Wednesday, 30 November 2016


December 2016

Some people are missing.  The shepherds are all in place with their tea-towel head-dresses and their soft-toy sheep, three kings with gold card crowns are waiting off-stage for their cue, the innkeepers are ready with their unwelcoming replies, and Joseph and Mary and the pantomime donkey are approaching.  But shouldn’t Herod’s soldiers be here somewhere, brandishing swords with which to carry out the terrible massacre of the young boys in Bethlehem? 

We understand why they are usually left out of the story in children’s nativity plays.  (Perhaps we need some adult versions too!)  But there are good reasons not to forget that the soldiers are very definitely part of the story in Matthew’s Gospel.

Firstly, they reconnect the sugary child’s version with the world that we really live in and that Jesus was really born into.  Tragically, children are all too often the victims of the self-centred actions of adults – whether caught in the crossfire of warring militias, caught in the crossfire of warring parents, or discarded before they are even born.

Secondly, the soldiers remind us that the violence of our world was directed against Jesus Christ himself.  From Herod’s attempt to kill him at birth, to the Jewish leaders’ later death plots and the Roman authorities’ collusion with their wishes, Jesus Christ was in the firing line.

In fact, Jesus came into our world knowing full well that this would happen, that the whole world would oppose him and crush him and that he would absorb in his own body all the guilt and the horrifying  consequences of our hostility towards him and his Father .

Amazingly, Jesus, knowing how we would treat him, still came. 

Wonderfully, the Father did not consult us (there was no referendum or presidential election) when he decided that Jesus should then prevail over his opponents and be installed as the permanent ruler of the whole world:

“Unto us a boy is born!
King of all creation,
came he to a world forlorn,
the Lord of every nation,
the Lord of every nation.”

You will be warmly welcome at any of our services, at Christmas or at any other time.

Happy Christmas!

Graham Burrows

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Who is serving who?

November 2016

‘Our customers always come first’, ‘Serving you 24 hours a day’, ‘Our mission is to serve’.  Businesses like to tell us that they exist to serve our needs and not theirs, although we suspect that’s not the whole story.  And sadly it can be the customers who do all the giving and serving but have very little to show for it.

Churches also have ‘Services’ – but who, exactly, is being served?  Perhaps a ‘Sunday Service’ serves God?  The congregation gives to God praise, or time, or money.  We do our bit to boost the singing or to make the coffee afterwards.  Or perhaps it is the vicar who is being served – poor guy, he needs some people to make his work seem worthwhile!

But actually it is the other way round; the main player is not us, but God.  ‘Divine Service’ (as a church service is sometimes called) is not ‘service rendered to God’ but ‘God’s service to people’. Whatever small part our serving plays, it is dwarfed by the giving and serving of the great giver, whose Son told people that he had “come not to be served but to serve.”

In a Church Service, the Lord God invites us to meet with him and to reconnect with him.  He bandages our wounds, forgives our rebellion, puts us back on our feet, tells us the (painful) truth plainly, renews our hope, gives us a song to sing, builds us up, restores us to our right mind and sends us out at the end knowing what our lives are for. 

But what if you say, “I don’t need God to serve me!”?  Peter felt the same when he saw that Jesus had wrapped a towel round himself and was about to get down on the floor and wash Peter’s smelly, dusty feet.  "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."


Graham Burrows