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A Critic Writes: The vital significance of Third Sheep in the Nativity

NativityWe consider that we know what makes a nativity, but do we really? Despite the apparent simplicity of the concept, it’s obvious to clever people like me that this story is a multi-layered intertextual phenomenon. There are layers upon layers, layers within layers, and layers next to layers but at a slight angle. There is nothing simple about it.

Every element of the story is vital to making it the enduring phenomenon it is. Some of these have a direct, functional role – Jesus needs parents, who in turn need transport and somewhere to stay, and no birth would be complete without people popping in uninvited and giving you impractical gifts you didn’t ask for. But other roles are far more significant and symbolic. Read More…

Religion is the smile on a dog

Dog FaceNo no, it’s alright – I know, he’s a bit big and he looks quite scary, but he doesn’t bite – Down, boy, down! – he just wants to play. He loves old people, he’s always fussing around them wagging his tail, hoping for a treat. And children, too – he just loves children. Actually, now I think about it, maybe he loves children a bit too much…

Anyway, he’s a lovely pet, and really nice to have around. He’s so friendly, and he loves playing. I suppose you could say he’s got a bit of a one-track mind and I don’t think he handles complexity or change very well, but give him a familiar environment and he’s fine. Look, boy – see the relic – go fetch! Fetch it! Good boy. Aren’t you clever? Yes you are. What a clever boy.

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I like Gospels, but I couldn’t manage a whole one

I was previously aware of the term “Full Gospel” and the existence of “Full Gospel” churches, fellowships and conferences, but I was reminded of the term today and my mind started to wander in very strange directions. Part of me wants to stroke my beard and explore the implications for ecumenical relations, but mainly I think the idea’s ripe for a spot of mockery.

Coffee_EspressoThe obvious (and boring) meaning is that it’s the whole Gospel, wi’ nowt taken out, but that makes me wonder if nasty brown bread’s the right analogy. What if it’s more like most things we consume, such as coffee, and some of the things in the Gospel are bad for you? Then it would probably be more virtuous to order a skinny Gospel instead of the full one, but I’ve never heard of a Partial Gospel Church of Christ, and the Strained Gospel Church sounds quite unpleasant. Read More…

Was Good King Wenceslas a complete idiot?

Good morning, St Stephen’s Day. Apparently, St Stephen is patron saint of headache sufferers among other things, which is presumably something to do with his association with Boxing Day. But the Feast of Stephen is most commonly known as the date when Good King Wenceslas looked out.

Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in a less welcoming mood

I’m happy to let a lot of strange things go in carols, but Good King Wenceslas is more or less a complete and detailed story about a supposed event, and it bothers me, because I don’t think it makes any sense at all.

The King looks out of his castle, and sees a peasant gathering winter fuel, or firewood in other words. So far, so simple. But when he asks his page who the man is, it gets very weird. Apparently, he lives miles away, “right against the forest fence”. So why would he walk “a good league” to gather firewood in the vicinity of the castle when he has such a fine supply on his doorstep? It just doesn’t make sense. Read More…

Email from Heaven

From: gabs@personnel.hv

Greetings, exalted friend. Kindly pardon me for inconvenience.

Permit me to inform you of my desire of going into business relationship with you. I have the believe you are a reputable and responsible and trustworthy person I can do business with from the little information so far I gathered about you during my search for a partner and by matter of trust I must not hesitate to confide in you for this simple and sincere business. Read More…

Hate the sin, love the sinner

Who would Jesus picket?

Christianity is facing a grave threat, one that could split the entire church. A combination of a sinfully relaxed attitude from much of the church and the liberalism of secular culture means that this pernicious cancer is spreading, and in danger of destroying everything the church should stand for. In a world where you can now see shameless and outrageous displays of sinful behaviour on TV and in the street, it is vitally important that the church takes a stand and clearly sets out its position on the evils of bigotry. Read More…

The Gospel According to Dr Seuss

I take as the text for my sermon today:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox
I do not like them in a house
I do not like them with a mouse
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

I’m sure we’ve all felt like that from time to time, haven’t we? I know I have. Read More…

The evil of Christmas trees

Okay, I’m basically not a very nice person in many ways, and I’m all too aware of my many faults, but this year, my conscience has been pricked after being pointed towards the words of Jeremiah:

This is what the LORD says:

“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them.
For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

That seems like a pretty clear denunciation of Christmas trees to me, and prophetic as well, seeing that it was written about 600 years before Jesus was even born. The question is, how much wiggle room is there? Read More…

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