Advent. Of another year, or change?

This is my sermon for Advent Sunday.

I was brought up in a vicarage. My father was the vicar of a Somerset village, and life revolved around church activities. Advent Sunday was the beginning of the church year. We look forward to the birth of Christ at Christmas, and then go through the annual cycle with Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. Along with all the saints’ days the whole system added up to a regular annual cycle, beginning each year with Advent.

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A reaction to 'My Life In Hell'

A theological overview of hell is not something we would normally expect to see in a midweek edition of the Guardian, and Anthony is right to say that Meghan O’Gieblyn’s ‘My Life in Hell’ (Guardian Review 26th November, 2014) deserves recognition in the pages of our blog.

O’Gieblyn’s thoughts derive from personal experience, not of hell itself, despite the title, but of the way it is presented in certain American evangelical circles. In this respect, she touches on two significant areas when it comes to the nature of God and the nature of eternal damnation. I think, that for the purpose of this discussion, and to be fair to the Guardian, we need to start from a given premise (whether or not we personally agree with it) that such a thing as hell exists. But here we already run into difficulties, because the very idea of existence begs a host of other questions and musings concerning space dimension, time and being, as well as the nature of the afterlife and of God himself.

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No Hell below us?

The Guardian newspaper is not known for its religious sympathies, and a number of its columnists are noted and outspoken secular humanists.

It was surprising therefore to read in the 26 November edition a long article on theology. Written by a former Conservative Evangelical from the USA, it considered the apparent disappearance of Hell from Christian discourse, even in some evangelical circles. And it came to some rather surprising conclusions.

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Food, the Pope and justice

Once again Pope Francis is causing a stir. Speaking at a United Nations conference on nutrition on Thursday, he called for a more just distribution of the world’s bounty. He said that access to food is a basic human right and should not be subjected to market speculation and the search for profits:

‘We ask for dignity, not for charity… It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities,” the “primacy of profit,” which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature.’

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The strangers we need

Earlier this month Ed Miliband was castigated by the media for furtively handing a homeless person a coin – or was it a note? It seems the reporter was as unsure about what Miliband was doing, as he was himself.

Did he give because not to have done so would have made him look heartless? Or is he, just like the rest of us, embarrassed and just a little fearful when confroted by destitution? It seems that the priest and his two helpers, who were arrested in Florida earlier this month for feeding homeless people in the street, felt no such embarrassment or fear.

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