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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Congratulations on being amongst the 13% of people in Britain going to church this Christmas morning. That's nearly 8 million people, but according to a news report earlier this month the average British Christmas today goes a bit differently. A survey across 4000 families showed the following average timings for Christmas Day. 8.19 – open presents (it used to be 5.30 in ours); 8.39 – first bite of chocolate; 9.57 – first family row; 11.48 – first alcoholic drink; 3.24 – Christmas dinner (I thought it was just vicars!); 4.58 – first person falls asleep. And so on.
It's all very family-centred. We do our best to be together on Christmas day, even if there are lots of family tensions around. And the whole advertising of Christmas is predicated on the image of happy families gathered around the dining table or the Christmas tree. But there's another side to Christmas. 50,000 young people will be 'homeless' at Christmas, having left home or been thrown out of home for a whole range of dysfunctionalities. The number of Big Issue sellers in Oxford city centre yesterday told its own story too. The other side of Christmas is homelessness.
But that's part of the Christmas story too. The well-worn Christmas narrative tells of a God who lets himself be homeless in a fragile world. There are two expressions of that homelessness. The first is the picture we're all used to of a vulnerable family for whom there's no room at the inn, and who have to be packed off to the stable round the back. Of course, we don't know that it was a stable – it's the Nativity plays that say that, the gospels don't. It's most likely that the place was a cave behind a house or an inn. Indeed the Greek word used for inn 'kataluma' usually refers to the upper guest room of a family house. It may be that there was no room for Mary because it was a family house (Joseph's family perhaps) and the room was already full because of other family visitors who'd come for the census. Mary therefore had to go to the warm cave at the back of the house where the animals were kept. So it's a cave, not a stable, that we see under the Church of the Nativity today.
But whatever the actual place, there was no room in the 'kataluma', the ordinary, civilized places. Jesus was homeless.
Read the whole thing.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics
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