Carol Service Sermon for Townsend School

It’s so easy at this time of the year to get caught up in the ‘Christmas Spirit’. We all have our favourite parts of Christmas, those parts that we look forward to the most.

We had our toddler service this morning with the Abbey’s big white teddy bear, predictably named, Abbey Bear. And we asked the tots what parts of Christmas they enjoy the most.

I’d like to see if you agree with their list, so put your hand up when I call out something you are especially looking forward to this Christmas.

  • All the chocolates you get to eat.
  • The parities
  • The music and carols
  • Decorating the tree
  • Spending time with family
  • The presents
  • Eating huge amounts of Christmas dinner

There are so many things to enjoy about this season, and its good that we have so many things during these cold and wet days to look forward to. But at the same time, it’s

really easy to get so distracted by the glitter and sparkle of this season that we can forget what it’s really all about.

We need to remember that Christmas is a birthday celebration.

It’s the time we get to celebrate being given the greatest gift of all. A gift that will not wear out, or break, or needs batteries changing. It’s the time we celebrate God coming down to earth, to live with us and as one of us.

We’ve just heard, read so well, the story of Jesus, starting with the predictions from Isaiah, 800 years before his birth going right through that story we all know so well. Angels, Shepherds, Wise men and donkeys.

I want you to think for a moment of what that really means. What does it mean that God sent Jesus to be born a human?

Thanks to the Victorians, we’re given a particular image of Jesus at this time of year of him being sweet Jesus, meek and mild, no crying or screaming. We don’t often think about the man that this quiet angelic child will turn into.

The man who walked purposefully from town to town, village to village, community to community teaching people about

  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Fairness
  • Forgiveness
  • Truth
  • Love
  • Charity
  • Hospitality
  • Generosity
  • Faithfulness
  • Healing
  • Unity

This baby will grow up to argue with religious leaders and public officials so that the poor aren’t ripped off, so the sick can be helped, that the hungry will be fed and those with nothing would be given the things they need.

But we are quick to forget this.

We forget that he called and asked us to do these things in our lives as well.

But we’re easily distracted.

How often do we think about those that today, right now, are poor, lonely, sick, or dying.

If our celebrations at this time of year are only about the tinsel, turkey and presents, then our celebration is hollow and empty.

Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate the birth of Jesus among us by making a special effort to demonstrate some of those qualities in our lives?

We’re still in the season f Advent. We’re in week 3 of 4 in our time of preparation. And it’s a time, not only to buy our gifts and party, but it’s also a time we can prepare ourselves and make ourselves ready.

In the time we have left before Christmas, think about whether you are prepared to celebrate a real Christmas, or a hollow festival of tinsel?

Are you ready to meet Jesus when he comes?

Are you able to celebrate Christmas by letting others see God working through you, and showing those qualities in your life that we taught us about?

How are you going to celebrate this Christmas?


A sermon for Epiphany – 1st Draft

Not the finished product, but its a start.


Some of you – if you have a good memory – will remember this word – Ubuntu.

It can in part of a story I told about some children in Africa which I told last July, There was an anthropologist who was living and studying the tribe, their customs and behaviours, and as he was leaving he piled up all the sweets and goodies he had left and told the children they would have a race and the winner would get all the goodies, However, instead of all the children racing to the sweets, they all joined hands and went together, and shared out the goodies at the end.

The anthropologist was surprised and asked them why they all went together, when one could have had it all for themselves?

A girl replied, Ubuntu – how can one of us be happy when they others are sad?

How can one of us be happy when the others are sad?

Ubuntu us a term for that humanness, that caring, sharing part of our nature who wants to be in harmony with each other.

And it is a term I’ve been thinking about particularly over these first few days of the New Year.

We all start the New Year with the best intentions. Many make resolutions in the hope that we can make this new year better, fitter, richer, happier. Bit this year feels different from other New Years.

Living and being in such close communities, I don’t think a single one of us can feel unaffected by some of the things that have happened in this area of over these few short days.

Whether it is the loss of young life in a car crash, the effects of the storms what have made so many flee their homes and causing such destruction, the loss of the life washed up on Black Rock Sands, or those others who have lost jobs, and homes and businesses over this season. In community – when one is affected, we are all affected.

Ubuntu – how can one be happy when the others are sad?

For so many in our community, old and young alike – it will be hard for them to see the road ahead with any clarity or where to go next.

Where do you turn to when you feel lost and without direction?


The Wise Men turned to the scriptures, for their answer, and the stars for their direction.

We don’t know much about the Magi, thse wise men, the three kings from the orient.

There may have been more than three, we don’t know exactly where exactly where they came from, or when exactly they visited Jesus.

But, in our case, I don’t think the details are important.

What is important is that they made that journey.

They saw the signs, left their familiar surroundings, to a place of uncertainty, and discovered something new and wonderful.

What they found literally changed the direction of their lives.

St Matthew puts it: “They returned home by another way”, The old way, the familiar path no longer worked, they needed a different path, a different way of going forward.

Epiphany is about discovering.

The star the sign they followed to find what they were searching for. The source of salvation.

Our readings are full of references to light.

“Rise up in splendour, Jerusalem” Isaiah cries out, “Your light has come. The glory of the Lord shines upon you.”

There, in those verses, is a sense of being saved, of relief, of deliverance and of hope.

The excitement of the magi comes through in our scriptures, and also I think a sense of relief. We are told: “They were overjoyed at seeing the star”.

For us today, this story is about making the journey – changing direction, going into the unknown, and finding something, or someone to rejoice about.

It’s about finding those signs which will lead us to what we are looking for. Finding them, trusting them and following them.

It’s about what happens to those who are searching and those who encounter Christ.

And whether we realise it or not, its about a kind of conversion.

          It’s about finding another way of walking the journey of life. A way that has been transformed by a sign, by a star, by a light, by Jesus Himself.

Next week we celebrate the baptism of Christ, and swiftly following that we will slip into Ordinary time, the season of Christmas a memory.

But before it does we are asked to do something first.

The season ask us to begin a journey.

To find a sign.

To follow the light.

And then like the wise men, to bring what we have, our gifts and share them – with God and with each other.

As we share in what our community is going through, we can bring our gifts and the spirit of Ubuntu with us.

It may be as simple as a smile to someone you meet in Fox’s or London House.

It might be a tissue – or a panad.

It might be a prayer and a lit candle.

It might be a helping hand with cleaning or repairs –

We are all called to journey personally with God and as a community, and to do that there are certain things we must do.

If you have not made a resolution yet, it is not too late, especially when there is so much need within our community. Use your gift, follow the sign and do what you can for yourself, or community, and the Lord who can to bring us light and salvation.


Jesus says ‘‘fear not – it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom of Heaven’.

Jesus says ‘‘fear not – it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom of Heaven’.

God wants to give us the very best things in life. The greatest thing which we should be searching and longing for. But do we have the time? Do we give God the space in our lives? Do we give Him the time? Does it fit into our busy lives?

God wants to give us his kingdom, that place where joy, happiness, peace, freedom, kindness exists continually. But do we make the time to accept this gift? And if not, why not?

A Story of Priorities
A man had some sand, which represented those small trivial things in life, some pebbles which represented those more important things, and then some rocks, which represented those most important, those crucial things in life.

He got a jar, and started by putting all those insignificant small things in, the sand, then he put those more important things in, the pebbles, and finally topped it off with the rocks, but found that the rocks didn’t fit. These was no room for those most important things.

He took a second jar, and started off by putting in the rocks, starting off with those most important things, secondly the pebbles, and finally the sand the trivial. By prioritising he was able to fit everything in, but when we get things in the wrong order, we miss out on the best.

The Kingdom is ours, but do we have time to receive it? Do we keep our lives so full and busy in the trivial things, that we miss out on what counts, we have no time to sit, and be still before our God, we don’t have time to pray,or read the scriptures, we don’t have time to be a part of the church,the body of Christ?

Are we too busy?
Do we miss out on the most important things in life?
Do we truly know the love, joy and peace in our friendships?
Do we pray?
Do we read the scriptures regularly?
Do we find time to meet with members of the one body?

If not, do we have our priorities right?