Sunday 2nd December 2012Today, the Archbishop's sermon in The Sun on Sunday begins anew. The Archbishop talks about preparing for the joy of Christmas, peace in the Middle East, and women bishops. His sermon in full follows....
In my last column in this paper at the end of July, I said that I would be taking a break, as I was going on Retreat to Holy Island and then leading a Mission overseas.
It had been my intention, when I returned, to resume this ‘Sunday Sermon’. But then came those lurid pictures of Prince Harry. I was surprised and disappointed that the Sun had published them, and when I spoke to the editor - a man for whom I have the highest regard -I still wasn’t convinced by the reasons for publishing. I therefore decided to extend my absence from the column for three months.
I am glad that the Leveson Inquiry Report has now been published. My hope is that a tough independent self-regulatory body, underpinned by law, will be set up swiftly to ensure that the press are held accountable for their actions. Such a move should be welcomed by all.
The law is a statement of public policy which every law abiding citizen upholds. Press freedom and responsibility must be preserved in the new arrangements. So politicians, Parliament and proprietors must not be allowed to have a second bite at reforming the rules once these arrangements are in place.
In this way we can serve both the freedom of the press and the need for fair play; we can protect the privacy of individuals, and their right to reply. I am sure that a newspaper like The Sun would have every confidence in such a system, and that both the media and the general public will benefit from it.
I also told The Editor of The Sun that I would return and write again from Advent Sunday. So here I am.
I’m glad to be able to share some thoughts with you during this time of waiting and planning and hope, as we approach the joy of Christmas together.
The theme of the Bible readings in Church today is about getting ready: we are summoned to wake up, to clean up our act, to feed up and to grow up!
"Keep awake and watch at all times praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be able to escape all the things that are going to happen, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man. " (Luke 21.36)
Wake up! We have to be on our toes, ready to welcome God when he arrives. There’s a joke T-shirt slogan you may have seen: ‘Jesus is coming: Look busy!’. But it’s not just about looking busy – it’s about being ready so we don’t shut ourselves out when he comes.
Clean up! – When Jesus arrives, we need to be sure we’re not in the middle of something we shouldn’t be doing. And the best way to do that is to clean up our act, live in anticipation of the life Jesus Christ offers us. Just as we clean up our homes before our family and friends come at Christmas time, we need to clean up our lives so that Jesus can find our hearts a good place to stay.
Feed up! Thisdoesn’t mean all the overeating that goes on at Christmas. We need to feed our mind and spirit, not just our body. Becoming strong in wisdom and kindness. That’s why Advent is a good time to read holy Scripture, and pray.
Grow up! We need to grow and mature as beloved children of our Heavenly Father – becoming more like him so that we can be his presence in the world
Are you ready? Wake up! Clean up! Feed up! Grow up! Watch and Pray!
The Good News of Love and Peace
Yes, Advent is about waiting, anticipating, patiently hoping for something wonderful - the good news of love and peace; but it’s also about being ready to change.
In recent years, we have been longing to receive good news of earthly peace in Israel/Palestine. The very place where the angels brought the news of ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all people' that Christmas 2012 years ago, has long been immersed in violence, bitterness, fear and destruction.
Let us pray this Advent time for all the families in Israel and the Gaza Strip, that they can experience a peace that will last. And let us pray for a readiness in their leaders to change, so that they can trust each other for a secure future.
For as Martin Luther King Jr said, “Hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Christ is the Light which is come into the world.
In the Church of England over the past 20 years, we have also been waiting and looking forward to the time when women would be ordained bishops.
Sadly, we do not yet have a good legislation on which everyone can agree.
We remain committed to the promise that women will become bishops, and to our hope that this won’t be too long. But, because we are a church which welcomes a wide range of people and theological understanding, we also remain committed to our promise to find a way of giving adequate space to those who cannot agree, on theological convictions, that the change is right.
This is not an easy balance, and we need lots of patience, prayers and a willing generosity of spirit towards each other.
Let us also remind ourselves and each other that the Good News of Christ’s coming at Christmas does not depend on us, but only on God’s grace. All we have to do is receive him with open and humble hearts.