Can we believe in Epiphany?

The Feast of the Epiphany in the church’s liturgical calendar is based on the events of Matt 2.1–12, the visit of the ‘wise men’ from the East to the infant Jesus. There are plenty of things about the story which might make us instinctively treat it as just another part of the constellation of Christmas traditions, … Continue Reading

What does Joseph add to the story of Jesus’ origins in Matthew 1?

This Sunday’s lectionary reading for Advent 4 in Year A is Matt 1.18–25. It is a short reading, but laden with significance as Matthew gives his distinctive account of Jesus’ origins. One of the presenting issues in engaging in the two narratives of Jesus’ birth in Luke and Matthew is their very distinctive perspectives, leading … Continue Reading

What are people ‘really’ doing when celebrating Christmas?

Around this time of year, there comes a recurrent debate about what people are ‘really’ doing when they celebrate Christmas. A while ago, there was a programme on Radio 4 exploring the origins of the tunes of carols. For example, the tune for Good King Wenceslas was originally a spring carol celebrating the fertility of nature. It is … Continue Reading

Preaching Christmas—without a Stable

Reading the nativity account in Luke 2 carefully highlights the way that the tradition of the stable is nowhere present. That’s all very well for scholars, people say, but how does that work in the practice of preaching? The answer is: rather well! This is what I said last time I preached on what Luke … Continue Reading

Is the story of Epiphany plausible?

The Feast of the Epiphany in the church’s liturgical calendar is based on the events of Matt 2.1–12, the visit of the ‘wise men’ from the East to the infant Jesus. There are plenty of things about the story which might make us instinctively treat it as just another part of the constellation of Christmas traditions, … Continue Reading

Did Luke get his nativity history wrong?

A couple of years ago I watched the film Gravity. The effects were spectacular, the photography breathtaking, the characterisations engaging, and the story held one’s attention throughout. It even raised some profound (religious?) questions about life, death and purpose. And yet, when I left the cinema, I could not decide whether I had enjoyed the film or … Continue Reading

Once more: Jesus was not born in a stable

I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have … Continue Reading

What does Christmas mean?

Despite not preaching at Christmas services this year, for some reason I have found myself thinking about the meaning of Christmas more this year than most. To stimulate your thinking this Christmas Day, I simply offer two things—one ancient, the other modern, neither mine. The ancient focuses on the meaning of Christmas—or rather the incarnation—for … Continue Reading