Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas definition

As the peaks on Arran
are defined by their covering of snow
so our world is defined
by the coming of the Christ child.
Love blankets the world
inequalities are erased
unevenness smoothed over
harsh sounds become muffled
but only from a distance.
Close up, reality bites
and chill sets in
at the realisation
that the love that came to change the world
is being guarded
and hoarded
held in closed fists
instead of being spread across the world
And in the manger
the baby cries
just before he is plucked from his cradle
to flee from evil forces
those same forces
of power and greed
that still would freeze the world
in their grip
unless we release the love
that came down at Christmas.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The great slide

I don't know that it's ever possible to get used to the extremes of full time ministry. Today has covered most bases: sharing the Christmas story with youngsters, spending time with someone facing the end of life, meeting with bereaved relatives to plan a service, pulling together power point resources, conducting a funeral and playing in the snow. It never seems to get any easier sliding through a whole gamut of emotions as slippery as the streets outside. But I wouldn't change it for anything.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

From the mouths of babes

In spite of the snow, all the children - and parents and grandparents - arrived at church this morning and presented the Nativity story beautifully. The Star who couldn't twinkle was soon lit up by the warmth of God's smile as were all of us present in worship this morning. Hopefully there will now be time to play in the snow. It certainly looks as though there is more to come.

Winter wonderland

Not sure what will happen to worship today. Snow fell overnight and it has started snowing again. It will be a shame if our young folks don't get to do their Nativity presentation. But, as long as all the vulnerable people stay home warm, dry and safe, I'm sure we can have some fun in the snow. Worship involves enjoying the God -given moment, doesn't it?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Faces of God - Advent 4

But you, Bethlehem, David's country, the runt of the litter—
From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel.
 He'll be no upstart, no pretender. His family tree is ancient and distinguished. 
Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes until the birth pangs are over and the child is born. 
And the scattered brothers come back home to the family of Israel.
 He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God's strength, centred in the majesty of God-Revealed.
 And the people will have a good and safe home, for the whole world will hold him in respect— Peacemaker of the world!

Micah 5:2-4

Just when we think we’ve got this promised Messiah pinned down. When we’ve faced up to his being a deliverer of promises, a creator of havoc and a warrior, we’re presented with the image of a shepherd, not an upstart or a pretender. How many faces can God have? Well, it seems, as many as are necessary to deal with the ravages of the world. A comforter for those who need comfort. A stirrer for those who are complacent. An avenger for those who have been wronged. Many the faces of the God who loves, cares for and comes to restore the world. Which of God’s faces do you need to see this Advent?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Promise

"We are all meant to be mothers of God for God is always in need of being born." Meister Eckhart

Whether it is coming too fast or whether we want advent to slow down, Christmas will come because of us and in spite of us. Wouldn't it be be as well to throw in our lot and mother God who comes anyway?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Remembering our saints

We added our own saints to the Jesse tree tonight as we remembered those we have loved and lost in our quiet Christmas service. The baby girning in the cradle adds his cries to ours and God comes to coorie in beside those feeling the draught of loss among all the tinsel of the season of comfort and joy.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Advent 3 - Don't be afraid

Jerusalem will be told:

"Don't be afraid.

Dear Zion, don't despair.

Your God is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you.

Happy to have you back, he'll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs.

Zephaniah 3:16,17

God present among us. How often do we look on that as a comfort, as reassurance? The prophet, however, refers to that presence as a Strong Warrior. Maybe not one of the first images most of us would cherish.

Looking around our world today, it will take a strong warrior to bring peace and calm. Someone with backbone.

Much as I love the image of a gentle lamb as a picture of God, a gentle lamb is not going to have much impact on a world at war.

But then, we have a pretty fixed idea of warriors too. We wouldn’t readily associate a warrior with calming love or with songs that delight rather than strike fear.

These scary images of advent really provoke us into looking at God – and at ourselves – in a whole new light.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Hidden treasure

In Obama's Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech, the phrase that struck a chord with me was: "that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls."
It reminded me of a story I used to retell each advent:
At the beginning of time, when the clay that formed humans was still damp, humans confronted the gods with the claim that they too were gods and had a stake in the divine inheritance. Realising that their godship was under threat, the gods decided they must hide the essence of deity somewhere that humans would never find it. If they hid it out in space, humans wouldn't rest until they could reach the stars. If they hid it in the depths of the seas, humans would find a way to mine the ocean depths. After much deliberation and rejection of ideas of safe hiding places one god disappeared and returned with the news that he had found a really safe space for the treasure, somewhere humans would never think of looking - deep within humans themselves.
That divine spark truly does stir in each of our souls. What a different world it would be if we could look for it in ourselves and in others.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Wordle fun

Wordle: Advent

I've just been introduced to Wordle and decided to have fun with this text from Isaiah 9. Looking forward to playing around with this new(for me) tool!

Advent 2 - Wake up!

"Look! I'm sending my messenger on ahead to clear the way for me. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Leader you've been looking for will enter his Temple—yes, the Messenger of the Covenant, the one you've been waiting for. Look! He's on his way!" A Message from the mouth of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

But who will be able to stand up to that coming? Who can survive his appearance?

Malachi 3:1,2 (The Message)

Advent is not the quiet, dark, sleepy season. It’s a time for waking up, for getting real. It might well provide a refuge from the chaos unfolding in the world around but it is also a time of challenge. This promised God-child won’t provoke cute baby babble. This promised God-child comes to put a rocket under those whose complacency and righteous safe playing by the rules has put a strait jacket on the word of God. Advent is a time for waking up to the radical, confrontational nature of the gospel, a time to let the word loose and then deal with the mess. And it will be messy if we follow the demands of God’s son. There are always casualties when we refuse to conform to the niceties and get down and dirty with the gritty demands of the gospel.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Christmas Spirit

We experienced a wonderful evening at the Salvation Army Community Carol Concert. The choir, drawn from across the community only got together a few months ago. Tonight was their debut. And they were fantastic. The Salvation Army band accompanied the community carol singing and addresses were given by the UK commanders John and Elizabeth Matear. We also had some great puppetry. This extravaganza was hosted in a presbyterian church, packed by folks of all denominations. It was great to be part of such an orgy of worship. Hope we can do it again.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The power of love

I was reminded today of that old fable about the sun and the wind arguing over who was the most powerful. The wind decided to use force to try and get an old man to remove his coat. But the old man simply wrapped it tighter around himself. The sun shone gently and, within a few minutes, the coat was off.

Sometimes, it's not a cop out to refuse to confront things head on. There is often the need for hearts to be gently melted and cold bones to be lovingly warmed. There is incredible power in love.

Sounds like an advent message to me.

Thanks be to God.

A home for Christmas?

Want some breathing space?
Check out this link.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

One person's box is another one's cradle

Last year, during advent, we performed a symbolic action at one of our midweek reflective services that called for us to prepare a place for the baby Jesus. The idea came from "Cloth for the Cradle", an advent worship resource from Wild Goose worship. It involved a wooden fruit box and strips of cloth (as pictured). Together we transformed these into a crib, symbolic of our preparing to welcome the Christ child. I used this picture as a background for our Advent Sunday worship. At least two people have commented that it was good to see an image of the sanctuary, but why didn't someone move that box and the wrapping paper out of the picture.
Isn't it intriguing how the crudeness and starkness of the incarnation still causes offense?
Incidentally, the blog post title comes from my wonderful enquirer, a welcome addition to our ministry team for now.

Being a mum

It was a treat today to be able to go and support Dalmilling Primary School choir as they sang for Christmas shoppers in Princes Square in Glasgow. At this time of year there are so many reasons not to take time out so an afternoon spent supporting my daughter and her friends was a real bonus. And we enjoyed some "girl time" after the performance.
I'll have to work really late tonight but whatever I do will be enhanced by the fun had this afternoon.

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