CategoryNadolig ☩ Christmas

Christmas Day Sermon 2020

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To love as never before

In this season of Christmas, may I begin by wishing you all a safe, joyful and happy Christmas? There are unlikely to be many more years like the one we have experienced so these words all have added meaning: safe and joyful. I do pray it will be so for you and your families.

I’m very conscious of those who have paid the heaviest price during the pandemic. Those who have lost their lives, those who are grieving, those whose pattern of life, so disrupted, has left them feeling bewildered and those who have been isolated because human contact has been so limited. Anything we say beyond this must not ignore the simple fact that this year has been wretched and challenging. Nothing can be said which glosses over the impact this has had on our communities, country and indeed the whole world.

There is a way of telling the Christmas story of course which might do precisely this. We aren’t helped by the romanticizing of a story that is a good deal more brutal than the cards and pop up decorations suggest. But even a straight rendering of the story could be seen as an attempt to minimize or soften the blow of the effects of Covid-19. Stories need their interpreters who connect the message with our own so that we can make sense of what is happening or at least think about how to navigate some difficult terrain.

And so I want to pick out two things from this story so well known which speak to me afresh this year. The first is how God spoke: to shepherds out in the open fields minding their own business. And a God who can communicate like this, has something to say. In this case it was good news of great joy that would shape everything in history from this moment forward. Someone said of these hill workers ‘God goes to those who have time to hear him—and so he went to simple shepherds.’ There is no reason, if we have ears, to hear why anyone should be left out of the loop.

Christmas then is about the God who will not stay silent but speaks into the very fabric of this world. Such a God must have something to say about everything that is taking place. I don’t mean by this that we should attempt to see some hidden purpose as though everything will one day become clear and we will say ‘Ah, so that’s why’. But the God who comes into the thick of life, into the life of a young couple and to the dust of a small town in a remote part of the world, cannot be ignorant or impervious to what has befallen our world.

And this brings us to the next thing on which I wish to focus our thoughts. This child brought God. His coming ushered in the Kingdom, the way in which all we believe to be true about God becomes real and manifest wherever the rubber hits the ground. So in the gospels we read how the lost were brought home, the sick were healed and the hungry fed. We see how Jesus had compassion on people and, if you like, modelled what a fully human life should look like.

The issue of values has been thrown into the spotlight by Covid in a new way. It’s made us ask questions not only about resilience but what should characterize life in society. Dr Mark Carney, formerly the Governor of the Bank of England, is currently delivering the Reith lectures for 2020 and examining the issues of values in the light of Covid. Perceptively he observes that values, once related to the activity in question are now interpreted mostly through the eyes of market and money.  He says the ‘spread of the market can undermine community; one of the most important determinates of happiness’.

Dr Carney’s point is that market thinking has infected the way we understand values. We attach a price tag to most things and make judgements on the basis of their subsequent costs. Interestingly one of his solutions is the crafting of a new humility across all society. 

But the Child-King was born so that all of life might be invested with a goodness and Godlikeness that blesses and transforms, that is free of money-judgement, which is largely selfless in character. For Christians especially being enfolded in this love creates new desires to serve. Those shepherds could not contain their joy at the news they received and shared it with others: good news like this should not be squirrelled away. So too the blessings of all creation: these are not meant for the few but the many. And when the church understands how it is loved by God, liberated to serve, it can learn what love looks like.

I wonder if one of the things we must learn from this period, is that we are to love as we have never loved before? The outcast, the marginalized, the lonely and isolated? If love for Jesus burns within us this Christmas time, ought we not discover how this can radiate into wonderful acts of kindness and mercy?

I began by describing what this year has held for many and now suggest that our best response, not to explain or justify any of this, is to learn one of the most fundamental of lessons which Jesus taught and it is the power of love which overcomes. ‘By this’ he said, ‘shall others know you are my disciples if you have love for each other’ (John 13:35). Where love begins is less important than where it ends and here we turn back to that story and the angels message and the shepherds wonder but captured too in the words of St John: ‘God so love the world that He gave his only begotten Son.’

If this is how God loved us, so we ought to love the world he came to save.

Pregeth Dydd Nadolig 2020

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Caru fel na fu erioed o’r blaen

Yn nhymor y Nadolig, hoffwn ddechrau drwy ddymuno i chi i gyd Nadolig diogel, llawn llawenydd a hapusrwydd. Mae’n annhebyg y cawn ni lawer o flynyddoedd fel yr un rydym wedi’i bod trwyddi,  felly mae gan bob un o’r geiriau hyn ystyr ychwanegol: diogel a llawn llawenydd. Rwyf yn gweddïo y bydd hynny’n wir i chi a’ch teuluoedd.

Rwy’n ymwybodol iawn o’r rhai sydd wedi talu’r pris trymaf yn ystod y pandemig. Y rhai sydd wedi colli eu bywydau, y rhai sy’n galaru, y rhai mae patrwm eu bywydau wedi cael ei aflonyddu, sydd wedi’u gadael yn teimlo’n ddryslyd, a’r rhai sydd wedi’u hynysu oherwydd prin eu bod yn cael cysylltu â phobl bellach. Ond rhaid i unrhyw beth rydym yn ei ddweud yn fwy na hyn beidio ag anwybyddu’r ffaith syml fod eleni wedi bod yn alaethus ac heriol. Allwn ni ddim dweud unrhyw beth a all guddio’r effaith mae hyn wedi’i gael ar ein cymunedau, ar ein gwlad ac yn wir, ar y byd cyfan.

Mae yna ffordd o adrodd stori’n Nadolig, wrth gwrs, a allai wneud yn union hynny. Dydyn ni’n helpu dim arnom ni’n hunain drwy ramantu am stori sy’n llawer mwy ciaidd nag y mae’r cardiau a’r addurniadau byrhoedlog yn ei awgrymu. Ond mae’n bosibl gweld hyd yn oed adroddiad cywir o’r stori fel ymdrech i leihau neu feddalu’r ergyd o effeithiau Covid-19.  Mae storïau angen dehonglwyr sy’n cysylltu’r neges gyda’n un ni er mwyn i ni allu wneud synnwyr o beth sy’n digwydd neu o leiaf feddwl sut i dreiddio drwy’r drysni.

Ac felly, rwyf eisiau dewis dau beth o’r stori sydd mor adnabyddus, sy’n siarad â mi o’r newydd eleni. Y cyntaf yw sut y siaradodd Duw: wrth fugeiliaid wrth eu gwaith yn y caeau agored. A Duw sy’n gallu cyfathrebu fel hyn, sydd â rhywbeth i’w ddweud. Yn yr achos hwn newyddion da o lawenydd mawr oedd hynny, a fyddai’n gadael ei ôl ar bopeth mewn hanes o’r funud honno ymlaen. Dywedodd rhywun am y gweithwyr hyn ar y mynydd ‘Mae Duw yn mynd at y rhai sydd ag amser i’w glywed – ac felly fe aeth at fugeiliaid syml. Doed dim rheswm, os oes gennym glustiau i wrando, pam na ddylai unrhyw un allu clywed hynny.

Mae’r Nadolig felly, ynghylch Duw na fydd yn aros yn ddistaw ond sy’n siarad wrth wead y byd hwn. Mae’n rhaid bod gan Dduw o’r fath rywbeth i’w ddweud am bopeth sy’n digwydd. Dydw i ddim ym meddwl fod hynny’n golygu y dylen ni ymdrechu i weld rhyw ddiben cudd fel pe deuai yn glir un diwrnod ac y byddwn ninnau’n dweud ‘Aha, felly, dyna pam’. Ond ni all Duw sy’n dod i ganol bywyd, i mewn i fywydau cyplau ifanc neu i lwch tref fechan mewn rhan anghysbell o’r byd, fod yn ddi-deimlad neu’n groen dew ynghylch beth sydd wedi digwydd i’n byd.

A daw hynny â ni at y peth nesaf yr hoffwn ganolbwyntio ein meddyliau arno. Daeth y plentyn hwn â Duw. Hebryngodd ei ddyfodiad y Deyrnas, daw y ffordd rydym ni i gyd yn ei gredu sy’n wir am Dduw yn real ac yn amlwg ble bynnag y mae’n gafael.Felly, yn yr efengylau, rydym yn darllen sut mae’r colledig yn dod adref, y rhai sâl yn cael eu gwella a’r newynog yn cael eu bwydo. Rydyn ni’n gweld y tosturi oedd gan Iesu at bobl a, bron iawn, yn dangos beth ddylai bywyd gwbl dynol fod.

Mae’r mater o werthoedd wedi’i ei dynnu i’r amlwg o’r newydd gan Covid . Mae wedi gwneud i ni ofyn cwestiynau nid yn unig am wydnwch ond beth ddylai nodweddion bywyd mewn cymdeithas fod. Ar hyn o bryd, mae Dr Mark Carney, cyn Lywodraethwr Banc Lloegr, yn traddodi’r darlithoedd Reith ar gyfer 2020 ac yn trafod y problemau ynghylch gwerthoedd yng ngoleuni Covid . Yn graff iawn, mae’n gweld fod gwerthoedd yn cael eu dehongli’n bennaf trwy lygaid y farchnad ac arian.  

Mae’n dweud y gallai ‘lledaeniad y farchnad danseilio cymunedau; un o’r pethau pwysicaf sy’n penderfynu hapusrwydd’.

Pwynt Dr Carney yw bod meddylfryd y farchnad wedi heintio’r ffordd rydym yn deall gwerthoedd. Rydyn ni’n gosod pris ar y rhan fwyaf o bethau ac yn barnu popeth yn ôl faint mae’n ei gostio. Yn ddiddorol iawn, un o’i atebion yw ffurfio gwyleidd-dra newydd drwy’r holl gymdeithas.  

Ond cafodd y Crist-Frenin ei eni er mwyn i fywyd yn ei gyfanrwydd gael ei arwisgo gyda daioni gan  Dduw sy’n bendithio ac yn trawsnewid, nad yw’n poeni am arian ac sy’n anhunanol o gymeriad. I Gristnogion yn enwedig, mae cael ein lapio yn y cariad hwn yn creu awydd newydd i wasanaethu. Ni allai’r bugeiliaid hynny  ffrwyno’u llawenydd ar ôl clywed y newyddion gan ei rannu gydag eraill; ni ddylai newyddion da fel hyn gael ei gadw’n gudd. Felly hefyd fendithion yr holl gread: nid ar gyfer yr ychydig y bwriadwyd y rhain ond ar gyfer y lliaws. A phan mae’r eglwys yn deall sut mae’n cael ei charu gan Dduw, wedi’i rhyddhau i wasanaethu, dyna pryd y mae’n gallu dysgu beth yw cariad.

Tybed ai un o’r pethau mae’n rhaid i ni ei ddysgu o’r cyfnod hwn yw y dylen ni garu fel nad ydym erioed wedi caru o’r blaen? Y gwrthodedig, y rhai sydd ar yr ymylon, yr unig a’r ynysig? Os yw cariad at Iesu’n llosgi tu fewn i ni adeg y Nadolig hwn, oni ddylem ni ddarganfod sut y gallai hynny dywynnu ohonom mewn gweithredoedd bendigedig o garedigrwydd a thosturi?

Dechreuais drwy ddisgrifio beth oedd y flwyddyn hon yn ei olygu i lawer ac, erbyn hyn, rwy’n awgrymu, nid i egluro na chyfiawnhau hyn o gwbl, mai ein hymateb gorau fyddai dysgu un o’r gwersi mwyaf sylfaenol a ddysgodd Iesu, sef bod nerth cariad yn goresgyn. “Os bydd gennych gariad tuag at eich gilydd‘’ meddai ‘wrth hynny bydd pawb yn gwybod mai disgyblion i mi ydych’ (Ioan 13:35).  Mae ble mae cariad yn dechrau’n llai pwysig na ble mae’n gorffen ac yma rydym yn troi’n ôl at y stori honno a neges yr angylion a rhyfeddod y bugeiliaid ond sy’n atseinio hefyd yng ngeiriau Sant Ioan: ‘Carodd Duw y byd gymaint nes iddo roi ei unig Fab.’

Os fel hyn yr oedd Duw yn ein caru ni, felly y dylem ni garu’r byd y daeth i’w achub.

Christmas Messages 2020

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Closed Captions (subtitles) are available by using the button ‘CC’

Here are my Christmas messages for this year.

Naturally, both messages reflect on the pandemic, our response and the way it has affected us all.

In the video Christmas message (which is available in Welsh as well), I talk to Rev Andrew Sully, who has been a hospital chaplain at Ysbyty Gwynedd over the recent months.

Closed Captions (subtitles) are available by using the button ‘CC’ or via the settings ‘cog’ on Facebook.

Please do share and use these messages and a blessèd Christmas to you all!

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Christmas Message 2020

A year ago few of us would have imagined we would mark Christmas with the shadow of a virus hanging over much of our world. Fewer of us still would know what Zoom was beyond something to do with speed or haste. So much has changed in the last twelve months that predicting what the outcome might be is as uncertain as the arrival of the pandemic which has taken so many lives and left communities feeling isolated and troubled. The cost to the economy has been enormous and the well-being of the country has possibly suffered even more.

This would sound bleak beyond redemption were it not for the imminent arrival of a vaccine which promises a brighter future. What the new normal will involve remains unclear but this is a period about which books will be written long into the future.

I have been conscious of those who have sought ways to bring hope and kindness to those most at risk such as the elderly, those in hospital or carers. We will all remember the Thursday Clap which allowed us to thank NHS workers for their extraordinary work facing what seemed like a crisis to end all crises. There were others too who ensured medication was safely delivered, that contact was maintained with the more frail and marginalized in society. The capacity of human compassion to overflow into creative action has reminded us that we might seem powerless but this is not the case. What has seemed dark and foreboding has invited a level of practical care and support we haven’t seen for several generations.

The first part of the Christmas story may resonate with many of us as a consequence. Put aside the mental pictures of a gentle nativity scene at the crib. This is a story of God in the thick of life with all its challenges and complexities: it’s a story of how God enters into the chaos, born to a disorientated couple struggling to make sense of what this unexpected child could mean. In time, they and others came to realise that by stepping into this world, God was holding out an invitation to all humanity to connect with his transforming light and life. 

The second part of the Christmas story is more about our own response. If we are tempted to fear and despair we can respond to God’s open invitation to bring us hope. If we are tempted to feel powerless, God’s offer is to transform every heart and mind. This is the power of Christmas, which is the power of God to bring the world a light which never fades and life which is everlasting.

Bishop Andrew John, Bishop of Bangor

Negeseuon Nadolig 2020

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Mae ‘Closed Captions’ (isdeitlau) ar gael wrth ddefnyddio’r botwm ‘CC’

Rwyf i’n falch i ryddhau fy negeseuon Nadolig – fideo ac ysgrifenedig.

Yn naturiol, mae’r ddwy neges yn adfyrio ar y pandemig, ein hymateb a’r ffordd y mae wedi effeithio bob un ohonom.

Yn y neges Nadolig fideo (sydd ar gael yn Saesneg hefyd), rwy’n siarad â’r Parch Andrew Sully, sydd wedi bod yn gaplan yn Ysbyty Gwynedd (Bangor) dros y misoedd diwethaf.

Mae ‘Closed Captions’ (isdeitlau) ar gael wrth ddefnyddio’r botwm ‘CC’ neu olwyn ddannedd ‘Settings’ ar Facebook.

Mae ‘na groeso i chi rannu a defnyddio’r negeseuon hyn a Nadolig llawen a dedwydd i chi i gyd.

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Neges Nadolig Ysgrifenedig 2020

Flwyddyn yn ôl, ychydig ohonom fyddai wedi dychmygu y byddwn yn dathlu’r Nadolig gyda chysgod feirws dros lawer iawn o’r byd. Llai fyth oedd yn gwybod beth yw Zoom, heblaw rywbeth ynghylch cyflymder a brys. Mae cymaint wedi newid yn ystod y deuddeg mis diwethaf nes bod darogan beth allai fod o’n blaenau fod mor ansicr a chyrhaeddiad y pandemig, sydd wedi cymryd cymaint o fywydau ac wedi gadael cymunedau’n teimlo’n ynysig ac yn drwblus. Mae’r gost i’r economi wedi bod yn enfawr a lles y wlad wedi dioddef, o bosibl, hyd yn oed yn fwy.

Byddai hynny’n swnio’n llwm, y tu hwnt i waredigaeth oni bai bod brechiad ar fin cyrraedd ac yn addo dyfodol gwell. Nid yw’n eglur beth fydd o’n blaenau yn y normal newydd ond mae hwn yn gyfnod y bydd llyfrau’n cael eu hysgrifennu amdano.

Rwyf wedi bod yn ymwybodol o’r rhai sydd wedi bod yn chwilio am ffyrdd i ddod â gobaith a charedigrwydd i’r rhai sydd yn y perygl mwyaf megis yr henoed, y rhai yn yr ysbyty neu ofalwyr. Bydd pob un ohonom yn cofio’r Clap Dydd Iau pan oedden ni’n diolch i weithwyr y Gwasanaeth Iechyd am eu gwaith anhygoel yn wynebu’r hyn a oedd yn ymddangos fel argyfwng yr argyfyngau. Roedd eraill yn sicrhau fod meddyginiaeth yn cael ei dosbarthu’n ddiogel ac yn gofalu nad oedd rhai bregus ac ar ymylon cymdeithas yn mynd yn angof. Mae gallu tosturi dynol i orlifo yn weithredu creadigol wedi’n hatgoffa, er y gallwn ni ymddangos yn analluog, dydyn ni ddim. Mae’r hyn oedd yn ymddangos yn dywyll ac yn ddychrynllyd wedi arwain at  y fath o ofal a chefnogaeth ymarferol nas gwelwyd ers cenedlaethau lawer. 

Efallai bydd rhan gyntaf y stori Nadolig yn canu cloch gyda llawer ohonom o ganlyniad. Anghofiwch y lluniau rhamantus o’r Geni wrth y preseb. Mae hon yn stori sy’n dangos Duw yng nghanol bywyd gyda’i holl heriau a’i gymhlethdodau: stori o sut mae Duw yn dod i mewn i anrhefn, yn cael ei eni i gwpl dryslyd oedd yn cael trafferth i wneud synnwyr o beth yn union oedd y plentyn annisgwyl hwn yn ei olygu. Ymhen ychydig,  daeth y ddau, ac eraill, i sylweddoli fod Duw, drwy gamu i’r byd hwn, yn gwahodd yr holl ddynoliaeth i gysylltu â’i oleuni a’i fywyd trawsnewidiol. 

Mae ail ran o stori’r Nadolig yn fwy ynghylch ein hymateb ni ein hunain. Os byddwn ni’n cael ein temtio i ofni ac anobeithio, gallwn ymateb i wahoddiad agored Duw i ddod â gobaith i ni. Os byddwn ni’n cael ein temtio i deimlo’n ddiffrwyth, cynnig Duw yw trawsnewid pob calon a meddwl. Dyma yw nerth y Nadolig, sef grym Duw i ddod â goleuni i’r byd, goleuni nad yw byth yn pylu a bywyd sy’n dragwyddol.

Esgob Andrew John, Esgob Bangor

The Coming

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Mae ‘The Coming‘, gan y Cymro R.S. Thomas – a oedd yn fardd ac offeiriad – yn drosiad dwfn o ymgnawdoliad Iesu, ac eto mae’n siarad â’n sefyllfa ni heddiw.

Yn y gerdd mae’r geiriau’n creu cymysgedd gref o liwiau gweledol i adrodd stori Iesu’n dod yn un ohonom ni.

Fel llawer o’n carolau plygain Cymreig, sy’n cyfeirio at ddigwyddiadau Dydd Gwener y Groglith gymaint â Dydd Nadolig, mae’r gerdd yn cynnig delwedd o’r Groes fel coeden foel ar Galfaria.

Wrth ddychmygu’r berthynas rhwng Duw Dad a Duw’r Mab, mae’r gerdd yn sôn am anghyfannedd, poen ac awydd Iesu i ddod i’n hachub ni, bobl Dduw.

Rwy’n gweddïo bydd y gerdd hon yn siarad â chi, fel y mae i mi.

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The Coming, by the Welsh preist-poet, R.S. Thomas, is a profound rendering of the incarnation of Jesus, yet it speaks of our situation today.

It is a poem whose words create a strong mix of visual colour to tell the story of Jesus becoming one of us.

Like many of our Welsh plygain carols, which refer to the events of Good Friday as much as Christmas Day, the poem offers an image of the Cross as a bare tree on Calvary.

In imagining the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, the poem speaks of desolation, pain and Jesus desire to come to save us, God’s people.

I pray that this poem speaks to you, as it does to me.

Christmas Messages 2019

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Closed Captions (subtitles) are available by using the button ‘CC’

Here are my Christmas messages for this year.

The written message (below), ‘ I don’t believe it!’, challenges us to discover the generosity of God in coming to the world as a helpless child.

In the video Christmas message (which is available in Welsh as well), I wonder whether the Christmas story is a love story in reverse, and it features Bangor’s Fair Price Café as volunteers prepare to host a Christmas lunch for the homeless. It was filmed in Bangor, on Parys Mountain, near Amlwch and includes images from some Christmas markets in Germany.

Closed Captions (subtitles) are available by using the button ‘CC’ or via the settings ‘cog’ on Facebook.

Please do share and use these messages and a blessèd Christmas to you all!

☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩ ☩

‘I don’t believe it’

Fans of Victor Meldrew will remember his unforgettable ‘I don’t believe it’ outburst and the riotous disasters which followed. Those unfamiliar with ‘One Foot in the Grace’ have a treat in store via YouTube or iPlayer. Synonymous with a scepticism born of incredulity, the words became the catchphrase of the 1990s.

Though dripping with caustic wit there is something, perhaps, salutary in the outburst. And Biblical too. When Mary was told the news she would bear a son her first response was little different; when the shepherds were told a Saviour was lying in a feeding trough, theirs was much the same.

All the ancient statements lack Victor’s acidity but they share the same disbelief. In truth, it’s hard when the years shape certain expectations about the world, the way things are, what’s true and what isn’t. And so, when something utterly unexpected happens, which breaks up these settled boundaries of belief, we can understand why ‘I don’t believe it’ becomes the first response.

I’ve been struck recently by the courage of some extraordinary behaviour whether seen on London Bridge by fearless and selfless human beings or by those who refuse to concede to an agenda of despair and Brexit fatigue. I’ve seen lives touched by kindness in local foodbanks and a Fair Price Café in the city of Bangor and how change takes place in the fortunes of vulnerable people. This capacity to change and be changed seems to me gets to the heart of what Christmas means. When we discover the Light of the World piercing our own darkness or the wonder of a generous God reaching out in the most extraordinary of ways through a helpless child, Christmas comes alive.

It’s at this point we might choose to join the angels and sing a bit. Or stick with Victor and say ‘I don’t believe it’. The choice is ours.

+Andrew Bangor


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