The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!

The Bible readings for Christmas Day are Isaiah 52.7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1.1-4. John 1.1-14.

There is surely no better thing to do on Christmas morning than to gather with followers of Jesus and hear John 1.1-14 read. Happy Christmas everybody!

Christmas at Didsbury Baptist Church

Christmas Eve 6.30 p.m.
Carols by candlelight

Christmas Day, 10.30 a.m.
All-age Christmas Celebration

Sunday 26 December, 10.30 .a.m.
Holy Communion

One greater than the temple is here

The Bible readings for today are 2 Sam 7.1-5, 8-11, 16; Psalm 85; Luke 1.67-79.

Actually, these are the readings for the morning. Tonight, in our carol service, we will hear the traditional Christmas Eve readings. There we will concentrate on Matthew’s version of the nativity story (Matthew 1) which seems to me to be darker than Luke’s. No Magnificat, no songs of praise, fewer angels but a mixed-up world into which Jesus is born, ‘God with us’. Matthew clearly presents Jesus as Messiah and ‘Son of David’ but also, perhaps, as the embodiment of the temple David had wished to build. The baby born in Bethlehem would represent God to people and would draw both Jews and Gentiles (starting with the magi from the east) to worship the living God. And if he would be a kind of walking temple, he would also represent the sacrifices offered in the temple. Jesus would save the people from their sins. This, Jesus continues to do for all who will seek and follow him.

Fearful wonder

Today’s Bible readings are Malachi 3.1-4; 4.1-6; Psalm 25.3-9; Luke 1.57-66.

I am interested in the relationship of fear and joy. There is a kind of fear, it seems to me, that has nothing at all to do with joy; this is the fear associated with terror. It is the sort we experience when we are in peril. Such fear robs its victims of joy and ruins lives. Its only positive aspect is that it might spark a ‘fight or flight’ response by which a person may escape the clutches of one who intended their harm.

The fear of the Lord is an altogether different thing. This is the fear we associate with reverence and awe. It is the kind we experience when we are confronted by something (or someone) completely beyond our control or comprehension. This is humility before God; it is wonder, amazement or astonishment and it issues in joy, sheer joy. Notice the connection in Malachi 4.2: ‘But for you who revere [fear] my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.’ It is there too in the Gospel reading at the naming of John the Baptist and the restoration of Zechariah’s speech: ‘And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him (Luke 1.63b-66)’. The fear that came upon the neighbours did not silence them, it did not terrorize them but rather provoked them to talk excitedly about what was happening and to reflect on its significance.

We need more of this kind of fear, the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. If our eyes are open we might experience it as we approach Christmas and reflect again on the mystery of the Incarnation.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver, ‘Mysteries, Yes’ in Evidence, (2009, Bloodaxe Books).

Magnificat!

The Bible readings for today are 1 Samuel 1.24-28; Psalm 113; Luke 1.46-56.

I have long been intrigued by the fact that the revolutionary words of the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55) have been set to such beautiful music. Oh I know, the words are beautiful too but they surely pose a challenge to the very classes that might be most expected to enjoy the music. Then again, I suppose terms like ‘the rich’ are always relative. When we sing ‘the rich he has sent empty away’ we can assume it refers to people other than ourselves. Of course, it always helps if the most threatening lyrics remain in Latin.

Well, the Magnificat, in any language, is a marvellous ancient hymn, steeped in the language of the Old Testament and taken up so powerfully on the lips of Mary. Despite what I say above, I am a fan of many of its choral arrangements. I like Monteverdi’s setting, and, of course, Bach’s and I am keen on Arvo Part’s (though I am not quite sure what it has to do with 1950s Philadelphia in this video).

In church we have been singing David Mowbray’s, ‘With Mary let my soul rejoice’ to North Bailey by Peter Morger (No 197 in Sing Praise). This is a great hymn but I cannot find a recording of it anywhere. Is anybody else singing it?

Why not click on the links and enjoy some music, but, please, think about those words too!

God will rejoice over you!

The Bible readings for today are Zephaniah 3.14-18; Psalm 33.1-4, 11-12, 20-22; Luke 1.39-45.

Joy is one of the great themes of Advent. Many of our Advent-candle liturgies include a week given over to the theme. All of today’s readings fairly ring out with celebratory joy. The one that gets to me most is Zephaniah 3.17:
‘He (God!) will rejoice over you and be glad,
He will shout over you with jubilation.
He will soothe with His love
those long disconsolate.’
The God of the Bible is a passionate God who rejoices over God’s people. The Incarnation brings God’s joy to the world!

Exploring the Story at DBC


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