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Epiphany 2014

January 5th, 2014 Jill Posted in Christianity, Christmas Comments Off

By Andrew Symes

In the last few months I have met a number of Iranian Christians in England. They have almost all ended up here because of persecution in their home country. Some were Christian believers in Iran, and finding it increasingly difficult to survive in a land where the church is under increasing restrictions from the state. Others were Muslim, but have felt complete disillusion with the petty puritan legalism associated with Islam in that country and much of the world. One man told me of the ban on any kind of social or romantic interaction between boys and girls in Iran in the 1990’s. He had a “girlfriend” – and we are talking about holding hands while having a cup of tea together in a café, not sleeping together – and for that he was beaten up and his life threatened. Unable to tolerate the restrictions on freedom, he made his way to Europe, illegally entering Romania, Greece and through to France, getting piece jobs on the way, and finally arriving in Britain where he was held in a detention centre while his asylum application was processed.

This man, Mohammad, heard about Jesus first in Iran, and then again on his travels. In despair in the detention centre, he prayed “Lord if I can be free, I will serve you”. More than 10 years ago he was given leave to stay in Britain, and since then this cultured, educated man has worked in IT and served as a pastor in an Iranian church. He is now studying at a theological college.

At this time of year we remember the Magi from the East who came to worship Jesus. Because of the association with the star over Bethlehem which they followed, many have speculated that they were Zoroastrian priests, pagan shaman steeped in occult astrology, almost certainly from Persia or modern day Iran. The coming of the Magi is full of missiological significance. The Persian emperor Cyrus had defeated the Babylonians at the end of the 6th century bc, allowing the exiled Jews to return and paving the way for the rebuilding of city and temple. At the Epiphany, representatives of the descendants of those powerful pagan idolators are no longer arrogantly determining the fate of God’s people from their thrones and temples, but coming humbly to a Palestinian village, worshipping the Jewish baby, recognizing him as “King”. The prophet Isaiah records God’s promise given centuries earlier that it would be too small a thing for Israel to be saved: God’s intention was for salvation to extend to the farthest lands (49:6), and that nations and their kings would come to the brightness of Zion’s dawn (60:3 – the origin of the “three Kings” idea).

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The Meaning of Christmas: Look Deeper

December 26th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

By Peter Kreeft, CERC

While Christmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it, there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet is in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.

Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the “either/or” approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four “right” interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of “events,” but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, “bottom-line” mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world — but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

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Some Christmas messages from around the Anglican Communion

December 26th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

Churches Together in England
Archbishop of York
The Bishop of London
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Bishop of Birkenhead
Bishop of Blackburn
Bishop of Bristol
Bishop of Chester
Bishop of Coventry
Bishop of Lichfield: Christmas Begins with Christ
Bishop of Sherborne
Bishop of Winchester
Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe – Bishop David Hamid
Bishop of Beverley
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Joy to the World! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King

December 25th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

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The Anglican Mainstream team wishes a blessed and peaceful Christmas to all our readers

December 25th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

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O Holy Night

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

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Christmas Services

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas, Worship Comments Off

Some online services, messages and resources for Christmas. All times are London time – deduct 5 hours for Eastern Standard Time, 8 for Pacific and so on to know when services and recordings will be available:
O Come O Come Immanuel – Sheyi Martins – HTB Video
The Bells of Durham Cathedral – BBC Radio 4

Choral Evensong from Southwell Minster – BBC Radio 3
Sunday Hour -BBC Radio 2

Handel's Messiah from the Temple Church – BBC Radio 3


Nearest UK Christmas services can be located here

9 am Christmas Eve Service Service Podcasted Video from St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney

3 pm GMT (10:00 EST or 07:00 PST) Service of Nine lessons and carols from Kings’ College Cambridge directed by Stephen Cleobury – BBC Radio 4

and on BBC World Service [3pm]

also broadcast at 2pm on Christmas Day 25th December on BBC Radio 3

more details and service booklet

6:15 pm Carols from Kings – BBC 2 TV [UK only - check local networks if viewing outside the UK]

11 pm Eastern ST Christmas Eve Service from St Helena's Beaufort, South Carolina [4 am London Time]
Silent Night – Kings College Cambridge Choir

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Why do modern parents want their children to believe in Father Christmas, but not in God?

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas, Faith Comments Off

By Toby Young, Telegraph

I was woken at 6.45am today by my six-year-old son Freddie wanting to know if I believe in God. We’ve had this conversation before, but it takes Freddie a while to process things so I was happy to have it again. It didn’t occur to me that he had a special reason for asking this question on Christmas Eve.
“I don’t believe in God because there’s no evidence that he exists,” I told him. “In the absence of any evidence, I can’t bring myself to believe in something so unlikely.”
“Because you can’t see him?” he asked, trying to get his head around this.
“Well, yes, that’s one reason,” I said.
“So does that mean you don’t believe in Father Christmas?”
So that was why he wanted to have this conversation on today of all days. Why hadn’t I seen that coming? I immediately did a reverse ferret.
“Er, no, I do believe in Father Christmas,” I said. “Definitely. A hundred per cent.”
“So you've seen him?”
“Well, no…”
“So why do you believe in him?”
It was a good question. I don’t believe in him, obviously, but I want my children to. Why?
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A Church which the world regards as weak can still tell the Christmas story

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

By Andrew Gimson, Conservative Home

We are about to commemorate a man whose birth in a stable as well as death on the cross were in worldly terms a failure. And in between these two humiliations, this man failed to convince quite a large proportion of those he encountered that what he was saying was true.

If Jesus could not persuade everyone he met that he is the way, the truth and the life, it is hardly surprising that his followers are often unable to do this.

Christians are bound sometimes to worry that in marked contrast to what is happening in other parts of the world, the Churches in this country are becoming weaker. Analysis of the 2011 census has confirmed a rapid decline in the number of people who describe themselves as Christian: a decline much too large to be outweighed by the arrival of Christians from countries such as Poland and Nigeria.

And Christmas is in some respects less explicitly Christian than it was only a few years ago. A smaller proportion of the music played in public places is the same as one would hear in church, fewer cards depict scenes from the birth of Jesus and there is a widespread official attempt to suppress public references to Christianity, in the generally mistaken belief that these might prove offensive to other faiths.

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Cameron turns to God and the Bible for his Christmas sermon

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

by Tim Shipman, Mailonline

David Cameron will today issue a highly religious Christmas message in a bid to rescue his Big Society concept.

The Prime Minister praises those who help out in their communities for putting ‘their faith into action’, saying: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.

Mr Cameron once likened his Anglican faith to the reception of Magic FM in the Chilterns, admitting that ‘it comes and goes’.

But he is keen to reaffirm his Christianity in his message today, showing that he is more than happy to ‘do God’.

‘For me, this season is a time to think about the meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that gives to millions,’ he says.

‘In Handel’s Messiah, these words from the Prophet Isaiah are brilliantly put to music: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”.’

Mr Cameron also invokes scripture in a bid to revive the Big Society, his concept that charities and other groups should step in to help at times of austerity, which failed to win over voters at the election.

The idea has been periodically revived but many Tory MPs believe that the Prime Minister’s failure to explain it properly to voters helped to cost him a majority in 2010.

‘There are those millions who keep on strengthening our society too – being good neighbours, running clubs and voluntary associations, playing their part in countless small ways to help build what I call the “big society”,’ he says.

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The Yuletide battleground of our Civil War

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

By Charles Moore, Telegraph

Charles Moore reviews The Abolition of Christmas

[...] The old-fashioned children’s history which taught us that the Puritans were grim-faced, pursed-lipped killjoys was pretty much true. The formal reason for Puritan dislike of holy days – including Easter, Whitsun and saints’ days as well as Christmas — was that such feasts do not appear in the Bible. It was argued that they were occasions for superstition, thus linked with Roman Catholics. In 1645, the new Directory of Public Worship decreed that “Festival days, vulgarly called Holy days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued”.
No doubt this was sincerely believed by its propagators, but behind this dislike of Christmas went a fear of any form of pleasure and of losing control. Just as modern Muslim puritans ransack the sayings of Mohammed to prove, for example, that women should not swim because they thereby surrender their bodies to the water’s embrace in an improper manner, so our own Christian Roundheads saw the worst in any innocent amusement. Love of the old pleasures implied disrespect for their revolution, they believed.

These delights symbolised Misrule.

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Andrea Williams’ Christmas message

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

From Christian Concern

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Christmas, Americans and the Virgin Birth

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

By Mark Tooley, Patheos

A new poll by Pew Research, just in time for Christmas, shows 73 percent of Americans believe in Jesus’ virgin birth by His mother Mary. Even 32 percent of the self-professed religiously unaffiliated said they believe. White evangelicals were the most believing (97%), followed by black Protestants (94%), white Catholics (88%), Hispanic Catholics (81%) and Mainline Protestants (70%). By comparison, other polls show about one third of the British people profess belief in the Virgin Birth.

Popular lore claims America is always growing more secular, like Europe. But attachment to core Christian beliefs remains high and shows no major sign of falling. For example, a 2008 Harris poll found that 61 percent of Americans believed in the Virgin Birth. In 1994 it was 78 percent, in 2000 it was 82 percent, and in 2003 77 percent. Non-Christians who said they believed in the Virgin Birth ranged from 47 to 27 percent during those years. A 2008 Barna Poll found that 75 percent of Americans believe the Virgin Birth, including 15 percent of atheists.

The resilience of the Virgin Birth would surprise American clergy and theologians of 50 and 100 years ago, when the liberal Protestant Social Gospel held sway over nearly all America’s most prestigious religious institutions. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the liberal Baptist who pastored New York’s famed Riverside Church, insisted in the 1920s that “equally loyal and reverent people” could deny the Virgin Birth as “historic fact.” Instead they could accept it as a metaphorical “explanation of great personality is one of the familiar ways in which the ancient world was accustomed to account for unusual superiority.”

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Advent Meditations: Tuesday 24 December

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Advent, Christmas Comments Off

Dec 24

am: Ps 45, 46
pm: 89:1-29

Isa 59:15b-21

am: Gal 3:23-4:7
pm: Phil 2:5-11

Matt 1:18-25

Notes on the Liturgical Feast for Today: The Vigil for the Feast of the Nativity(Also known as Christmas Eve)

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas Eve is referred to is Paramony ("preparation"). It is the concluding day of the Nativity Fast and is celebrated as a day of strict fasting by those devout Orthodox Christians who are physically able to do so. In some traditions, nothing is eaten until the first star appears in the evening sky, in commemoration of the Star of Bethlehem. We in the West have no such particular custom but there re numerous ethnic customs of Christmas Eve. Some that may not be as familiar to us are:

1.       In Switzerland  a big tradition in Switzerland is the ringing of bells throughout the town and countryside, especially on Christmas Eve. A popular food treat at home would be the ‘ringli’ or huge doughnut that is serviced with hot chocolate.

2.       In  Finland A christmas tree is set up on Christmas Eve. They traditionally use candies, apples, cotton and tinsel to decorate the tree. A large feast is prepared and eaten in each home about 6 p.m. Just before or after dinner is when the gifts are handed out.  Across Finland the saying ‘Merry Yule’ is used to express good wishes.

3.       In Italy  eight days before Christmas  culminates tonight when  children will dress as shepherds and sing songs as they visit homes in the neighborhood. At each house they are given money. The big day for gifts for children is Epiphany, January 6th.

4.       In Spain  Christmas Eve is called ‘Nochebuena’ or Good Night. With a special Nativity display in every home there is much feasting on a traditional treat of ‘turro’ which is almond candy. The feast of Epiphany is the big day for gifts.

5.       In Denmark a special rice pudding called Grod is prepared for the family members.  Within the pudding is a special almond. Whoever gets the almond also received a prize. The evening meal will include stuffed goose, red cabbage, fried pastries and browned potatoes. It is Christmas Eve when the tree is first seen by the whole family and lit.

All of these customs in one way or another are the result of Advent preparations that are to get our attention to seek Christ’s presence means. The words of Scriptures these last few days should resonate profoundly within us as the themes offered are about mercy, hope, promise and life  combined with the power of forgiveness, and, of a call to justice and peace. God comes this Christmas Eve, to reveal that He is indeed on our side, that He conquers oppression, and that what He calls us to a new way namely, to follow the teachings of a child, born of Mary who grew up to proclaim the Gospel with his lips and his life.

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Advent Meditations: Monday 23 December

December 23rd, 2013 Jill Posted in Advent, Christmas Comments Off

Dec  23

am: Ps 61, 62
pm: 112, 115

Zeph 3:14-20

Titus 1:1-16

Luke 1:1-25

Notes on the Liturgical Feast for Today: the Martyrs of Crete, 250 (Eastern Orthodox Calendar)                                                      

O Antiphons –O Emmanuel

Saints Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The prefect of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.

For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.

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Santa vs God

December 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

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Advent Meditations: Sunday 22 December

December 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Advent, Christmas Comments Off

Dec 22

      am: Ps 144, 80
      pm: 118,126

Isa 7:1-10

Rom 1:1-7

Matt 1:18-25

Notes on the Liturgical Feast for Today : ADVENT IV                                   

O Antiphons  O Rex Gentium

Many are inclined to look past the 4th Sunday of Advent as Christmas is so close and  there is too much to be done. But the church maintains that we observe this fully  as the themes of today are essential to us embracing the promise that awaits us.  

Biblical Meditation :  Earlier  in these meditations on the first day of the O Antiphons we considered the opening of  Matthew’s Gospel which helps sets the stage  for the complexity of human and divine realities that are coming to ahead in the Gospel account for today’s Eucharist. We are told that Joseph is a “righteous man,”  and like most men of his day particularly in Judaism  his reputation and observance of Jewish law was  an essential component to his identity, meaning and purpose. Yet, he is also just and compassionate so the idea to end his  ties with Mary made perfect sense. We have a profound sense  of who Joseph is  in his desire to dismiss Mary “quietly,” perhaps by offering a different excuse for breaking the engagement, providing Mary protection from a possible death sentence for her perceived adultery. This Is an act of grace under pressure rather than demanding his due. Once the angle reveals to him the fullness of this mystery, we get a deeper insight into his character. No the son is not biologically His but he understands the fullness  of what is happening so he will be the surrogate father and fulfill what has been foretold. What a man. No revenge, no wanting his share of the pie, only a sense of justice, mercy dignity and faith. He was a man for others. 

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Father Christmas granted a walk-on part in the Bible

December 21st, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas, Culture Comments Off

by John Bingham, Telegraph

One in 10 people aged 25 to 34 in modern Britain think that Father Christmas is mentioned in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus

For centuries Christians have been taught that wise men from the east brought gifts for the baby Jesus.
But, according to polling, one in 10 young adults in Britain now believe that Father Christmas also makes an appearance in the Biblical account of the nativity.
Significant numbers also think that Mary and Joseph might have brightened up the stable with a Christmas tree.
Over a third of the public think that the Bible records December 25 as the date of the Jesus’s birth.
And a quarter appear to have confused the lyrics of “Away in a Manger” with the gospels by believing that the Bible states that Jesus did not cry when he was born.
More than 2,000 people of all ages were polled on their knowledge of the Christmas story to test whether younger generations are becoming increasingly ignorant of religion.

The ComRes survey, conducted on behalf of the Christian Institute, involved giving people a list of elements and asking whether each was included in the Biblical accounts of Christ’s birth.

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Advent Meditations: Saturday 21 December

December 21st, 2013 Jill Posted in Advent, Christmas Comments Off

Dec 21

am: Ps 55
pm:138, 139

Zech 8:9-17

Rev 6:1-17

Matt 25:31-46

Notes on the Liturgical Feast for Today:  Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle                          

The O AntiphonO Oriens 

Many in the western church outside Anglican communities celebrate this feast on 3 July. While many of us are well familiar with the story of Doubt Thomas in the post –resurrection accounts, very few are aware of his missionary endeavors to India.

 St. Thomas is believed to have sailed to India in 52AD to spread the Christian faith among the Cochin Jews, the Jewish diaspora present in Kerala at the time. He landed at the ancient port of Muziris He left Palayoor in AD 52 for the southern part of what is now Kerala State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or "Seven and Half Churches".

Thomas branded as “Doubting Thomas” for one moment in his life. Many of us know how events like that happen  and they change the course of your life ( Think of the nickname you have been carrying and how) you received it). But if he doubted, he also believed. He made what is certainly the most explicit statement of faith in the New Testament: “My Lord and My God!” (see John 20:24-28) and, in so expressing his faith, gave Christians a prayer that will be said till the end of time.

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Christmas in Dark Places

December 21st, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas Comments Off

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