Luxury Advent Calendar for the Soul – 21 December

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Behind today’s window is a sonnet. I was inspired by this for my sermon I’m preaching this Sunday morning for Advent 4 – which celebrates the Virgin Mary.

Annunciation – Malcolm Guite

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,

We calculate the outsides of all things,

Preoccupied with our own purposes

We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,

They coruscate around us in their joy

A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,

They guard the good we purpose to destroy,

A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.

But on this day a young girl stopped to see

With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;

The promise of His glory yet to be,

As time stood still for her to make a choice;

Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,

The Word himself was waiting on her word.

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On the Feast of Stephen

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This year I asked my training incumbent if we could keep the feast of St Stephen on Sunday 27th December (the actual feast is Boxing Day). It’s a feast nearly always subsumed by Christmas and I thought it would be good to meditate on the feast of the first martyr of the faith, the Deacon St Stephen.

Vincenzo Foppa [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Here is an extract from the sermon I preached:

‘The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven’ [1] and the same is true for us. Following Jesus costs everything. We will not all die a violent martyr’s death like Stephen, but our lives follow Jesus’ pattern – through suffering, death and resurrection, we are raised with him.

We are reminded by the martyrdom of Stephen that the crib is never very far away from the cross, but we are also pointed to our ultimate destination.

In coming to earth, Jesus broke the power of death – Mary swaddles the infant Jesus in bands of cloth and in the tomb,[2] Jesus breaks those bands of cloth, the death that binds us and is risen in glory, the bands of cloth are cast aside, the grave clothes are left folded in the tomb, destroying the power of death. Stephen, the first martyr, is the first to follow this pattern set for us in Christ: humbled and raised to new life in him. Let us follow Stephen as he followed the pattern of Christ that we too might be raised to eternal life. Amen.

 

Notes:

[1] a quotation from a sermon of Bishop Fulgentius from the 6th century.

[2] An analogy drawn by Malcolm Guite in his wonderful Advent and Christmas book ‘Waiting on the Word‘ p89.