Here’s something you can do – probably without leaving the house! A few months ago I met guy called John who takes amazing shots using a pinhole camera. I learned how to make a camera obscurer at primary school so I understood the principle. I did a little research into the topic and realised that half of the fun of pinhole photography is the Blue Peter aspect of making the camera. I discovered that I could make a home made pinhole camera without even leaving the house as I had a film sitting on the shelf.
In the coffee shop last night I noticed The Times had a large banner on the front page bearing the heading “Three? Wise? Men? Asks the Archbishop”. When I turned to page three I was confronted by an article entitled “It’s all a Christmas Tall Story”. The article has a tone which paints Rowan Williams as having said something controversial. In the interview that is quoted, the Archbishop points out many of the glaring additions to the Nativity such as snow, a donkey and Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
The chances of any snow falling around the stable in Bethlehem were “very unlikely”. And as for the star rising and then standing still: the Archbishop pointed out that stars just don’t behave like that.
As with many biblical narratives, it all seems a little unbelievable because of the popular modern additions and myths surrounding the even. Popular modern mythology tells us that Mary wore blue and rode a donkey to a stable where three kings arrived with gifts.
This type of ‘biblical’ story telling in the style of Disney is reminiscent of the Exodus. In the Disney narrative, Moses floats down the Nile in a basket past a crocodile, hippo, cruise liner and heavy seas. The simple narrative becomes unbelievable because of the additions often made by well meaning children’s writers and Sunday school teachers.
Needless to say, the way the Archbishop was reported upon has led to quite a lot of backlash despite his assertion that he believes in the virgin birth. The article asserts that “Dr Williams’s views are strictly in line with orthodox Christian teaching. The Archbishop is sticking to what the Bible actually says”. Still he is “a classic example of why the Archbishop and other Christians in high places should be very careful about what they say in public”. Sometimes you just can’t win with some people!
So who is misleading people? The Archbishop? The Times? People’s perception of what they believe they have read?
The The letters page always invites more back biting and name calling than most faith based internet forums at Christmas. However, it was with sorrow that I noticed the lack of bottle that David Fremlin of Colchester shows. He claims to be an atheist and seems to have decided that he would show how his faith has made him into a more tolerant and well rounded individual fully equipped to live in multi-cultural Britain. He did this by referring to Christianity as “tosh”. I would have much greater respect for his boldness if he were to direct other rude and dismissive comments at other world religions over the coming weeks.page in seems to have become that which it always does at this festive season.
My friends and I have been having a debate over the purpose of a sermon. One conclusion is that a sermon is not a personally sounding board to vent your own frustrations and entertain with personal anecdotes to illustrate your frustration.
With this in mind, what is the ASDA fast lane all about? I have used the self service counter now on numerous occasions. On precisely zero of these occasions, I have been able to proceed without the assistance of a member of staff to reset the computer because of a glitch. If I am going to need a member of staff to enable me to self service myself, it kind of defeats the point! They may as well just have another ordinary till!! At the end of the whole debacle, the computer states “thank you for using the fast lane”. This is mildly ironic at best and annoying at worst.
So to sum up my point, a sermon should not be used as an opportunity to publish your own personal frustrations.
There is something amazing about Christmas time and it is the hope that is provided for those of us who feel alone, unwashed or unloved. God did something amazing, he came to earth to let us know how much he cares. Jesus came to the marginalised and stood with us. He came to the outcasts and stood with us. The Archbishop of Canterbury puts it like this in his Christmas message:
So at Christmas, God shows that he is not ashamed to be with us. He has heard our cries of weakness and self-doubt and unhappy longing, he has seen our wanderings and anxieties, and he is not ashamed to be alongside us in this world, walking with us in our pilgrimage. And because he is content to walk with us, we are challenged about whose company we might be ashamed to share. So easily we decide that we would be ashamed to share the company of the sinful, the doubting or the outcast. But God, it seems, is not ashamed to be seen with such people.