The distinction has to be made between the perpetrator and the victim or casualty of this sin. Sometimes I am perpetrator, and others are the casualties of my sin. Sometimes I am the casualty of what other people have perpetrated. And sometimes it is different to say where responsibility lies and so to distinguish between perpetrators and victims, because there is a large area of murk because we are drawn into complicity. We didn’t commit this sin, but we didn’t protest, name it as sin or direct our challenge against anyone in particular either. We kept quiet. The original crime is worsened by the cover-up and by a general pretence that nothing happened. Complicity is contagious, creating misunderstanding and deception.

We have to say both that we are persecutors and we are persecuted, that we sin against other people or to their disadvantage, and that other people sin against us and make it difficult for us to avoid the contagion. When they continue to commit this sin of theirs despite our challenge, they are our enemies, and it is right for us to warn everyone against them.

One enormous sin committed against us all, is the two claims made about us by our leaders that there is no sin, and this is because we are not responsible or moral creatures, and that we are intrinsically sinful and violent by nature, and nothing can be done about this except that we are governed and controlled by our leaders. They alone are moral. We should give up identifying specific sins sin or talking about sin as a whole. The paradox here, is that while our ideological leaders charge us with using this – and so being divisive, they themselves have adopted it and are employing it to degrade and debase us. Our ideologists disparage us and policymakers demote us. In in the everyday Christian version, they are all sins. They have been dumped on us. That has now become secular and turned against us, so every member of Christian culture is guilty – by virtue of inheriting that culture, by membership of a people, and so of an ethnicity.   

Advent 2 Matthew 3 Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near

Isaiah 11.1-10   Psalm 72.1-7,18,19    Romans 15.4-13   Matthew 3.1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…

John has called the people of Israel down to the River Jordan. He repeats the warning that generations of prophets have given Israel, and which Israel has heard and taken to heart, as a result of which Israel has changed course, returned to her Lord and so saved herself many times.

And many people, hearing the same warnings, come now to hear them again from John, and follow his lead. He calls for national repentance and about turn, and they repent. So should we.

The same voices cry out now. They speak up and warn us. They give us the same warning that alerted our forebears, which they took to heart and were converted by. They heard and obeyed this warning. They did indeed prepare themselves for the Lord, and they received from the Lord all the preparations he provided for them. These warning voices do not come from official sources. You will not hear them through the media. You will not hear them in schools or universities or any centrally-funded institution. In the churches, those voices have been reduced to a whisper. They can be heard only in whatever unpoliced spaces are left to us.

All previous generations recognised these messengers and valued the gospel they articulated enough to record it and pass their witness on to us, so that through all the turmoil of the history of our people there is a consistent Christian voice and witness. We can read that history and for recent centuries, and above all we can hear and read the words of Scripture.

John the Baptist tell us that we have to get up and go back to the beginning. Our present situation is wobbling towards its end. The society that does not receive what the Lord sends it will not survive. Only if we go back to re-learn the original discipleship which founded our society will it continue. If we take what the Lord sends us, the unity, the peace and the living standard may continue for another generation. But we have to return to the source from which we came. We have to go down to the river and there be re-born as a people. We have to wade in and be completely immersed. We have to cross the river to reach the wild territory on the other side. That is the place untouched by domestication or civilisation, the way the world existed before the land was settled and before there were laws and governments. There we have to follow the Lord in the simplicity of nomads, trailing along after him in order to discover who he is. We have to learn that ‘a wandering Aramean was my father’, Abraham, who got up and left home and followed the Lord who promised. The Lord said, ‘Come’, and Abraham went and that is the way in which we have to follow the Lord. Like Moses we have to get up and leave the civilisation of Egypt, go out into the desert and become homeless nomads, who only follow the voice of their master. We have to be the flock that goes wherever he goes whose one intention is to keep up with him

When he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?…

Israel’s leaders are clearly concerned about its own future, for they are coming to John in repentance, trying to return to the very sources which they spurned as long as things went well. They read the signs of the times enough to know that things are no longer within their control. They want to know how to return the situation to normal. John points out that it is they who are responsible for this breakdown, and for the destitution in which the growing dispossessed of Israel have been reduced. The forces that they have unleashed are now running out of their control. 

Who are our Pharisees and Sadducees? Are they not the centralisers and globalisers who want to make us more biddable, more malleable? Aren’t they the ones who regard us as less-than-citizens, less conscious of our full dignity as heirs of European and Western culture – less aware of our status as heirs, or as Scripture says, as Sons? Have we not been undergoing a long slow putsch, in which we let go of our responsibilities and dignity while breaking the covenant between a people and their leaders, the power-brokers accumulate our powers into their hands – all simply because they are afraid?  Have they not subtly raised themselves above the law, and taken their client groups with them? So now there is not one law for all, but one law for some, another for others, and so they have divided the nation, into the new more worthy class, the special reserved groups, and the old despised English – too white and too male. 

Do not presume to say we have Abraham for our ancestor…

The Pharisees of our Age want to believe in their own irreplaceability, that they are immune to time, and will never have to give way to what is not of their own making. They will not give way to anyone, not even their own children. They regard the future as their enemy and so they make themselves the enemy of the future and therefore the enemy of man.

Without this voice, the gospel that comes to us, this country does not continue to be our home. Left to ourselves we fouled it, have no idea how to maintain it, so becomes unrecognisable and we become unrecognisable to one another. There are large parts of our country in which the people scowl and shout at us to go away, and tell us that this country is theirs, not ours anymore. 

Who are the pharisees of our generation? Who else could it be – but us? We have become the pharisees. It is us who are blocking the way. It is us who have muted the gospel. We have stupidly put ourselves between Christ and those who are drowning. We are the clients and employees of the agencies that impose layer upon layer of regulation upon our people. We are the ones who attempt to store the gospel away and keep it out of reach and out of sight. It is us who have held the whole world locked up. We are our people’s goalers. We are the warders in this camp. They may not know who to blame or which name to call, but we should know well. We are the clergy, the professionals who intend to make ourselves indispensable and so to place ourselves between man and God. Let judgment begin with the self-proclaimed house of God. Our comeuppance is on its way.

Even now the axe is at the root of the tree… 

In all the years in which our age group has led these institutions, they have not been renewed. They could only be renewed from the same impetus from the same source which brought them into existence in the first place. The nation has received no true gospel from no voices carried in from the wilderness and the national community and has continued to run on the momentum from previous generations until that momentum was gone. The nation has it rides on the waves as though at the turn of the tide, in slack water, unable to make way, set itself a course. Nothing our national leadership can say can give us any sense of purpose. The nation has heard nothing from the Church and so has received nothing of the gospel that created it. The gospel is not heard in the churches. Instead it offers a different message, offering substitute gospels, phoney gospels, pretend salvation…all of which attempt to elevate the imaginings of our leaders to a vision to secure this against challenge and to make our present situation permanent and declare the irreplaceability of the present regime. 

There is no worship coming from these churches. Futilely yet manically, those now in power are reinforcing their position against whoever offers any challenge to them. The active are prevented from working. The articulate are prevented from access to the media. We are told that everything is already being done for us and that there is no need for us to concern themselves. The young have their phone and games consul; the elderly sit before their television screen. Everyone is sent into the isolation of their own separate cubicle, and permitted to communicate with one another only through a keypad. Those who not employed to impose this regime on us are distracted, sedated or left to despair. We gave our consent to all this by signing our name or putting a tick in the box.

The people in power have been attempting to drive the gospel out of the Church. They have closed the bible, put away the prayer books, and locked the building. They are only prepared to open them as museums of a way of life that they do not ever want to see again. They have shut the churches that are the sole source of our dignity as people and as a national community. They have belittled all the generations of Christians who built the nation and despise those Christians who do not join in with them in this great act of renunciation. They have continually taken the words we inherited from our parents out of our mouths and in their place offered us their own slogans. They have replaced what was familiar to us with what they imagine would be easier, more acceptable and uncontroversial. Now there is no density to their contemporary liturgies, no weight to their words at all. They have silenced the voices of those who say ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ 

As a result, the people have been made poor and silent. They are divided and isolated. They have been segregated into groups or scattered. There is no consciousness of their identity as ordinary people, a working-class. They have no gathering places that are not provided by the state and policed by it. They are left without any sense of what to do and what to look forward to. They are those without aspiration; they who are without are the poor in spirit. They have received no encouragement or motivation. The harvest is ready and so the fields are white (we would say that they are golden). The people are ripe. We can now go in and gather them and bring them in. We will have to do this with the voices of our leaders and teachers, our pharisees and moralists, dinning in our ears and every kind of obstacle put in our way – for these pharisees believe that the people are their fodder, for them to tax, use and exploit and neglect. The Law-Abiding are sure that it is their task of keep these people quiet.

Advent begins: See I am sending my messenger. We British have received many messengers from the people of God, from Israel and the Church. Those who have brought us the Word of God have sustained our nation with it.  If the British continue to read the bible they will continue as a nation and as a national political community. Even if only some small number of the British read the bible book, Britain, though always seeming about to die, will never die. Those who do read the bible will keep alive those who don’t. Those who read it, they will provide the leadership. They will be sin-and-fear-impervious. The fearless and robust, who have the self-mastery to accept responsibility and do not blame others for what is wrong, will compensate for and carry the fearful and weak who are always look for someone weaker than themselves to take the blame and from whom recompense can be taken.

The religion of The Cult is no more than the enforcing of obedience to that religion and war against those who do not comply. The Cult is simply war with those who do not comply with the cult.

These two systems are truly incompatible because they rest on opposite sets of values. Truly, this contrast has to be clearly made and presented in our public debate and political life, and efforts to suppress this debate by denying this contrast are dangerous to the health of our political life. Those leaders of ours who attempt to deny this contrast and this incompatibility are attempting to stop this debate, and to suppress the freedom that essential to our culture and values, and they will bear responsibility when explicit conflict results.

Now we must ask our leaders why they ostracise and punish those who point out these political and cultural contradictions. Their refusal to allow debate of these central issue of our political and cultural identity has corrupted our national life. They themselves have become a cult of truth-suppression that needs to be dealt with before larger issues can be addresses. They have covered up each other’s wrongdoings. They have not given our citizens the full protection of the law, and they have concealed their failures to do so. They have given protection not only to those who have broken the law but to those who wish to replace our law with another. Our leaders refuse to hear those who appealed to them. They concealed the truth and used the power of the law to persecute and silence those who stood up against them. Lord, save us from the servants who betray us.

Back to the Beginning

Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins….

The people of Israel entered the land promised to them through the river Jordan. Now John takes them back out into the wilderness so they can have all their sin removed from them and are able to re-enter that promised land.

We should follow John and do the same. We should go back to the beginning of our Christian history. We should admit how far we have wandered out into the Badlands. We should turn to the Lord and follow him through the waters into the land he has promised to us and though it were the first time.

Advent 1 Matthew 24 No one knows the hour

Isaiah 2.1-5   Psalm 122   Romans 13.11-14    Matthew 24.36-44

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

The Lord speaks to us. He addresses us as people who want to hear and to be taken seriously. We want to know that we have a future, that our lives and our achievement are acknowledged and confirmed. We want to know that life will go on, and that whatever we have achieved will continue after us and not simply disappear. We stand on the layers of achievement of our predecessors. It is the culture that they created that supports us. We have made our contribution because we stood on the foundations they laid. Following them we have laid foundations, started projects and set up institutions in the hope that they will continue after us and so that we can pass them and that those who come after us will take them on.

Two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left

The Lord is coming. Those who hear and recognise him, will drop everything and follow him. Those who do not get up and follow will be left where they are. The Lord and his people will move on without them. The nation will divide into those who hear and those who do not, those who get up and follow, and those whose remain, heads down, where they were. In a moment it will be clear, who wants life and who doesn’t.   

We must be alert to threats to our way of life. We must be aware of our vulnerabilities and weak points. We should close the gaps through which trouble could come. We don’t want to be taken by surprise. We know that it is best to confront trouble early on. We should prepare for a range of eventualities. We do not want to be utterly caught out and have things suddenly break down in front of us. If people are working against us, it is best that we recognise it, discover who they are and what is the offence they hold against us, and so defend ourselves against them.

Will the troubles that come singly suddenly turn into a torrent?  What is the flood that may come and sweep us away if it is not simply consequences of our own acts? What we have done is certainly enough to destroy us and render our society unrecognisable. Which of us will survive it? What can we do to ensure that it is us and our children who survive?

Perhaps we stand before an epic event. The slow disappearance of everything known and precious may seem to be speeding up. Perhaps it will accelerate, and the world we know while vanish to leave a world of sudden poverty, of mistrust and hostility. Suspicion is growing, trust is vanishing; the social capital that accrued over centuries, and which enabled us to live together as a united society is no longer so strong. Everything that was done by consensus and learned sense of obligation is now centralised and imposed through regulation. We have experienced a great levelling, which we have welcomed and all contributed to, but now we find that it is proceeding well beyond what we envisaged. The movement that started as our general emancipation and enfranchisement has changed into a movement to dissolve every tie except our loyalty to the central power of the state. The idealists and reformers now have us in their sights. Those movement towards greater tolerance that we launched are now being directed against us. We who once regarded ourselves as pioneers are now seen as opponents. The microphone has been taken away from us. It is us who are being levelled down now. We who were once someone, but now no longer. We are suffering an undignified decline in political status. We cannot get ourselves heard. We are becoming nobodies in our own country. We are divided between those who notice this and those who have not, and have no wish to notice it. Our children will never realise how great was the society made confident by the gospel. The shaking has begun.

But about that day and hour no one knows

We could say that at least this makes future quite democratic, because it is equally unknown to everybody. And yet it is possible for those who want to, who can read and explore the political, economic and demographic analysis us to look ahead and identify some of the possibilities, and to act to mitigate some of them. We can look at the graphs that indicate trends in demography and energy supply, in debt and purchasing power.  

Now, again, as ever, the West is faced by its opposite. The society that has only known internal peace for so many centuries cannot imagine or that it could ever lose that peace. It cannot imagine that the very things it does is now eroding that peace. It cannot imagine how different, and how violent, is any society that has not undergone and how rapacious and predatory it is. Yet the West can also see such a society, because colonies of that society, emerging right here among us. Now we are face to face with the society by the society that is everything that the West developed away from. It is faced by the cult and society that promotes community over freedom, and indeed which has no room for freedom at all. It is opposed to freedom, and regards freedom as a mistake. Freedom is an error. The demand for freedom is the one pathology which the cult is committed to eradicating. The eradication of freedom. The collective is supreme, the individual is nothing. This cult and society have taken teachings of Christianity and Judaism and turned them on their head to produce a monster that destroys stood Christianity and Judaism on their head. Our leaders have poisoned our political discourse by suppressing discussion of these opposed identities.

We are mortal. We live in time. Our life here has an end as surely as it had a beginning. We will be succeeded by other people, who may follow the way we have taken or reject our way. They may be our heirs and inheritors, or they may despise us and refuse to take anything from us. Will our civil life, our culture and political system continue? The culture we inherited brought about a secular liberal political system. This culture has demonstrably brought about the lifting and exaltation of man. It values freedom and consent, over coercion. It tolerates dissent and despises totalitarianism. It has brought about the rise of exploration, science, technology and medicine. It has looked with pity on those static societies sunk in poverty, misery, ignorance, disease and social immobility. It has brought about the modern world. 

Keep Watch

If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and not have let his house be broken into…

Keep watch! Stay alert! Each Church service is a going on watch, a stand-to, in which this guard is inspected, its readiness confirmed and its report made. Our commander calls us to assembly before him and show that we are ready. He appears before us to check that we are ready. We are to serve the world by watching out for the forces coming against us, and for the forces of the Lord coming to our aid. We are on guard duty. Our job is to give warning or news of relief. Keep patrolling, and when those patrols come in, make should that they are de-briefed, refreshed, recuperate and are re-equipped ready to go out again. It is only this patrolling that keeps the society around us peaceful, secure and confident. The sight of these patrols stops the bullies from being tempted to humiliate the weak. We hope to discourage the enemy by the intensity of our attention. We want to intimidate our enemies by such a show of force, to convince them that we cannot be overpowered, and that we are strong because we take our supplies and strength from our invincible Lord, never allowing ourselves to be separated from him.

December – Advent

No one knows the Hour

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near

Good News for the Poor

The Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son

God is on his way. He is coming to man. But what condition will he find man in? 

God loves man. This news has reached us in the gospel. It tells us that we may live with God, and that in relationship with God, we can live with one another. God makes it possible for us to live together with all others. This is the news that changes everything, because it brings a greater conception of the life open to man. 

The gospel has changed everything. It was the coming of this news that opened a vaster and more ambitious account of man and of the possibilities for his life with his fellows. It has altered his world from close and static, to open and dynamic. Hope arrives into his world. It introduced to him the idea of freedom, and so the prospect that every man may become a social and political being who may contribute to and participate in a public life shared by an entire society. The gospel has brought into being the political nation, of which all men are members and share a single dignity.

 Christianity created our nation, which its inclination towards living in peace under one law with widening political participation. It is the coming of the gospel that created England and Britain. Our civil society and political nation depend for their renewal and continuation on the constant arrival and reception of the gospel. The news that God values us, and gives us the grace to value one another is all that maintains the way of life we know. 

We should not assume that our way of life will continue as it is now. Whether it continues depends on whether we receive from the Lord the blessing that he brings. 

What sort of future do we have? Where will our present course take us? What threats are coming against us? How will we survive them? Will our existing way of life continue? These the questions put to us by the Gospel that brings us news and warning of the coming of God.

In the season of Advent, the gospel calls us back out into the world that existed before the world before widespread political participation, before literacy and political participation, before the achievement of a single national law that secured the same value for all men.

We have to go back out into the pre-political undomesticated world, where the Lord is. Whatever does not help us or our society to continue we must get rid of. We should leave our self-absorption and go back out to where these issues can be seen in all their starkness. We must follow John the Baptist down into the wilderness, the place where our course is not determined by any institutions. We should listen for the call of the Lord just as our forebears did.  We should follow the messengers Christ has sent.

John the Baptist stands at the frontier and calls Israel out, and people come out to him. Israel follows him down to the river, and through it into the uncivil desert on the other side. In the wilderness where there is no law and no civil society, and where no values are established, so the value of people is entirely insecure. This passage through the water is the re-enactment of Israel’s foundational years in which she followed the Lord alone, and learned an entirely new existence as his people. So Israel now re-enacts its founding as the people of God. 

John the Baptist stands for all the messengers, the prophets, apostles, teachers and Christians whom the Lord has sent to us over so many centuries. All of them have been sent to us by the Lord to give us the help, the guidance and warning we need.

In Advent we learn that our society is in trouble. People have not received what they are due. Life depends on our relationship with the truth. But the truth has been concealed and the sources of our have been concealed and denied, and the poor have been dispossessed and robbed of the resources on which life depends.  

We learn that the Lord himself is coming. He is willing to be our Lord. He has come because people have prayed and asked him to, because we have been too vulnerable without him

In the Nativity of Jesus, at Christmas, we learn that God has come to Man and intends to stay with him and remain with him without limit, forever. God has made himself vulnerable to us as this infant, and so given himself into our hands, as utterly graspable. As we can lift this infant and hold him, so we hold our future. Our own identity is in our own hands. All our existence is bound up in that infant, for he is going to become the source of all our humanity. We will live and prosper because he gives us life and peace and well-being.