The journey that goes via the cross

Within the walls of St Paul’s Cathedral, you will see two large white crosses that, viewed from a distance, seem somewhat uneven. As you move close to them, the reason for their irregular nature becomes clear.

Woven into the arms of the crosses are intricate models of settlements, both contemporary and historical, that have been decimated by conflict. The twin sculptures by London artist Gerry Judah (pictured) sit at the very head of the nave and, at more than six metres high, they are imposing; strikingly so.

The installations portray the brutal realities of war fixed upon an instrument of death. It’s a powerful image and one that reminds me, yet again, that the cross of Jesus is at once both a place of unspeakable brutality and a symbol of life and peace.

Judah’s twin sculptures were installed in 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. But in an attempt to bring the memorials up to date, Judah stuck townscapes, reminiscent of scenes from Syria and Afghanistan, on the cruciforms.

Those in charge of the cathedral have been thrilled with the end result. Canon Mark Oakley said the sculptures “provoke us into interrogating the present world and the landscapes we casually view on the news every day.”

As I write, we are still in the season of Lent but Easter comes early this year and we will soon face, once again, the realities of our Lord’s cross and all that it means for us in being a place of peace and reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom and new hope.

But our thoughts and reflections on the reality of the cross will count little if we leave them stuck two thousand years ago in 1st century Palestine. Like Judah’s crosses, the task each and every year, each and every day, is to re-imagine and re-appropriate the truth of the cross into our world and our own lives.

The empty cross is particularly symbolic of Easter Sunday and Jesus rising from the grave. The cross is empty because Christ is no longer dead but eternally risen.

So often the cross we might find in a church is smooth, plain and unmarked. Sanitised even. But the reality was that the empty cross of Christ would bear the puncture marks of the nails that had been driven through hands and feet into the rough wood. It would be stained by the blood and sweat of its victim. They were crudely and roughly made without much concern for their quality and no concern for comfort.

The Judah sculptures in St Paul’s Cathedral remind us once again that even if the world still hurts and bleeds on a daily basis, the answer to that pain takes its journey to eternal life through the cross, through suffering and death and only then do we reach the hope of new life and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

David Green

Getting ready for Lent

Ash Wednesday graphicWith Lent on the horizon and Ash Wednesday approaching on February 10, try to think of Lent not as the annual de-tox where we get miserable and take away all the fun.

Lent is about personal conversion leading to Easter. It’s supposed to be an opportunity to grow in faith.

Sometimes, that means giving something up but it should be about abstaining from the things that hold us back from God, not the things that hold you back from fitting into those trousers or that dress! Because it’s a chance to grow in faith, sometimes it means taking something on. So, why not challenge yourself this year.

Could one of these ideas help you grow in God this Lent?

  1. How about trying to live by this motto – Fast, Pray, Give. For example, could you fast from electronic devices for an unbroken period of 24 hours once every seven days, contemplate and pray for the 1.6 billion people in the world who have no electricity and spend the extra time you’ve saved on a face-to-face interaction with someone who means alot to you (give)?
  2. Make a commitment to be in church every Sunday of Lent. In a world where patterns of church attendance are changing and most of us aren’t there every single week, you can sometimes lose the flow of a season. Make a special effort to be present.
  3. Make a commitment to reading the Sunday readings before Sunday. In the same way that we bone up on football players, or celebrity news, or stock market fluctuations, reading up will allow you to experience the readings in a deeper way on Sunday.
  4. Sit down with your bank statement and add up where your money goes over the course of a month. How much is spent on food, clothes, and petrol? How much are you spending on takeaways or coffee? What do you give to charity or to church? Are you remembering to have fun with people that are special to you? Where your treasure is, there too is your heart.
  5. If you work with a computer, at the start of the day (or the end of the day), make the first or last website and try the 10 minute prayer exercise that you will find there. It’s based on the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius.
  6. Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest gospel, it is the most concise  and the cross, a central symbol of Lent, plays a more prominent role than in other gospels.
  7. Turn off your iPod or car radio on the commute. The silence may be jarring at first, but you may find you become more observant of what’s going on around you.
  8. Join one of our House Groups or attend one of the Lent courses. It’s great to learn from one another’s insights as we look at Scripture and they are great places to get support and a sense of community.
  9. Try Christian meditation. Sit comfortably, with back straight and hands on your knees. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. As you breathe in deeply, speak quietly “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”. Hold your breath a moment and then breathe out as you say “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Try it for five minutes. If you get the hang of that, try ten.
  10. Have you ever asked for Confession? It’s not just a Catholic thing. Talk to me and ask me to guide you through it.

David Green

How is your countdown going?

David and the BBC Radio Kent Sunday Panel with host Phil Harrison

The BBC Radio Kent Sunday Panel on 6 December

Our Minister David Green read The Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Kent’s Sunday Panel on Sunday 6 December.

It is nearly here. How is your countdown going?

Do you have a calendar where you tick off the days inching ever closer? Have you decided yet where you are going to be, and who you are going to be with? Perhaps, like my children, you’ve been discussing your outfit for the big day.

Has it all passed you by, and all you want is to get the other end of all this discussion and activity in one piece? Or have you been scouring the heavenlies of the Internet for hints of what is to come, signs of all that you hold in your heart and in your imagination?

I started my countdown three years ago when George Lucas sold his intellectual property to Disney. Last year, I watched the first trailer with my children and a tear in my eye.

Now, I can almost taste it. In just eleven days time, I will clutch my already purchased tickets and sit down with my family to watch the new Star Wars movie.

Like many other children of my generation, I grew up with Star Wars. I was four years old when the first film was released and, in so many ways, my childhood was Star Wars. I hope the Bishop isn’t listening, but when I became an ordained Priest in the Church of England it was kind of second-choice behind becoming a Jedi. At least the robes look a bit similar.

I am full of expectation… waiting for the curtains to draw back and that familiar music to begin and perhaps particularly excited to share that experience with my children who are now as wide-eyed for a galaxy far, far away as I was in the seventies and the eighties.

But as a Christian minister, I have reflected on why I’m so excited for this movie while I view Christmas with a sense of trepidation, as many Ministers will right now. Loads of services that need to be prepared and sermons that need to be written.

The difference, I’ve concluded, is about frequency. I get to enjoy Advent and Christmas every year. Meanwhile, I’ve been starved of Star Wars movies for a decade and good Star Wars movies for even longer. Maybe I would value Christmas more if, like the Narnians of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I had been in that situation where it was always winter, but Christmas never seemed to come.

This Sunday in my churches, we will light the second Advent candle on our wreath and remember those prophets of the Hebrew Bible who had no annual Christmas celebration. It was all still future tense for them. But nevertheless, they were waiting and hoping and expecting God to act, and even when nothing seemed to be happening, they kept the faith.

They scoured the heavenlies for hints of what was to come, and saw signs of what they knew in their hearts and imaginations to be true – that the Lord was on his way, that salvation was at hand. They wrote about it, sang about it, dreamed of a better day and finally received their answer.

I hope you are able to make time to watch prayerfully and wait expectantly this Advent. It’s my prayer for us all today that we not blast helter-skelter into Christmas like an X-Wing pelting down the Death Star trench. It’s my prayer instead that this would be a holy time. That we would have time for reflection and thanksgiving, a time to weed out anything that hinders our spiritual growth.

So enjoy your Advent, and perhaps I’ll see you in the queue.

David Green

Back to the Future

If you were a child of the 1980s like me, you will be very aware that in the 1985 film Back to the Future, the hero Marty McFly and his wise mentor Doc Brown travelled back and forth in time. The second film of that movie trilogy was newsworthy this month as, in that film, Marty and Doc Brown visited the 21st of October 2015!

Let’s not pretend that Back to the Future II’s vision of the future resembles our world in any meaningful way but they did get some things right. Flying drones, flat screen TVs and tech-enabled glasses are with us, and technically-speaking we do have actual hoverboards. Meanwhile Nike have engineered a limited edition run of self-tying trainers to celebrate the film’s ‘anniversary’ and Michael J Fox was given the very first pair! On the other hand, we definitely don’t have fusion-powered appliances that can use rubbish for fuel, or flying cars with motorway signs in the sky.

Having lived through that film’s vision of the future (and loved it), it’s interesting now to reflect on what we have gained and what we have lost since 1985, what we anticipated correctly, and what we couldn’t foresee.

How has life changed for you in the last thirty years? Could you see it coming? I hope there have been positives to go with the negatives, and that you can see a divine fingerprint at work in the graces and blessings of life.

A photo of Ralph Abernathy

Ralph Abernathy

Ralph Abernathy was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, a Christian minister and a close friend of Dr Martin Luther King. He once said “I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future.”

If we could fast-forward another 30 years to 2045, I can’t even begin to imagine what our world would look like. I hope we will have learnt to take care of our planet to ensure it is a thriving and sustainable home for the children and their children. I suspect the outlandish claims of sci-fi with flying cars, colonies on the moon or perhaps ‘virtual’ Vicars may not be anywhere close; progress is always gradual and blended with remnants of the past. A cursory look around any home will tell you that with its mix of new technology and old wallpaper, an antique clock next to an iPad. But I do know that my Christian convictions in a God of eternity give me hope that, whether life brings me joy or sadness, tragedy or triumph, I will walk the path in the company of One who holds me and my future securely.

This month in church, it’s Memorial season and also Kingdom season. Remembrance Sunday, and special services on the 1st and 3rd of November give different groups of people time to remember the past and, especially, loved ones who are no longer with us; those who served and fought for us, loved ones who have died and babies and children who left us too soon. But it’s done in the context of Kingdom season – a time when we look forward to God’s Kingdom come and we anticipate our home in heaven.

We look back in order to look to God’s future. I hope you may join me in prayer and worship, at one or more of those services, in order to do the same.

David Green

Congratulations to Her Majesty

“I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”

The first televised Queen’s Speech, Christmas Day 1957

Last month, on Wednesday the 9th of September, HM Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-serving British monarch in history. Just that sentence sink in for a moment.

We have all sorts of news every day. Vast chunks of it are inconsequential and quickly forgotten. Inflation rises or falls, this celebrity or that is caught inflagrante, a footballer joins a new team declaring that this move was always ‘his dream’ while forgetting he also said that about the team he just left. But our current Queen has now outlasted every King and Queen in our history. Queen Victoria and George III, Henry VIII and her namesake Elizabeth I. Giants of our history, learnt about in our schools and dates memorised, now bested in our own day and age.

Her Majesty has sat down each week with a total of twelve different Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron, and known US Presidents from Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

Her first public duties as a teenager came during the Second World War and has spoken movingly of VE day and celebrating VE day on Whitehall anonymously amongst the crowds with her sister Margaret. From the Beatles to a Man on the Moon, Martin Luther King to Mother Teresa, Vietnam and 1970s oil crises, Margaret Thatcher, Gorbachev and the Berlin Wall, Ethiopian famine, Nelson Mandela, from vinyl to MP3 downloads, microwaves to mobile phones and the Internet, Oasis and Blur, conflicts from the Falklands to Afghanistan, she has served through it all.

I appreciate not everyone is a monarchist. At St Mary’s, we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 with a book of good wishes that was open to the whole of West Malling to sign and the book was subsequently sent to Buckingham Palace. Some anonymous comments were harsh, insulting and without grace. I entirely understand those who cannot agree with a system that assigns leadership and privilege on the basis of birth, even if I would contend that was not the time or place to say so.

As a Church of England minister, at my ordination I was asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the Sovereign and I take that vow seriously. But I also understand very well those who struggle with our system of national leadership. I doubt, if we were starting from scratch today on a blank slate, whether we would do it as we do.

Some may indeed struggle to see past her role as undeserved privilege. However, I tend to think of it as an enormous burden. To be told that you have no choice in who you will be or what you will live out, to never retire, to have your movements and utterances constantly monitored and reported. It may be a gilded cage, but a cage it most certainly remains.

Regardless of our views on the system of monarchy, I would hope that what we can all agree that the particular person of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has served our nation faithfully and diligently beyond all expectation and admiration, and throughout this article I have used the word ‘serve’ deliberately. Some may describe it as a ‘reign’, but to live as she has lived with her quiet manner and unassuming style has been an act of service to our country in the best traditions of Christian leadership, and I am thankful for it.

David Green

Prends une pause

Our family’s Summer holiday in France this year pulled me up short when I experienced an ordinary French Sunday. In a nation generally considered to be ‘post-Christian’ where church attendance amongst a French is roughly a derisory tenth of what it is here in the UK, society stops on Sundays. Shops shut, families gather, people rest.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Chancellor’s most recent Budget suggested the opposite – an overhaul of Sunday trading to help shops stay open longer in pursuit of a 24/7 society.

Now before you switch off and assume this reflection is just another Vicar making a tired case for keeping Sunday special so that people can attend church, let me head you off at the pass and say that it’s not. Of course, it’s always good if people want to be present in church on a Sunday when we gather for worship, but when I read about the proposed changes, church attendance is not my primary concern. Over the last couple of decades, patterns of church attendance have been changing anyway and midweek activities and services, Bible study groups and discipleship courses all provide a range of options for those with a Christian faith who have to work on Sundays.

My concern is about what it means to be human and what helps us to flourish. The changes to Sunday trading are being presented as being of benefit to High Streets, and I’m very keen to see West Malling’s High Street shops and businesses flourish. A good local economy is part of what it means to see human beings living life well. The Government’s aim sounds noble; after all, the dairy farmers are struggling to produce milk and stay competitive. The supermarkets need limiting. High Streets need encouraging.

But, as Bishop Nick Baines frames the question, are we a market economy or have we become a market society? In other words, do we want to define our society and community solely in economic terms? I do hope not.

I think there is a fight and a discussion here that is worth having. Rather than just resigned acceptance of the inevitable march of consumer culture, we need to talk about the society we want to be. My experience in France has confirmed for me that whether you are religious or not, we are created with a need for rest. A recent newspaper article noted that we are not sleeping enough and health issues are rising because of a lack of rest and a lack of sleep. The French seem to understand that very well. We are not born in order to shop or to work all day every day.

During the Olympics in 2012, I made a point of speaking to shop workers who were being asked to work longer hours on Sundays for a temporary period. Every single person of those I spoke to were glad of the overtime, but they were also glad it was only temporary. They liked a shorter day on Sundays and being able to see their family. They wanted it to be a different kind of day and for it to create a sense of rhythm to their week.

If we truly wanted a 24/7 society, we would do away with the weekend entirely and work all week every week. I am pretty sure that kind of horrific suggestion would get pretty short shrift. So if we accept that there’s more to life than work and business and the economy, if we accept that we need time off and rest from whatever it is that we do, then at what point do we want to set some limits on ourselves?

I hope that we might want to say to one another ‘Actually, this is important. Family time is important. Rest is important. Play is important. Space to smell the roses and enjoy a walk is important. I am happy to forego the ability to pop to the shop one day a week. I want all of that because I want to have a sense of genuine rest each and every week, and I want my family, and the rest of this society of which I am a part to enjoy genuine rest too.’

David Green

Let’s sit down for a meal

A photo of the Vicar's kitchen tableBefore my first daughter was born, my wife and I attended NCT childbirth classes with seven other couples. Some of those couples became good friends and for one of the couples, their relationship with us led to a discovery of faith. Karen found faith in Jesus through completing an Alpha course. We run something similar here in our Cluster called Emmaus. Her husband read The God Delusion and came to faith; probably not what Richard Dawkins intended. I am very proud to be a godfather to their two boys.

Recently, Karen gave a TEDx talk in Tunbridge Wells entitled ‘The Importance of Eating Together’. With her newfound faith shaping her decisions, a few years ago Karen gave up work in London and started working for a Christian charity in Tunbridge Wells that, amongst other things, works with a women’s shelter in the town.

In Karen’s talk which you can watch below, she describes how when a woman was finally re-homed and set-up for the future, Karen would invite that woman (and her children if she had children) for a meal with her own family to celebrate. What she quickly discovered was that for many of these women, often young, rebuilding their lives after damaging or abusive relationships and sometimes with babies or young children in tow, sitting down for a meal at a table with a family was a completely new experience for them.

Karen has gone on to develop a ministry to young women around her table. She invites such women not just at the end of their time in the shelter but throughout the time they spend. Karen, her husband and her family ‘model’ something to the women that for many of them is revolutionary: eating a meal but not in a hurry and not in front of the TV or from a local takeaway, but sat on chairs around the table, with conversation and an opportunity to ask each member of the family: ‘how was your day?’

As our esteemed Editor will know, I have struggled to know what to write this month. It’s been an interesting and busy month for me as, variously, we shared more with our church congregation and also local residents about the Church Centre. And in the wider world, we have seen incredible tragedy and despicable wickedness in Tunisia, France, Charleston and Asia. Could I find some words of wisdom for one or the other? Not really.

But in trying to make sense of such things, and stay close to my Lord, I find myself wanting to ground my own life and faith around the Eucharistic table at such times when words fail. In both celebrating Communion and receiving Communion, I have an opportunity to re-member. To remember what Jesus did, but also put my own life back together and “re-member” myself around his love and saving grace. Doing so around what is, in essence, a meal.

What Karen is doing with those women who find themselves in the midst of hard times, and what I do each evening when my wife and I quite deliberately ask our children to join us for a meal around the table is eucharistic. And perhaps it is in some of those simple pleasures of life, that God means for us to both find ourselves, find faith and find the resources to overcome.

Challenging structural sin

As a football fan, the news surrounding the investigations and arrests of high-ranking FIFA officials has been greeted with a fair level of disgust in the Green household, but also little surprise. For years, I’ve complained to my long-suffering and patient wife that the global football authorities seemed as bent as a proverbial ‘nine bob note’.

As well as the corruption, we have the ongoing and increasingly uncomfortable plight of migrant workers in Qatar whose effective slavery and increasing number of deaths is going at a rate that reminds me of the Pharoahs building the Pyramids.

The biggest problem historically has been that football fans love their football too much to do anything that might interfere with such love, and it’s that sense of distorted priority that FIFA has exploited. “Whether I watch the World Cup or not”, many might say, “will not make a blind bit of difference. If I controlled Coca-Cola’s marketing budget, then I would have some powerful levers to pull, but I don’t.”

Thus we have the problem of structural sin. As a Christian, I understand that the world we inhabit is ‘fallen’ and broken. It seems impossible to avoid the sin that pervades every institution –as well as every person. But is that good enough, to just shrug shoulders and say ‘oh well’?

I don’t think so. Perhaps I can’t do much about FIFA; I’m not the FBI or Coca-Cola or UEFA. I don’t have many levers to pull. They are not going to listen to me. But they listen very well to money, and so their major sponsors do have influence.Where I can have an influence is on those sponsors. I know it’s not good for me, but Coca-Cola has long been my non-alcoholic tipple of choice. McDonalds has been a regular haunt for my family when we’re out shopping and we need something quick. I have informed both companies via their online customer facilities that I will not be buying any of their products until further notice. Similarly, I won’t buy anything from Adidas and I will do my utmost best to not use my Visa card (can’t avoid it sometimes but I will keep it to a minimum) until such time as Mr Blatter goes and we see some proper reform of football’s governing body.

The more people do that, the more pressure on the sponsors grows. The more pressure that grows on the sponsors and hits their bottom line, the more likely it is that they will exert pressure on FIFA to clean house.

I certainly know that I cannot watch the Qatar World Cup in 2022 with any sense of good conscience. If current trends continue, the International Trade Union Confederation estimates that 4,000 workers will die in Qatar by the time the World Cup is actually held in 2022. That is more than 60 souls for each game that will be played. As far as I’m concerned, the English FA should not even enter a team in 2022.

If structural evil is not challenged, of course it will flourish. To shrug your shoulders and say no difference can be made is to be complicit in that evil. To place one’s love of football above the well-being of fellow human beings is perverse.

David Green

Voting for the common good

In February this year, the House of Bishops caused something of a stir by daring to speak publicly about the election and urged the Christian people and parishes of the Church of England to consider the question of how we can “build the kind of society which many people say they want, but which is not yet being expressed in the vision of any of the [political] parties.”

By the time you read this, you will be about to exercise your democratic right to vote. Before you do so, I would strongly encourage you to make the time to read the Bishops’ letter. It is 50 pages of text and so needs a bit of dedicated time and space, but I believe it is worth your time and effort.

When it was released in February, all of the political parties criticised the letter for being partisan and said it was getting at them. In actual fact, all of the different political parties and ideologies were challenged by some hard questions in the letter. It’s perhaps a testimony to how ‘on the money’ the document proved that all the parties felt as if they had been put under the spotlight!

As well as the letter, there is also a Study Guide available online that contains a number of challenging questions that we do well to consider and take seriously. At no point does it tell you which colour to vote for, but it might help you sift the constant noise and platitudes of the election campaign to find out what’s important to you.

A couple of random thoughts have occurred to me recently:

  • We’ve just had another wonderful Holy Week in which we read the story of Christ washing his disciples’ feet and hear him teach: “I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet. You also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13.14). In all those who seek to lead, I care more about character than about politics (although the politics are important). My question at the polls will be – do I see a servant-hearted person who genuinely cares for the people of our local area and will seek those people’s best interests, and not serve their own?
  • In this last year, I’ve been privileged to act as Chaplain to our local Mayor and attend Borough Council meetings. I am struck by the number of kind-hearted, dutiful public servants who genuinely want to see our local area blessed. And yet, they are on tenterhooks at the moment not knowing if national politics will rob them of the chance to serve. People tend to vote for the same colour locally that they vote for nationally, and that may be very hard and unfair on committed people – whether yellow, red or blue. Take time to get to know who you are voting for locally and don’t just vote for the colour that will gain your national vote.
  • People complain that there’s no point voting because we live in an ultra-safe seat. Such an attitude is beyond me. A seat only stays “ultra-safe” if the people who think differently choose not to vote. I don’t think it’s my place to get involved in whether they want a blue, red, or yellow result, but to do nothing in such a situation is like Turkeys voting for Christmas. If you want a genuine choice, then vote accordingly. Nothing will ever change with apathy.

The Bishop’s letter calls on church people to use their votes thoughtfully and prayerfully, and with the good of others in mind before the good of themselves. I hope you will do likewise.

David Green

In defence of the Virgin Birth

A painting of the Annunication

On Sunday 21 December, 2014, our Vicar David preached a sermon in defence of the Virgin Birth. As a response to encouragement from the congregations of St Mary’s and St Michael’s, it’s made available online for Christmas.

Readings 2 Samuel 7.1-16 and Luke 1.26-38.


Now in our readings today, we heard God’s promise to King David. A King, a line of Kings, a house that would be established forever. A promise that one day, a Messiah, a King of all Kings, would come.

And then in our New Testament reading,  we see that old promise, so loaded with expectation, come into reality.

The Angel Gabriel speaks to Mary and promises her a Son. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor… David.”

To a young girl in a backwater northern town. Mary, betrothed to be married to Joseph…

probably no older than about 14 years old… did you know that? In that culture and time, girls were betrothed around that age. Mary would have continued to live at home  with her parents for a couple more years. Not living together and certainly not sharing a bed. But this notion (as they have understood it) that God would have sexual relations with Mary. To them, that notion is inconceivable. Abhorrent even. And so they reject much of what follows. I think it’s unthinkable to us as well.

But that isn’t what is being described here. The verb used for the work of the Spirit is not used much in the Scriptures but in Isaiah 32.15, the same verb is used to describe the Spirit of God and the translation there is that the Spirit is ‘poured out’ to make a desert place into a fruitful field.

“For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted… until a spirit from on high is poured out upon us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field.”

The idea is that the Spirit of God is taking something barren and empty and bringing fruit and life. We can perhaps see why it’s a word taken up here.

But there is not the slightest evidence that any of the verbs used was ever used in relation to sexual activity or the conception of a child.

Indeed the phrase ‘Son of God’ isn’t about genetic relationships either. ‘Son of God’, ‘Son of Man’ are terms designating chosen status, messianic in nature… They are not about what’s in his DNA… not about whether he has his father’s or his mother’s eyes.

The Spirit poured out on human beings changes things. I know I’m not the most experienced Minister, not even the most experienced Christian. But I can tell you  that I have seen lives utterly turned around by the Spirit of God at work in a human being’s heart.

Ex-convicts and East-End Gangsters caring for the homeless and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those they meet.

Gambling addicts, broke, sometimes imprisoned, renewed and set free.

Young women who hate themselves, hunched and hiding, self-harming introduced to Christ and going from that place to understanding their worth in God’s eyes and growing to become confident, beautiful women celebrating their wedding day.

The Virgin Birth, for me, reinforces the idea that the Spirit of God changes things. That my life, your life, anyone’s life is not beyond hope and is not beyond redemption. For nothing is impossible with God.

We worship a truly amazing God. The more I look at the Virgin Birth and the person of Mary, the more they point me once again towards Jesus.

If you are sitting here today and need to feel and know that God understands how you feel; that he’s been there and he knows. Or because in your selfishness and sin, your broken-ness you know you need a rescuer, you need someone who can intervene and bring about a fresh start full of forgiveness and grace. Or because the situation seems impossible, there’s no way out and you need to know that the Spirit of God can transform any situation.

This Christmas, place your trust and your faith in the child born of a Virgin.

Let us pray

Eternal God,
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son,
so we wait for his coming in glory;
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age
to see, with her, our great salvation
in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Rev David Green