Rev Canon Duncan Green, Church of England Olympics Co-ordinator, LOCOG Head of Multi Faith Chaplaincy Services
There's only 215 shopping days left to the Olympics. But don't panic. Me, and my Olympic standard multi-faith staff are training round the clock to make sure that the 193 Olympic chaplains are in peak physical condition.
While thousands of athletes are running round in circles, throwing things, splashing about in the water, or kicking and punching each other, the Olympic Multi-Faith Chaplaincy will be praying that their religion wins gold. May the best religion win.
At this special time of the year, when we remember the True Meaning of Christmas, the birth of the baby visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, let us extend a hand of welcome to all the peoples of the wrong religions that will be visiting us this year. Friendship, generosity and hospitality is something that comes naturally to we people of faith. It's something that non people of faith could really learn from us.
It's nearly Christmas. There will be lots of Christmas presents. That's because giving and receiving gifts was invented by Christians, so it's a good job we were around.
Aside from all this giving and receiving that was invented by Christians, has anyone ever mentioned that the best things in life are free? No? Well they are. One of the best free things is love. It's a well known fact that you don't have to spend any money at all to win someone's affections. The best love of all is the love of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Has anyone mentioned Saint Augustine recently? Saint Augustine said that the Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Saint Augustine was always right about these things, that's how we know that the Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Other, lesser theologians, who are not even saints, are much less reliable in this regard. We know this because they're not saints.
The love of the Invisible Magic Friend, which he gives to everyone freely and equally because Saint Augustine said so, has a special technical name. It is what we theologians call "divine grace". It's a good job there are theologians like myself around, otherwise you wouldn't have known that. This, once again, proves the incredible usefulness of theology.
This "divine grace", as the love of the Invisible Magic Friend is technically known by theologians and that is given freely and equally to all because Saint Augustine said so, is something that we Christians give thanks for. It doesn't make any difference that we give thanks because "divine grace", as the love of the Invisible Magic Friend is technically known by theologians, is given freely and equally to all because Saint Augustine said so.
There's no point in trying to be self sufficient because you'll always need "divine grace", as the love of the etc.
Homeless people die, on average, 30 years younger than the rest of us. A woman of 43, living on the streets, can expect this to be her last Christmas. We might scarcely notice her, in her dirty sleeping bag or cardboard box, forced there through desperation and poverty. Yet she is a unique person, with secrets and memories of happier times.
This Christmas, my church, along with many others, will act as a refuge for those with nowhere else to go, providing warmth, a hot meal and an ear to listen.
We do this because homeless people are made in the image of the Invisible Magic Friend and because the Invisible Magic Friend was born at Christmas in an animal's feeding trough. Otherwise we might just not bother.
Hi Mary, Gabriel here. I would have texted u but that hasn't been invented yet. Great news!
Who are you?
I told you, I'm Gabriel, the angel Gabriel.
Aha. So what's this good news then?
The Particularly Invisible Bit of the Invisible Magic Friend has just blessed you.
Has just what?
He's just blessed you.
You know... blessed.
I don't follow.
Oh come on, do I have to spell it out? He came in here just now, went underneath your sheet and... you know... blessed you.
Oh, I see! Blessed! That's a bit of a liberty don't you think. I mean, usually a girl likes to be courted a little bit. A box of chocolates, some flowers, even an introduction might have been nice.
Yes, well, He's not really into all that sentimental stuff, what with Him not being human or having any hormones. He really just likes to get on with the business end of things.
He must have been very quick, I didn't even notice I was being "blessed".
That's Him alright! When He wants to bless someone He doesn't hang about. It's just straight in there and, woosh, He's one fast blesser.
So now what?
Well you'll have a baby boy who, according to prophecy, will be named Emmanuel.
I think I prefer Jesus.
He will be the Messiah.
No one in the family's called Emmanuel.
He will be the salvation of mankind.
Jesus has got a nice ring to it don't you think?
You will be worshipped as the replacement mother goddess, as the Queen of Heaven. Well, not worshipped exactly, more sort of... er...
Yes blessed! No! No, no, no, no, no. Not blessed.
And that everyone, is the True Meaning of Advent.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh
The True Meaning of Christmas is that there are loads of twinkly lights. Everyone gets to decorate a Christmas tree with bright baubles and more twinkly lights. Living rooms have holly and ivy on their walls, or at least their plastic equivalents, and sometimes even more twinkly lights. The whole country comes to a stop for a few days and everything is completely dominated by it for months before hand.
It's all so unfair. I wish we had Christmas in Islam. Oh, we get Eid, but it's nowhere near as good. For a start, there aren't nearly as many twinkly lights. We do the family thing and have a big meal and all that, but the Queen doesn't come on the telly to wish us a Happy Eid. There's no Coronation Street special. It's just not the same. And there are no twinkly lights.
We exchange gifts and cards with people at Christmas time, but we don't get to put up twinkly lights. As Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh, I think Muslims should be allowed to put up twinkly lights at Christmas too!
News, news, news. The news is just full of news these days. However, a lot of news is not news at all. It is in fact, old news, news that has been announced before it was news and that by the time it became news was no longer news.
There, no one can accuse me of only tangentially mentioning the news today. I've done nothing but talk about news, future news and past news.
Which brings me onto past and future tense and the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we haven't had it yet. You're not supposed to be jolly yet. You're supposed to be miserable. There's lots of death, suffering, injustice and wealth disparity to dwell upon. Believer and unbeliever alike, ask why does the Invisible Magic Friend not do something? Simplistic answers like, he doesn't exist, are automatically excluded because it would make religion look silly.
The birth of the Invisible Magic Friend is something that happens NOW, that is to say, in several weeks time. It wasn't announced in advance, except by the prophets who announced it in advance. That is why Christmas is real news, or at least it will be when it happens. When it does actually happen, which is NOW, in several weeks time, we'll all be jolly grateful that it's already happened in the past, unannounced and NOW.
Happy four weeks to go 'till Christmas everyone!
You know that bloke in the high street with a sandwich board saying "repent, the end is nigh," well, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Phew, what a complete religious nutter. He's as bad as an environmentalist." But he's right, the end really is nigh.
The true meaning of Christmas is that Christ is going to return any day now and judge us all. Father Christ is going to appear at the foot of your bed in a blaze of glory and say, "Have you been good little boys and girls? Or have you been naughty?" All the good little boys and girls will get lots of lovely eternal life and get into heaven, but all the naughty ones get eternal damnation with demons sticking red hot pitch forks where you'd really rather they didn't.
You can always cast yourself down before Father Christ and plead for his infinite mercy. A bit of grovelling certainly won't do you any harm when you consider the alternative, but on the whole rules is rules. You had your chance and you messed it up. See if you're laughing at us Christians then, eh?
On judgement day, tyrants will be overthrown, even in Syria and the Eurozone economic crisis will be solved. There, that's one of the most tenuous connections to the news, ever, out of the way.
And don't think you can get away from either the rampant commercialism of Christmas or judgement day by going on a nice, relaxing cruise. Father Christ knows where you are and will judge you anyway.
Like I said, happy four weeks to go 'till Christmas everyone!