Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Emmanuel – God with us

A sermon preached by Cranmer’s Curate at his service of Carols by Candlelight:

I want to focus this evening on three reasons why we mustn't tamper with the Christmas message, the message of the new-born King, the Virgin’s Son, conceived in her womb by the Lord God Almighty in order to fulfil his loving purposes for the salvation of sinful mankind.

Firstly, Christianity is a revealed religion.

It is not a make-it-up-as-you-go-along religion. It is about what God has chosen to reveal about himself in Jesus Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ. Therefore if we press the delete button on the biblical words to describe Jesus - Lord, Man, Son of God, King – we are pressing the delete button on what God has chosen to reveal. Christianity thus becomes a man-centred religion, a religion that we invent. Do we really want that? Do we really trust ourselves to get it right?

Look at the mess we are making of God’s world. We are the race who invented murder, the sin of Cain, finding grim expression within our recent history in the death-camps of Hitler, the gulags of Stalin, the genocide of Rwanda and most recently the slaughter at Mumbai. And in case we’re inclined to dismiss those as foreign problems, look at what is happening on our own streets. An 11-year-old boy shot by a 16-year-old boy when he accidently walked into the line of fire between two rival street gangs. The killer, now 18, just before being led away from the dock, embraced one of his fellow gangsters and clasped the hands of two others in an apparent show of solidarity. Look at what is happening to our country following the wholesale abandonment of the Christian consensus. Christianity, thank the good Lord, is a revealed religion – it is about what God chooses to tell us, not about what we invent.

Secondly, Christianity is a reconciling religion.

We – mankind – need reconciling with the God who made us. We began our Bible readings with Genesis, the first book of the Bible describing how mankind threw off God’s loving rule and authority. We were given freedom in the paradise God had created, freedom to eat from any tree in the Garden. But God, as a visible symbol of his rightful authority over us his creatures, had placed in the centre of the Garden one tree we were not to eat from. What do we do? The one thing we are told not to. We rebel. We do it our way, we throw off God’s authority and the consequence of that is alienation from God. We are expelled from paradise, we are excluded from the intimacy and friendship with God we enjoyed in the Garden where he walked in the coolness of the day seeking fellowship with his creatures.

We may not be as bad as we could be, but being sinful men and women no area of our lives is sin-free. Even our good deeds are polluted by sinful motives, self-love, pride, vain-glory, rather than giving God the glory – your and my sin has the effect of alienating us from the God who made us. The message of Christmas is that God sent his Son Jesus Christ as the Saviour we need to reconcile us to God, to bring peace between us and the God we have rejected. That is the peace about which the heavenly host sang on the night the Saviour was born – ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’ (Luke 2:14). Christmas is about peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Christianity is a reconciling religion.

Thirdly, Christianity is a repenting religion.

Repenting basically means changing our minds about the way we live; turning around; deciding that we are no longer going do it our way, but do it God’s way. Christmas therefore calls for a decision from us. Will we repent? Will we change our minds about the way we are going? Will we submit to God’s rightful rule over us, which now, in the light of Christmas, means submitting to God’s new-born King, his Son the Lord Jesus Christ? ‘Joy to the World’ in its traditional form hits the nail bang on the head about the response Christmas calls from us – ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King’. Jesus is God’s chosen and appointed King, and therefore we need to start doing what he says – believing in him for the forgiveness of our sins and living our lives his way.

Christmas is not about soaking up a Christian atmosphere once a year. It is about facing up to the fact that God reveals who Jesus is, our Lord, our King, our Saviour. It is about facing up to the fact that we need reconciling with the God who made us. We are alienated from him because of our sin. And it is about facing up to the fact that we need to repent, to change the way we are living and to start living with the Lord Jesus as our Ruler and King.

Cranmer wishes all of his readers and communicants all over the world a blessed and peaceful Christmas. In these times of political instability and economic turmoil, may you find the time to reflect upon the wonder of Christmas; may the Christ-child be born anew in your hearts, and may you draw nearer to the one who sacrificed everything in order that man may live for evermore.


Anonymous Job's Tempter said...

Just re-read the sermon. How can we experience joy from a religion which clearly hates humanity so much? Do we get no credit for anything? Not for love, not for caring for each other, not for the arts, not for our frequent bravery and self-sacrifice? Doctors, nurses, firefighters, cancer researchers - all beyond redemption if they happen not to believe?
Apparently the best that can be said for us is "We may not be as bad as we could be." May your curate and Your Grace discover a rather more inspiring summation in 2009.
Happy Holidays

24 December 2008 at 09:19  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Your Grace, most us will have understood this better than Job's Tempter and will be found kneeling before the infant's crib in adoration later today.

I shall ask a blessing on your work for the coming year.

My one contribution is not my own

God did not give us a manual - he gave us Emmanuel. Thanks be to God!

24 December 2008 at 09:39  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

A Happy, Holy and Peaceful Christmas to you and all your communicants.

24 December 2008 at 10:35  
Anonymous Julian Mann said...

To reassure Job's Tempter, the carols by candlelight was a very joyful service. Helped by the wonderful traditional Christmas carols, we celebrated God's gift of the Saviour. At the end of the sermon, the congregation which included by God's grace a considerable of visitors sang 'O Come all ye faithful' leaving the last verse for Christmas Day.

May I wish Job's Tempter a blessed Christmas,

Julian Mann(Cranmer's Curate)

24 December 2008 at 11:49  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Your Grace.
What can one say to this message but Amen. I wish you & all your contributors a happy, peaceful Christmas, may God's blessing rest on you all not just now but through the next 365 days of Christmas.

24 December 2008 at 11:57  
Blogger dizzyfatplonka said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 December 2008 at 12:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"God did not give us a manual - he gave us Emmanuel."

Wow - so corny I may have to use it myself tomorrow! Not even an e-manual (you will never get thru on the 'help[less]line'.

A Blessed Nativity to Your Grace and congregants.

24 December 2008 at 14:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant sermon. nail on head, direct hit.

Liasten to radio 4, currently broadcasting carols from Kings, which includes the relevant reading from Genesis re how things went wrong. Job's Tempter, I would like to be more optimistic about mankind, as I would also like to be optimistic about cancer, Gordonian economics and governance in Africa. However, realism is, well, more realistic.

Unto us a child is born. and the government shall be upon his shoulder.


24 December 2008 at 15:31  
Anonymous No Nonny said...

Brilliant and beautiful.

Wish I could hear King's Lessons and Carols here in the U.S. I'm so glad the Beeb and the euros actually allow it, still!

Job's Tempter - The Catholics used to have a place where righteous and deserving Pagans could go for a bit - Limbo. I don't know whether they still do! Anyway, may all the Light, Joy, Beauty, and Truth of Christmas shine upon you.

And to Your Grace and his Communicants - thank you for your postings: and A Blessed Christmas and New Year to you all.

24 December 2008 at 16:12  
Blogger len.allan said...

Emmanuel- God with us.
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.
The sermon reveals the true heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Blessings to you your Grace and to all
your communicants.

24 December 2008 at 16:28  
Anonymous Cranmer's Curate said...

It was very gracious of ++Cranmer to allow me to occupy his pulpit on Christmas Eve. I would normally expect as curate to be given the 8 O'Clocks.

Tribute should be paid to this gentleman for the range of topics on which he writes authoritatively and on which he offers a clear Christian perspective.

His pulpit is a true bastion of Christian freedom of expression in this country.

24 December 2008 at 17:50  
Blogger Bob said...

Was just listening to "Carols from King's".

Although not religious it reminded me of how much I'd been brought up in the Christian tradition and how deep those carols resonate.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

24 December 2008 at 19:48  
Blogger PostEdt. said...

Good message. Politics and religions have put many faces on many stories, not just ones of our faith in "Our Father who art in Heaven", as Jesus Christ was heard.
I've tried to look back at many things of our faith from our messengers of Jesus Christ, whether its origins are from a Celtic, Jerusalem, more Eastern, or African; many may not know where there own practitioners have brought there scriptures from today. Something I heard recently of a Christmas carol, was a gift for me to find and listen, so I share it and hope the same for others, while not eluding the message.
On my YouTube station I call "I American" and describe "One of a kind, and don't know of how many."
Thee song : The Huron Carol

25 December 2008 at 00:19  
Blogger King Athelstan said...

A merry Christmas to Your Grace and all your communicants.

25 December 2008 at 01:37  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

I remember when this type of sermon at this time of year would be short and happy and remering absent loved or lost ones and those less fortunate than us.

But now we have this.

There used to be far more people going to church. I wonder why.

25 December 2008 at 08:40  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Santa's passed by and left me a little gift,a book,
'Why Were We Born?Essays on Life and Enlightenment'by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu Edited by Stephen A Evans.

Yuletide greetings everyone.

25 December 2008 at 09:22  
Blogger Tor Hershman said...

THIS song vo bis cum (Latin SP?)

Stay on groovin' safari,

25 December 2008 at 16:13  
Blogger Frugal Dougal said...

Your Grace,

I thought it was a very good sermon, as was Rector Pellegrina's at the Draughty Old Fen's Carols by Candlelight Service. I wish you and all your communicants a very merry Christmas and a good 2009.

I remain

Your Servant

Frugal Dougal
(Happy Yellow Dog of the Fens - by Appointment)

25 December 2008 at 21:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Programme for "A Festival of Nine Lessions and Carols" can be found here:

You should be able to listen to it again for the next few days here:

25 December 2008 at 21:44  
Anonymous No Nonny said...

Thanks very much, Anonymous. I'll use those links!

We had a nice Advent version of it here (States side-near a good Music School), and also a pretty midnight service last night. I was a bit sad that no one seemed to know how the words of 'In the Deep Midwinter' fit to the music - but glad, too, that the church was full.

But there's nothing like the Original.

Merry Christmas, again, to all.

26 December 2008 at 04:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Nonny - The pleasure is all mine

26 December 2008 at 15:51  
Blogger MARKY_UEA said...

Hi Cranmer, what are your thoughts on this latest Campagin/Video;

26 December 2008 at 17:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me that God chose to reveal himself to me. It cannot be properly described, but the nearest I can get to it is this:

Imagine a palette of colours. Imagine the primary colours, red, blue, yellow. Then, I tell you there is another primary, equally different to the others. You cannot imagine the actual colour, but you are aware of the idea of colours and that another, in theory can exist, that is somehow unavailable to your sense of sight.

I think God is in the same way, wholly similar and wholly different. It's one of the many antinomies that get revealed in some way when God looks in your direction.

Our arrogance, our insistence on being at the apogee of revelation has brought us to a sorry place in the evolution of man. And it is time to climb down and be humble.

26 December 2008 at 17:36  

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