I don't usually go in for chatty personal stuff, but being the "season of goodwill" and all that, I thought I'd make an exception. I would like to wish all my regular and new readers alike a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. I'm quite a new blog-head and I entered blog-land with some trepidation, thinking, "Will I be wasting my time posting all this stuff - who's going to read it anyway?" To my surprise I've been getting a regular stream of visitors, mainly from the US, UK and Germany. Some of the comments have been weird and a bit spooky, others helpful and encouraging, still others have expressed outraged disagreement. But that's cyberspace, where the wacky and the wise collide, creating the sparks that make blogging such an interesting thing to do.
This has been an eventful year for me, the second of my pastorate here in Wiltshire. We have seen many encouragements in the Churches I serve with new people coming along, a conversion and baptisms. I finally finished by BA (Hons) degree. My thesis was on "The meaning and significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ" and I've published some of it on the blog.
I wouldn't be any kind of preacher if I did not remind you, dear reader, of the meaning of Christmas, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, to destroy the works of the devil," (1 John 3:8.) That was my text for this morning. The devils' works - his lies, murder and accusation of the brethren have been destroyed by the Son of God. Though his holy life, sacrificial death and resurrection, Christ has defeated Satan. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. "Who is he that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:5.) As the Truth he destroyed the devil's lies. As the Life who died and rose again, he destroyed Satan's murderous designs. The accuser of the brethren is cast out of heaven because Christ bore the penalty for our sin. We overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12: 9 & 10).
This afternoon at our 4pm Carol Service, I preached on Matthew 2:3, "When king Herod heard this [the news of Jesus' birth] he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him." There was more trouble than expected when one of our candle decorations caught fire during the sermon and had to be exstinguished! This reminded me of one of R. S. Thomas' haunting poems "The Chapel",
But here once on an evening like this,
in the darkness that was about
his hearers, a preacher caught fire
and burned steadily before them
with a strange light, so that they saw
the splendour of the barren mountains
about them and sang their amens
fiercely, narrow but saved
in a way that men are not now.
(From R. S. Thomas Collected Poems 1945-1990)
Oh that both preacher and people would catch fire - the fire of the Holy Spirit upon the proclamation of the gospel!