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Sunday after Christmas – 29 December 2020

Reader Sherry Angelis  – St Paul’s Athens

 

What a glorious week this is, as we celebrate the miraculous birth of the Messiah  –  our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We come to realize that because of this new born Infant in Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth have been brought to overlap once and for all.  The place where God’s space and our space intersect and interlock is in Jesus.

Keeping this most precious Child with us awhile longer, let’s take a deeper look at the Infancy narrative in the Gospel according to the Apostle Matthew.  The Evangelist is writing for his fellow Jews in order to present Jesus  as the long-awaited Messiah – the Son of David.

In his Gospel,  more than any other, is found the link between the Old Testament and the New, the old Israel and the new world-wide Church of people.

So true are the words, “Novum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet.”   “The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old becomes visible in the New.”

We soon discover how insightful Matthew is as he illustrates the way God has prepared for the arrival of His own Son within the history of Israel.  The author continually appropriates the Old Testament language in the interest of amplifying the New.  He is proving, step by step that Jesus fulfills the prophetic messianic hopes and expectations of the people of God.

Writing in this manner, Matthew also helps relate the story of Israel to the Gentiles,     thus familiarizing them with the background of Jesus the Christ.  They learn that this is not the first time the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has acted in the world for His people.

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Baptism of Christ 12th January 2020 – Isaiah 42, 1-9; Acts 10, 34-43; Matthew 3 13-end.

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan – St Paul’s Athens

 

The feast that we celebrate today is the Baptism of Christ. This event in the life of Christ, the initiation of his earthly ministry, is what the Orthodox celebrated on January 6th, and is known as the theophania.  While in the western tradition the 6th is when we celebrate the epiphany of Christ to the Magi, in the eastern tradition the epiphany of God in Christ’s baptism is the dominant event. (Those who follow the old Orthodox calendar, of course, celebrate Christmas on this date, but this cannot concern us today).

All four of the sacred gospels record the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. The physical act of the baptism was performed by St. John the Baptist, also known as the Prodromos, the Forerunner. This was his normal practice for those whom he called into a new life after repentance. We know that hundreds, if not thousands, went to John to be washed of their sins in the waters of this river. The Orthodox church celebrate St. John the Baptist the day after the Baptism of Christ.

Our Lord goes to John for baptism, and we know that John is humbled by the approach of the one he points to as ‘The Lamb of God’. However, in this act of baptism, something far more significant occurs, and it is this that gives this event such a place of honour in our faith and celebrated in our liturgical calendars. As our Lord is baptized, there occurs a full revelation of God in Jesus. In the Hebrew biblical tradition this might be called a manifestation of shekinah – the invisible God made visible and real, the transcendent God made immanent.

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Epiphany Sunday 5th January 2020 – Matthew 2, 1-12

Revd Canon Leonard Doolan – St Paul’s Athens

 

Most of the well-known Christmas narratives come from St. Luke’s gospel, but for the Feast we call Epiphany, Christ being revealed to the Magi, or Wise Men, we look to St. Matthew for the sharing of the details.

These visitors to the crib are a stark contrast to the shepherds, not only in wealth and background, but also in the slow astronomical calculations that lead them to the place where Christ is born. The shepherds heard the message of the angels in the sky and ran; the Magi spotted a significant star and plotted their course. There is, if you like, a message to each of us in the response of these two groups. Some people find the pathway to faith quite natural and trouble free; others are slower for faith to mature, and the intellectual processes create an arduous, even tortured, journey into belief.

 

So it is. What matters is that we are journeying towards the same Christ who is the Word of God who comes among us, and the same Christ whose cross is the point of our reconciliation with God our Creator. There is no harm in a mystery being exciting; there is no harm in a mystery demanding much thoughtful debate. Quite the opposite, there is only joy waiting to be discovered

 

St. Matthew shares information about the gifts that are brought by the Magi; gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is quite a ‘baby shower’ as Americans might refer to it. Each gift is calculated to be symbolic – it seems they are not chosen at random. Majesty, sacrifice and death seem to be the message foretold in the gifts. The child in the manger is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords – for him the majesty of the minerals of kings. Sacrifice – incense is the smell of the temple where the sacrifices of the priests take place. This child is destined to be the new Temple, and his priesthood and sacrifice removes the need for any further sacrifice. Death – from the moment of his birth, death is in the air. Myrrh is for the embalming of a body. Mary is told that a sword will pierce her own heart because her child will suffer and will transform the suffering of the world.

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Christmas Sermon December 25th 2019

Revd Canon Leonard Doolan – St Paul’s Athens

 

There is a well -known Christmas song. The singer is Perry Como, though most people won’t remember that. We hear the song in shops, shopping malls, and at Christmas parties in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

The first line of the song is this: ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.’

It is no longer beginning to look like Christmas – because the reality is now with us. The Christmas images of decorated trees, twinkling lights, and commercial tunes have been replaced with the wood of a stable and a crib, the bright shining of a star, and the first cry of a new born baby.

It is an amazing thought, isn’t it? The God who created the world, who is full of majesty and glory, who is beyond all our descriptions

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Advent 4, 22nd December 2019: Isaiah 7, 10-16; Matthew 1, 18-end

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan – St Paul’s Athens

 

 

‘Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head, ‘To me be as it pleaseth God’ she said.  ‘My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name’; most highly favoured lady. Gloria”

 

These are the words of one of the verses of the lovely Advent hymn we have just sung, ‘The angel Gabriel from heaven came’.

It takes us back to earlier in the year, to March 25th, the date on which the church throughout the world celebrates the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary’.

We will stick with Mary’s ‘yes’, as this is the word that perhaps is a wiser word for us on the 4th Sunday of Advent, when we are challenged yet again to allow Christ to be born again within us. Will we say a definite no, or an indifferent no; and indifferent yes or a definite yes? The choice is ours – just as Blessed Mary had a choice. God does not compel us to do anything – he works with our free will, with our consent. Our consent for blessing is as vital as Mary’s consent to the message of the Archangel. ‘To me be as it pleaseth God, she said’.

This same exercise of choice is offered to Joseph, as we heard in our gospel reading this morning. I wonder how many of us have significant and life-changing dreams that come as ‘night messages’ from God. Have you noticed how often in the bible, it is in a dream that God communicates with an individual? Joseph seems to be very prone to such significant dreams. It is through his dream that he is reassured about taking Blessed Mary as his wife. Imagine that – in fact, let’s imagine that!

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