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Time rolls on. Compared with this time last year we are all a year older. We have grown too big for our old shoes, or started a new school or job, gained or lost income, acquired another child or grandchild, come a year closer to retirement, buried one or both parents, been put on more tablets to keep us alive a little longer. What’s the point? If there is a point, are we nearly there yet?

Different societies have conceived of time in different ways. Mircea Eliade describes how archaic societies very often believe in two kinds of time. There is the original time, when the gods set up the world the way it is now. This is sacred time. Then there is the present age, which carries on unchanging year after year. Meaningful activities like hunting, eating and sex are given significance by relating them, through ritual, to their origins in sacred time. In this way sacred time becomes present again and makes the present sacred.

Carol singers

So you go to church at Christmas, but not on a normal Sunday? Does that make you a second-rate Christian, or inoculate you against Christianity altogether? Or have you got it about right?

This week’s Church Times carries an article by David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, full of good advice on how clergy should cater for Christmas attenders. It is based on a study of who turned up to Christmas services at Worcester and Lichfield Cathedrals, and why. I found the results quite telling, and encouraging.

Rebecca Jones, in a recent post, appeared to be portraying Jesus as a sort of first-century Jeremy Corbyn – an uncompromising idealist for whom the world’s problems were largely the result of betrayal of principles.

For those of us who don’t feel wholly easy about Corbyn, but do claim to follow Jesus, that poses a dilemma.  And it is a dilemma which is at the heart of contemporary theological and political thinking.

Light in darkness

At Christmas time we think about the birth of Jesus Christ and the impact his life had and continues to have today.

Whether you believe he was mortal or immortal it is undeniable that his teachings and leadership on peace, love, compassion and his fight for those who came last in society are things that we admire and so have celebrated ever since. We now see his message as a shining light in the darkness but at the time he was persecuted.

This is my sermon for next Sunday. I’m posting it now in case other preachers can make use of it. It’s about the Old Testament passage in the Common Worship lectionary, from the prophet Zephaniah.

Zephaniah fits Advent 3 because like John the Baptist (and unlike Zechariah, with whom he should not be confused) he preached doom and gloom. Nevertheless the lectionary gives us an uncharacteristic passage, an optimistic hymn of hope that things will get better.