David Kerrigan [General Director of BMS World Mission] said this in a post entitled ‘Cosmic Comma’
We spent a day with Stuart Murray-Williams looking at Anabaptist history, theology and spirituality and its possible implications for BMS. It was a fascinating day, well presented, easy to engage with and highly relevant…
For example, we are familiar with the line from the creed “…born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…” to which Stuart added ruefully “the whole of life between birth and death reduced to a comma!”…
Maybe our mission, 'should we choose to accept it', is not to mention the death of Jesus in a Christmas sermon this year. When our message is condensed to ‘he came... to die’ we perpetuate the mistake of the cosmic comma.
David went on to suggest that our Advent sermons should be about Jesus’ LIFE on earth – How he walked where we walk, he lived as a man, went to weddings and funerals, shared in the joys and sorrows. That we should focus on his life, rather than go straight from the stable to the tomb. He concluded
Tell people about the comma! Tell them about life. There’ll be time enough for death
So I have pottered about, reflecting on this as I decluttered and tidied and cleaned [theological reflection is a good thing to do on a morning like this, it takes my mind of the dull and depressing side of housework!]
There is much good stuff in what David says, but I have added this comment to his blog
David, I take your point. I am glad our children's nativity play this year begins and ends in the carpenter's workshop in Nazareth, stressing that Jesus didn't stay a baby but grew up to be a man etc. [Although I do admit the very last line mentions his death for us!]
What concerns me about your challenge to 'omit the cross from Christmas sermons' is that many of the people who will come into our building over the next few weeks will genuinely never have made the connection between the cradle and the cross.
Whilst I agree that it is VITAL to help them see the glory of the Incarnation [thanks Chris Duffett, for the brilliant Get In The Picture initiative, which has helped with that] surely it is also CRUCIAL to share the joy of the Resurrection?
If we are talking about commas and punctuation, I think it is wonderful that for a Christian, a sentence of life doesn't end with the full stop of death.
He rose again!
The future is assured...
So how then shall we live?
But then it is easy for me to comment – unlike David, [and all the many clergy-persons who have commented on his post] I do not have to prepare and preach a dozen Christmas sermons over the next 2 weeks!
If you ever get the opportunity to hear David preach, I recommend you do. He’s good! [and he is doing the KMFC Church Anniversary here, in November next year]
Now back to the cleaning…