Monthly Archives: December 2015

Has Jesus left the Church?

I have deliberately made the title vague. It can be taken in a number of ways.

I have just been observing the lead up to Christmas and Christmas itself in Europe. In some places like Seville there was a Christmas market which only sold items for nativity sets. In another few markets I could have bought gloves, scarves and solar panels to do me for a few lifetimes. There has been a mixture of the sacred and secular. All in all, the secular wins.

But Christmas is only a microcosm of society’s attitude to faith and religion in general. So little of the Christ of Christmas remains but that is true of life in general.

So has Christ left the church, in the sense that even the church has left the Christ of Christmas tucked away in some small corner? We sing the carols, attend church for the one time in the year but they are empty tokens. How many sermons were preached this Christmas that declared a radical Christ who introduced a new kingdom through his own death and resurrection? How many sermons declared Christ’s own words, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” That politically incorrect statement comes from the Messiah and is unpopular in many churches today. The cute baby in in a feed trough is easier to speak about and certainly less confronting.

But there is an even scarier perspective. Christ withdrawing himself, not unlike the Shekinah leaving the temple in Ezekiel. Christ leaving because the people who bear his name do do so thoughtlessly. I know he says in Matt 28 that he will be with his disciples to the end of the age but that was on the basis of their continued faith (not perfection).

The radical Christ, the counter cultural Christ, the Christ of a new and everlasting kingdom, the Christ who purchased the lives of his people on the cross and is now preparing a place in eternity for them, the Christ who dwells in his people through the Holy Spirit, the Christ who fought injustice and prejudice, the Christ who tells us that this life is only a brief pilgrimage … He is so hard to find in many churches and many western lives. Alas in my own life.

Has Jesus left the church? Only if we, his representatives on earth, have left him. In our syncretititic and politically correct age we need need to have the courage of the one who gave us his name to stand up to the culture and attitudes of our age and reveal how amazing his message really is. This Christmas have we been overawed and amazed that God became one of us because He loved us so much? Have we been humbled by his claim on our lives? Are we rejoicing in the revelation of His kingdom?

 

A nativity scene in a side chapel at Caen Cathedral

  

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, Faith | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

A Boy, a Camera and a Church

The following is an observation by my wife: 

 There he was, a boy of 5 or 6 years, standing alone in front of the altar. He danced a little, twisting this way and that, and then he stood perfectly still and raised the camera to his eyes and snapped. His parents quietly moved around the cathedral as the dozens of other visitors were doing. They must have been watching him, but they never interfered with his discoveries and his picture taking.
The cathedral was nothing but the usual Spanish Catholic variety; we had seen many like it. But it was new for this lad and whatever his eye saw was quickly recorded with his camera. The altar table, the decorative railings, the statues, the windows, the tourists.
I wondered and pondered on this for a while. 
A child discovering the church in his own way. 

A child finding the gospel in a language he knows and understands.

A child making memories and questions.

Parents letting go of their child enough to facilitate this.

A church full of images and symbols and furniture to capture a child.

A camera. Technology that a child can use.
How can we – parents, and faith communities – symbolically give our children a camera in the church?

What does it take to open their eyes and hearts to the Gospel?
  

Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian | Tags: , | 3 Comments

The Tragedy of Christmas

We have been watching the build up to Christmas in Europe. Our first sighting, apart from the supermarkets, came in Seville in Spain where there were stalls selling items for your own individual nativity scene, not just with the usual characters but a whole host of buildings, bridges, windmills, wells and etc. The Christmas markets in Northern Europe have been more intent on selling stuff – socks to solar panels.
The same sound track seems to play in all the malls. Riding together in with sleigh bells and ” Santa Baby”. The U.K. has an added history of awful Christmas hits that must played.
Christmas cards and tree ornaments have appeared, then the trees arrived and now the prices are being reduced as we get closer to the day. In Holland the Oliebollen kraams appear and my heart flutters. Even the boats in Harlingen are festooned with lights.
In the midst of the Santas, reindeers and fake snow we have observed some beautiful nativity scenes. One cathedral had set aside a side chapel and created a beautiful life sized nativity. The Notre Dame in Paris has a strange tall well lit model building with the Holy family in the middle. What it signified remains a total mystery to me. In Dordrecht there was a confused looking “Mary” wandering about a pen of animals holding a baby in a “this Christmas market is taking far too long” manner.
If I arrived from outer space knowing little about planet earth what impression would I get? I would be in no doubt about it being holiday, food and family time. However, the idea that Christians were celebrating the incarnation of their God who would die on the cross to restore His people with their eternal father is lost in the dross. I like food and holidays and even family, but the tragedy is that the heart of the season is missing. I may be mistaken but it seems that every year a bit more of the heart goes missing.

   
 

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Hope In The Valley of Madness

If you have any grasp of history one cannot but be sobered by driving through the Somme Valley. The list of military cemeteries, some large, some small, is horrific. Each grave in each cemetery is a testament to lost dreams, lost potential and human foolishness.
In one small town, Villers-Bretonneux, there is an example of hope persevering over madness. When soldiers returned after the Great War they instigated an appeal from the children in Victorian schools to rebuild the school in Villers-Bretonneux. It took a while but a school was finally built in 1927. Their contribution is not forgotten. A big sign in the school states “Do not forget Australia”. The town has many references to Victoria and Australia: The “La Melbourne Cafe”, the twinning of towns with Robinvale are just two. Even Melbourne and Victoria are both street names. The local WW1 museum has large photos of Victorian icons.
In this valley of madness there is a small declaration of the better aspects of humanity. It was good to see the children playing in the school yard. Let us pray that there is no Somme Valley for them.

  

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