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Our Rich Liturgical
Heritage: Cheer Up

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Our Rich Liturgical Heritage

by The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain

‘Cheer up: you’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, but you’re more loved than you ever dared hoped.’

I don’t think Jack Miller was an Anglican but his cheer up greeting rings truer to reality and our liturgies than sentimental greetings like ‘happy holidays’, ‘Christmas is for children’ and ‘Christmas is for giving’. Consider for a moment the total lack of self-congratulation and honest diagnosis when we pray: Merciful God, our maker and our judge, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do: we have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves and the amazing grace of our Lord’s words this is my blood of the new covenant shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

There is nothing in the world, no gift so precious, as the Saviour who, though He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, nevertheless came for us and for our salvation…from heaven to bring us into his kingdom that will have no end.

Our liturgies plumb the depths of our sinfulness and scale the heights of God’s love to us in Christ, in order to provide us with cheer in all the changes and chances of this fleeting world. Consider these promises from the 1st Orders words of assurance for those who truly turn to Christ. We are reminded that the Saviour who so humbly came bids us come (to me), neither with pride, but as those who labour and are heavy laden, nor with fear, but with the promise and I will give you rest ringing in our ears.

Lest we feel we have a natural right to these riches we have to first declare our spiritual bankruptcy in order to receive Christ’s manifold and great mercies and enjoy the assurance that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. No circumstance, good or bad, can rob us of this joyful assurance, since Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners and on the basis of his perfect offering for our sins, we have an advocate with the Father.

There is so much to be cheerful about, at Christmas and every other day and season of our lives. Thankfully Christmas is not just for children. But it is about the Child and the invitation to become children of God through new birth. We have every reason to be cheerful as we pray: Almighty God, who gave your only begotten Son to take our nature upon Him and as at this time to be born of the virgin Mary: grant that we being born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by our Holy Spirit.

We might even consider using this ‘cheer-up’ greeting in our cards or table decorations as a way of helping our friends come to grips with their spiritual poverty, so that they might claim the real riches that Christ holds out to self-confessed bankrupts. There is plenty of synthetic and temporal cheer on offer each Christmas, but among us cheer is found in God’s love demonstrated in Christ’s humble coming, his bearing sin’s penalty upon the Cross, and the daily experience of the Holy Spirit’s presence, ‘to cheer and to guide’. Cheer up friends. This is wonderfully real and enduring.

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Published in Messenger, December 2019

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