Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Love, joy and conflict at Christmas

St Andrew's Fairfield had a donkey at its service last Sunday; Hillsong will have camels. The Christmas story is certainly very picturesque: animals, angels, shepherds, wise men, and, in the middle of the crowd, a baby. It's easy to forget that this baby's mother was a young girl, whose response to pregnancy out of wedlock was to praise the God who overthrows the powerful and sends the rich away empty. It's easy to forget that the first people to worship at his cradle were shepherds: impoverished social outcasts and not the right sort of people at all; and the second lot were religious outsiders, foreigners who practiced the abominations of numerology and reading the stars. It's easy to forget that the baby grew up in occupied territories, sought asylum in Egypt, and returned to a new town after being warned not to go home. It's easy to forget that the prophecies surrounding his birth triggered the slaughter of many other young boys; and that his preaching and ministry were violently opposed right up until the cross.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christian Family Values

A particularly gorgeous Holy Family, from The Nativity by Julie Vivas
I was pottering around a local op shop last week; and while I was there, I overheard some pretty strong affirmations of Christian family values. It was clear to those chatting that, if we all lived like Christians, things would be a whole lot better than they are now. Families would stay together; kids would be properly disciplined; and no one would be on the dole.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sometimes even prophets struggle to understand

Who likes to play cops and robbers? Who likes to watch movies where the good guys win, and the baddies are made to look ridiculous, or are thrown into jail, or are blown into smithereens? Most of us love the idea that bad people are punished, and good people win. Even the prophet John liked the idea. As we just heard, he preached that someone was coming—Jesus—who would gather all the good people together, and would burn the rubbish with unquenchable fire. John’s preaching was so alarming that people came from all over the countryside to be baptised and to confess their sins. Yet John roared at some of them. He called them names—“You brood of vipers!”—and said that everyone who did not bear fruit, that is, everyone who did not live well according to God, would be chopped down with an axe and thrown into the fire. And the implication is that the axe, and the fire, are God’s punishment.
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