The study of religion has been driven forward by competing camps claiming primacy for different aspects of religion: myth, ritual, belief, sacrifice, social association and so on.
One of the few elements of religion which has not been elevated in this way is divination: yet the more I study religion – both past and present – the stronger I find its claim to be.
One of our Big Issue sellers has decided to be Father Christmas. I chat with him from time during the year and buy his paper, so there is a sort of affinity between us.
There is something about good conversation, however brief it is, which connects you to a person. If you talk with them often enough you discover a sort of kinship.
Last week I read a headline on The Independent news website that said:
‘One in five Brits does not know Jesus Christ born on 25 December’.
I have good news for them – he almost certainly wasn’t!
While it seems like it’s been going on for ages, tonight Christmas has finally come.
We’ve just heard the familiar account of the birth of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel, complete with census-taking, Joseph going back to his home in Bethlehem, no room in the inn, shepherd’s washing their socks, and heavenly choirs praising God; and, of course, we have the birth of Jesus, with him being wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It’s so familiar we hardly even think about it anymore; we hardly even notice that in that barn in Bethlehem, in the birth of that baby, that our God does the most astonishing thing – our God becomes one of us.
This coming Sunday many churches will be focusing on John the Baptist. As I began my sermon preparation an advertisement for Crisis at Christmas was being broadcast on the radio; and the free magazine of Liverpool City Council came through the letter-box with an article on the Council’s ‘plan to tackle rough sleeping’.
The centre of Liverpool, like most cities these days, is a no-go area for anyone who doesn’t want to see homeless people huddled in sleeping bags on the roadside.
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