There was once this man. No, honestly there was, I knew him well. He's not at all a literary fiction designed to embody certain characteristics that tend to typify people about this time of year, and this year in particular, and that you might expect from such a celebrated author as myself.
Anyway back to this man. He was able to mention the latest fad in mass TV programming and quote G.K. Chesterton. He could mention financial terms and even knew what some of them meant. This was a man to be reckoned with, a man as well read and well informed as, oh, me for example.
Now this totally non-fictional man who isn't me and that I know well, was useless at keeping new year's resolutions. He'd resolved to read the Big Book of Magic Stuff from cover to cover but rapidly got bored by its tedious, contradictory, often badly written and largely irrelevant prose. In these difficult economic times, he was determined to find a resolution that even he could keep. He decided to quote Mark Twain and a phrase from Robert Burns made famous by John Steinbeck. He even managed to squeeze in a passing allusion to Dickens, just to remind you how well read he was.
His set of resolutions was a blank page (a somewhat overworked metaphor you might think, but he probably wasn't as advanced in literary craft as a celebrity, Christian writer like myself - or alternatively, he couldn't be bothered to waste an original metaphor on a radio slot where he didn't get paid).
He consulted the great god Google. (Did you hear that? I managed to combine the idolatry of false gods with our dependence on technology. Oh, I'm on fire today, or rather he
He turned to the last paragraph of the last page of the last book of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, and there...
Well, no, actually it's not the last paragraph, it's verse 4 out of 27. It's almost certainly not the last page because there is no standard page layout, and it isn't even the last chapter, as there's one more chapter to go in Revelation before it appears. I just knew some nerdy, scientific type, with their obsession with "accuracy", would go look it up and make a big deal about it. You're so predictable. It's called artistic license, you wouldn't understand.
Anyway, it says in the Big Book of Magic Stuff, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
And he ended the last Thought for the Day, on the last day of the year, with a phrase that was intended to be profound, but was instead hilariously platitudinous.
Hasn't 2011 been just terrible? It's been awful. Absolutely abysmal. There's youth unemployment and all sorts of social ills.
Fortunately, Christianity invented something called "hope". This isn't just blind optimism. It isn't.
Christians also invented things called "faith" and "love". The Bishop of Liverpool might think the phrase "God is Love" is too vacuous, but God is Love, and this is not a contradiction. God is the ultimate reality. It is.
A famous theologian thought love was a really good thing, so it must be true.
Since love and hope are such good things, faith must be too. A child told me that faith was believing what you know isn't true. Foolish child! Don't worry, we will soon correct such wrong notions. Nor is faith simply a crutch for those who can't accept that the universe wasn't made for our benefit. It isn't.
To show how correct everything I'm saying is, my charity collected the money to switch on an old woman's heating. That's how right I am.
We, and by we I do of course mean you, have the ability to transform from an ugly, selfish, sinful pond nymph, into a beautiful, generous, virtuous dragonfly.
This programme is all about leaders, which is why they have important religious leaders like me on. There are two types of leaders. There are political leaders, people who seek power, like kings, who fight their petty little wars and are soon forgotten. Then there are important religious leaders, whose words inspire and bring hope to the masses of ordinary people.
Important religious leaders, whose wisdom and humility echo down through the ages, never seek political power. They are not the kind of people who try to control others or bend them to their will.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff has many examples. Who, for example, remembers any of its kings. Names such as David, Solomon and Herod are largely unknown. Whereas, among the prophets, who can forget the unforgettable Obadiah. The words of the famous Haggai are so famous that I need not even quote them. A famous poet agrees with me, so I must be right.
In our own time, there are such inspirational religious leaders as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. With their vast reserves of cash, I would just like to say how admirable and wonderful they are. I didn't get where I am today without telling the rich and influential how admirable and wonderful they are.
Then there are the ordinary people, teachers and nurses, the kind of people we don't allow on Thought for the Day. Although not as important as great religious thinkers such as myself, I'm sure they go about their humdrum little lives in a reasonably competent fashion, possibly doing something vaguely useful from time to time.
In the tough times that we face ahead, the inspiration of we great religious thinkers will be even more important and relevant than ever before.
The marvellous Tracey Emin has asked me to provide a thought for you today. We have one of this marvellous artist's work in my cathedral. What a marvellous work this is, it is a neon sign with the word "love" in it. Marvellous, is it not? Who but such a marvellous artist could have created a marvellous neon sign with the word "love" in it? It says it all marvellously, does it not?
The Hayward Gallery put on a marvellous display of this marvellous artist's work. Some of those marvellous works also included the word love, as well as Christ and the cross. Emily Bronte mentioned love too, which just goes to show how important love is.
Tracey, I call her Tracey due to us both being marvellous, might expect me to say here that God is love. That would be too predictable. An empty, vacuous platitude, unworthy of this illustrious slot. In fact, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend never said this and it only occurs a few times in the Big Book of Magic Stuff. Therefore it may, or may not, be true that God is love. I think my point here is clear.
If, and I emphasise if, we were created by the Invisible Magic Friend, which we definitely were, then that creator must be able to love. For it is clearly impossible for a creator to create anything with attributes that it itself does not possess. A few moments thought will soon convince you that there is not a single counter-example to this.
Tracey has another marvellous work with words in it that include "love". These words on a blanket could have wrapped the baby Invisible Magic Friend. They didn't, but they could have. Indeed, of the infinite number of things that could have happened, this is one of them. They could also have been stained with blood by Herod, the evil baby murderer of ancient Judea and not a marvellous artist of any kind.
His Grace, Bishop Angaelos, Patriarchal Exarch for the Youth Ministry at the Patriarchal Center and the Coptic Orthodox Theological College, Stevenage
Tuesday, 27 December, 2011, 08:19 AM - Christian persecutionRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Things are not going well for Christians in the Middle East. We used to be top religion, where everybody did what we told them to. Now another religion is top religion and they're making life very difficult for us.
Some Christians in the Middle East have already celebrated Christmas, unlike the Coptic Church, which, more properly, uses the correct Julian calendar - an eternal calendar, that is not swayed by the passing fashions of astronomical alignments. Whether they use a heretical calendar or not, Christians are increasingly having to flee from the Middle East to seek a more favourable climate in other traditional Christian centres, such as Stevenage.
You would think that the recent revolutions and the arrival of democracy would make things better for Christians. It turns out that the rule of the majority, when the majority all belong to the top religion, seems to make things even worse for non-top religions. I think there may be a message in here somewhere about mixing religion with politics and the benefits of a secular society, but for the life of me I can't think what it might be.
Some of the people from the top religion are even manipulating the feelings of the electorate. Yes, I know, shocking isn't it?
Fortunately, we can place our trust in the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, who arrived 2,000 years ago proclaiming peace and hope in the Middle East. Things have just been getting better and better there ever since, apart from the occasional little hiccup like the current century and most of the previous ones.
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.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Mind-blowingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
The rules regarding adoption are to be reviewed.
Parents. Babies. Adoption. It's Christmas Eve. I wonder where I should go with this story? Hmmm... difficult one. I hadn't anticipated such an awkward news story appearing. Somehow I've got to relate parents, babies and adoption into what I was going to say about the True Meaning of Christmas.
I mean, if one of Jesus' parents had been an adoptive parent then I think I might have had an angle on this. Oh, wait! Joseph was! Phew, that was a bit of luck! Brilliant! That means I can talk about the visible bit of the invisible Magic Friend becoming visible after all.
Joseph was initially going to split up with Mary due to her having a baby that he couldn't recall playing any part in. Fortunately, the Angel Gabriel informed him that she'd been blessed by the particularly invisible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and that the baby was in fact going to be the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. This came as considerable relief to Joseph who decided to stay with her while she remained a virgin for the rest of her life. Presumably Joseph did too.
With all their fussy rules about protecting children, those politically correct bureaucrats gone mad down at the town hall, probably wouldn't have allowed Joseph to adopt nowadays, even when he told them about the Angel Gabriel. Joseph wouldn't have learned about the way children mess up your life. My wife and I had to constantly cancel our wild parties and boozy nights down the pub.
And that is the True Meaning of Christmas.
Happy Christmas to you all!
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.
Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 08:14 AM - Courage, hope, perseverance etc., Lessons of history, SacksRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
There's a big Jewish festival underway. Happy Hanukkah everybody!
Hanukkah celebrates the rebellion of the Jews against Antiochus IV. He put a statute of the wrong Invisible Magic Friend in the temple and banned us from mutilating the winkles of baby boys. He was obviously a bit mad.
Antiochus inherited power, which is a bad thing unless you're a Jewish king. The good guy was Judas Maccabeus who put the real Invisible Magic Friend back in the temple and started mutilating baby boys' winkles again in defiance of the evil Greeks.
By an incredible coincidence, this is exactly like the deaths of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-Il. Vaclav Havel didn't fight an underground
So it shall always be, as brave men fight for the freedom to mutilate baby boys' winkles against the stench of tyranny. Courage shall always triumph over insane despots who attempt to put the wrong Invisible Magic Friend in the temple. The human spirit soars like a great human soaring thing. The light of hope banishes the darkness of totalitarianism where a bunch of unelected men tell everyone else what to do.
Thanks to men like Judas Maccabeus, no one will ever again challenge our right to mutilate baby boys' winkles.