Christmas Message 2016
Posted on the 25th Dec 2016 in the category Announcements
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2016
Yet again, the year that is ending has witnessed only a rise in the horrors of violence and its chaotic consequences. One of our Anglican hymns for Advent cries out to God:
Where is Thy reign of peace
and purity, and love?
When shall all hatred cease,
as in the realms above?
It is a prayer that will be repeated with great fervour this Christmas by refugees and displaced people, by wounded and bereaved people, by oppressed and abused and trafficked people, in cities and camps the world over, among them, unforgettably, Bethlehem itself. The same agony seems to lie behind Pope Benedict’s Christmas prayer of 2011: ‘O mighty God, we love your childlike presence: your powerlessness, your humility. Through you love triumphs. But we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we ask you: show your power, O God. Cause peace also to triumph in our time, in this world of ours.’
The agony that we feel as violence and chaos continue is simply the reverse side of the greatest good news of the season – that God has taken on our human form and raised it to glory. The Immortal Son of God has taken on our mortal flesh, so now the face of Christ has been revealed in all human beings. For the eyes of faith, the consequence of this fact is that no human form or face can hereafter be ignored or abused; and whenever those same eyes do see God’s image attacked and disfigured, they will weep all the more bitterly. Thus the strange fact is that what makes us most passionately glad and grateful at Christmas—the Christ child’s powerlessness and humility—is also what gives us the possibility of grieving as we should for the defacing of God’s image in the world. Let us trust that it also gives the Church the vision, the courage and the strength to go on working and praying for a world where God’s image in mankind—and indeed his presence in the whole created environment—is universally honoured and protected. Our transcendent and glorious Lord has bowed in loving respect to our fallen and failed human nature; as Christians we can do no other than imitate such loving respect.
I offer my warmest good wishes for Christmas, and my prayer that Christ, who renews our
trust and hope in this celebration, will remain close to you throughout the coming year.
+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet
Posted on the 10th Oct 2016 in the category Announcements
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Easter 2016 Easter Message
Posted on the 26th Mar 2016 in the category Announcements
“Since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Rom 6.8
St Paul tells us that Holy Baptism is the doorway to new life in a new creation – not because he believes that the rite of baptism is a kind of enchantment, but because it is the outward sign of our willingness, throughout our lives, to pass through the narrow door of death for the sake of gaining freedom and reconciliation with God our Father. Unless we are ready to let go of what we imagine makes us strong and secure, unless we are ready to hold on to God in Christ and allow him to give us his strength and security, we will remain anxious, weak and fearful — of God, of one another, of the world, and of the times we live in.
So much of the anxiety in the world is to do with our unwillingness to pass through this door, and our longing to hold on to our imagined security. The terrifying war and violence that are disfiguring so many nations, the reluctance to guarantee justice for the poorest, the desire to protect our own interests first, the irresponsibility with which we treat our environment – all these have roots in that state of being which is afraid to let go of immediate comforts and assurances. And all of them drive us deeper into unreality, into the denial of other people’s suffering and need, and the denial of the urgency of change.
But God promises us life in abundance through Jesus Christ – greater abundance than we could ever secure for ourselves by our own efforts. But wedded as we are to the world of rivalry and anxiety we do not yet know what that means. The journey of each baptised Christian is one in which we are slowly being helped - raised - by God, through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, to understand what true life with God is, and what its gifts and habits are.
As Christians, eastern and western, renew our baptismal promises this year at Easter my prayer is that we shall all be opened to what God has to tell us of this new life in a new creation, and that he may give us (individually and collectively) that special assistance which we call courage to let go of whatever holds us back from the death-to-myself that is the gate to life and truth and unity in Christ.
25 March 2016, Good Friday
Happy New Year – and the Year Ahead
Posted on the 6th Jan 2016 in the category Announcements
Christmas is completely fixed in our minds and our diaries on 25 December. But in any one year, depending on the date of Easter, many of the most important feasts of the Church’s year move. This year ‘pascha’ (a word that comes from the Hebrew word ‘pesakh’, or Passover – Easter) is on 27 March.
In ancient times before calendars and diaries (or even smartphones) were common, many people did not know very long in advance the dates of even the most important holy days of the new year – the days and celebrations that they would want to be part of, that were central to their faith in Jesus and to their communion with other Christians.
Thus in the western Christian tradition it became customary at Epiphany to announce publicly—normally by singing! —the new year’s holy dates after the reading of the Gospel.
In the age of the internet, this seems, then, a better way than most of wishing any visitors to this website fresh experiences of God’s grace, mercy and peace in 2016:
6 January 2016
The Gospel reading for the Epiphany (6 January)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Thanks be to God.
The Epiphany Proclamation:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Dear Friends:
We rejoice at the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Lord’s glory has shone upon us and shall always be visible among us, until the day of his return. So by leave of God's mercy we announce to you also the celebration of his Resurrection, who is our Saviour. From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.
The beginning of the holy fast of Lent, Ash Wednesday, will be 10 February.
We shall commemorate the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ – his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial and his rising – between the evening of the 24 March and the evening of 26 March, celebrating Easter Day with paschal joy on the 27 March.
On 5 May will be the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On 15 May, the feast of Pentecost.
On 26 May, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
On 27 November, the First Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As pilgrims in this world, we celebrate the death and resurrection of the Lord in the feasts of the Mother of God, the apostles, and the martyrs and saints of earlier times.
And with full hearts we bless him for the victory of his grace, his mercy and his peace in the hearts of the new martyrs of our own age across the world, and especially in the lands of his earthly life and of the most ancient churches.
To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of history and eternity, be endless praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
Christmas Message 2015
Posted on the 23rd Dec 2015 in the category Announcements
Yet again, the year that is ending has witnessed violence and tragedy around the world – in oppression, terrorism and war, and in actions of local prejudice and bigotry. Who can forget the images from Paris, or the tragic sight of the young child washed up on a Mediterranean beach? One of our Anglican hymns for Advent cries out to God:
Where is Thy reign of peace
and purity, and love?
When shall all hatred cease,
as in the realms above?
It is a prayer that will be repeated with great fervour this Christmas by refugees and displaced people, by wounded and bereaved people, the world over, especially in Paris, across Syria and Iraq, and, unforgettably, in Bethlehem.
But this agony that we feel—as violence, and the threat of more, and its consequences continue—is simply the reverse side of the great good news of this season: that God has taken on our human form and raised it to glory. The Immortal Son of God has taken on our mortal flesh, and now the face of Christ has been revealed in all human beings.
For the eyes of faith, the consequence of this fact is that no human form or face can hereafter be ignored or abused; and whenever those same eyes see God’s image attacked and disfigured, they will weep all the more bitterly. Thus the strange fact is that what makes us most passionately glad and grateful at Christmas is also what gives us the possibility of grieving as we should for the disfiguring of God’s image in the world. Let us trust that it also gives us the vision, the courage and the strength to go on working and praying for a world in which God’s image in mankind—but not only mankind, in the created environment also—is universally honoured and protected.
Our transcendent and glorious Lord has bowed in loving respect to our fallen and failed human nature; as Christians we can do no other than imitate such loving respect. As the carol has it, ‘O that Mary’s gentle child might lead us up to glory!’
May Christ, who renews our hope in this celebration, be with you throughout the whole of the coming year.