Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christ is born




The Christ candle took three attempts to light tonight but then it burned brightly as a symbol of Christ born again amidst all the darkness of today's world.
May the hope, love, joy and peace of Christmas be yours.

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Come to the Manger


Early folk, late folk
punctual and stragglers
take the weight off your feet
and park yourself
just for a while.
It's too late now
if there's anything not done.
Whether you're calm
or whether your heads still buzzing
breathe deeply
of the love
that we celebrate here this night.
Get yourself
a whiff of the stable
Pin back your ears
for the sound of Heavenly Choirs
And lend your voice
tuneful or not 
to the Heavenly host
revving up
for the Party
And, if you're not in a party mood
that's OK too
because the stable
was a great leveler
Welcoming the great and the lowly
the jubilant and the downtrodden
making room for all
Everyone was - and is welcome
at the manger.


Telling the greatest story




Angels that rocked and rolled
Shepherds that danced with their sheep
Kings that seemed totally bemused
A sleep deprived innkeeper
A beautiful young mother
And a bored father
Even the adults were involved
Dusting and dancing
Trimming the tree
Moving scenery
For just like the real thing
There was a part for everyone to play
in telling the story of The Nativity
The greatest story ever told
Often we entrust the telling to infants
And that works
But we too who are older
and supposedly wiser
have a lead role
in telling the good news.
A vital role.
We are all invited,
more than that, required,
with or without
the tea towels and the robes
and crowns and wings
to live out our Advent themes
of hope and peace
and joy and love
To reveal the baby God
born in obscurity
raised in oppression
To pierce the darkness of today's world
with the dazzling light
of God's love.


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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Birthing God






What if it were today?
What if God had chosen today's world to reveal love?
Where might God find a divided land crying out for a rescuer?
Where might God find people oppressed
by a government charged with protecting them?
What out of the way place might God choose?
Would the mother of God be an unmarried teenager?
Or one of the homeless teenagers who sleeps in the railway arches?
To whom would the angels announce the good news?
To the night shift workers leaving their factories?
Or the care workers just beginning their early shift?
And those wise visitors who followed the star.
Would they use sat nav, following it slavishly
until they realised they were lost?
And then announce a check in on Facebook
informing the world of their whereabouts
and putting the child at risk.
Who would feel threatened by the arrival of the Son of God,
fearful that their power would be diminished?
And who would warn the Holy Family
to escape the evil intent?
And, as for the slaughter of the Innocents,
we can imagine that only too well
In Sudan, the Congo, Connecticut,
Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan.
The darkness of today's world
needs the light of love and hope
and joy and peace
just as much as did the world
of Mary and Joseph and Herod
and the Roman Empire.
God needs to be born today
in so many places.
We are the midwives of the birth
of good news that brings
Love, hope, joy and peace
to the world today,
birthing God wherever we are.

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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Glimpses




Bagpacking at the local grocery store
afforded a curious glimpse
into people's readiness
for Christmas.
Some shopping in joyful anticipation
of family visits
or time spent relaxing
Others weary and worn down
wishing it were all over already.
Was it any different that first Christmas?
When folk were summoned to be registered.
For everyone who was joyfully anticipating family visits
there were others who were weary with the journey.
For each one ready to be surprised
there were others whose hope has long since departed.
For everyone eager to please and do as decreed
there were others resenting the imposition
and the disturbance to normal life.
And then the unimaginable happened.
God was born.
To an unknown mother.
In an unknown location.
In an out of the way place.
And so love, hope, joy and peace
infiltrated a weary world.
What are the chances of that happening again today?
-

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Immaculate




A Wee Dose of Reality
Immaculate conception wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Inside, I could hold my head up high,
knowing I had done no wrong,
but you try telling that to the old biddies down in the market,
looking for a story to gossip,
a victim to scandalise.
It wasn’t just the dried up old widows
seething with bitterness
at their station in life,
but even the younger ones
I used to run around with.
I’d catch them, too,
blethering on the corner,
going real quiet when I appeared—
a conversation stopper, that’s me,
if ever there was one.
And who could blame them?
They saw me change from the shy bright teenager I was,
full of life,
to the sallow-skinned miserable wench,
throwing up at everyday sights and smells.
If that angel hadn’t warned me,
they would have known before I did—
the signs were all there.
They’d seen them all before:
the squeamishness, the pallor.
No blooming for me,
I turned into a ghost of myself,
folk could see right through me
and they were quick to draw their own conclusions.
They’d judged and condemned me
before I even got up to speed
and cottoned on
that what the angel said had come true,
I was pregnant.
Those serene pictures you see
of me looking calm and contented, well,
nothing could be further from the truth!
Sure I wanted to serve God
but God had no idea what it was like
to be an unmarried pregnant teenager.
It felt like I was two different people:
a willing servant of God, on the one hand,
and a sick, scared miserable pregnant teenager on the other.
What did God know
about pregnancy sickness,
or about stretch marks,
or about ankles that swell
and spill over your shoes,
or about developing breasts as big and hard as water melons
(I was never known for largesse in that department)?
Lets not forget the constant weariness,
and, as if all that wasn’t bad enough,
there was the shunning on top.
I might be carrying God’s child
but you try telling that to folk
with laws that mattered above all else,
laws that should have got me stoned.
Even the best saint
would have had a job
smiling through all that,
far less a naive teenager.
Immaculate conception?
Immaculate for whom?

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Stille Nacht




The ice rink is a place of beautiful stillness
In between games
When everyone has gone
to enjoy something warming
the peace is tangible
No roars of HURRY!
No clatter of stones
hurtling up the ice
Just a hushed waiting
Like the church in between services
When everyone has left
and the tidying has been done
when there is silence
and order.
Quiet, still,peaceful.
But not purposeful.
Both places are built
to embrace and to welcome
to ring with sound
and activity
The stillness is nice - for a while
but we yearn for the hustle and bustle
and even the ritual
that belongs to the space.


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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Saying YES






Mary: Mother of God.
Trusting God
with the fear,
with the pain,
with the ridicule,
with the disgrace,
with the disappointment,
with the risk of rejection,
with the ignorance,
with the weariness,
with the unknown.
Trusting enough
to say YES.
Saying YES
to fear,
to pain,
to ridicule,
to disgrace,
to disappointment,
to the risk of rejection,
to ignorance,
to weariness,
to the unknown.
Saying YES
to the birthing of God.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Defeat is not an option




The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

Why then do some folk, who should know better, claim that Christ is disappearing?
When Christmas is abbreviated or renamed it does not remove Christ.
When folk seem to focus on having fun, eating and drinking too much, Jesus is not diminished.
When folk overspend and feel pressured to give exorbitant gifts, Jesus does not become cheap.
When the tinsel and the baubles outshine the manger, Jesus does not become tarnished or obsolete.
Even when you and I fail to share the good news as we are called to do, God finds a way to reveal Jesus- the light of the world.
To complain that Christ is being taken out of Christmas is to admit defeat.
And that is not an option.

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Spit and polish




Can you hear the flutter of wings?
shaking out the stiffness
unfurling the creases
getting ready
for the biggest gig in history
Polishing up those halos
and running up and down the scales
practising the Glorias
all in readiness
for the a Capella performance of a lifetime.
Imagine if you were an angel
charged with proclaiming
the best news that the world has ever heard.
Well, have I got news for you:
You are an angel!
Even if your wings have long since stopped working
and your halo's thick with rust.
Even if the only shepherds you'll ever see
are 5 year olds in the school Nativity play.
You are charged
with spreading the good news today.
Time to break out the brasso!



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Sunday, 16 December 2012

All you need is love




In worship today, we talked about our favourite love songs. Songs played by dance bands or orchestras or by DJs or listened to at home on vinyl or CD. Some brought poignant memories, some fleeting reminders. Most brought smiles.
Two tracks were running through my head as I thought on love songs that have accompanied me:
"You'd think the world would have enough of silly love songs- I look around me and I see it isn't so."
And -
Leo Sayer: "When I need you, I just close my eyes and I'm with you..."
We all went home with a love song lyric to hang on our trees, reminding us of the never ending unconditional love of God that came into the world at Christmas

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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Extreme love




Let me tell you how I love you,’ goes the song of God,
a song that never ends,
instead becoming more elaborate as time goes on.
The God of love
goes to extremes
to show us how
we are loved beyond measure.
God never tires
of finding new ways, revealing to us when least expected the height,
and depth,
and width
of love.
And, just when we think we’ve got the message,
we are stunned again
by the enormity of such love that pursues us
to the ends of the earth, stopping us in our tracks, in our daily grind compelling us
to look up and wonder, and be filled with hope and with joy
as we bask
in God’s love for us.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Look for the helpers




“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr Rogers

The helpers -
Folk who set out this morning
anticipating a normal day at work
but found themselves transformed
into reluctant heroes.
They could not prevent tragedy
but, when faced with unimaginable circumstance
they rallied to the call,
stepped up to the mark
and went way beyond the call of duty.
The helpers -
the folk who in the midst
of grief and pain
and tragedy
do what must be done
and keep on doing it
dropping gentle reminders
all around
of chinks of light
in the darkness
of hope
of love
reminders that not all humanity
is evil.
The helpers -
those who mirror God
in their grief
and sorrow
in their quest
to make a difference
in their willingness to cry
and their unwillingness
to be defeated.
The helpers.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Unexpected gifts






Recently, I've been spending some time getting to know the young folks in the Supported Learning Centre of a local Secondary School. It has been a joy to experience their hospitality and witness their caring. Each one unique, each with different needs and challenges. United in caring for and supporting one another. And challenging me to think about how I express faith and the things I consider important and life-giving. It is refreshing to be forced to weigh up words and concepts, to weed out ambiguity, to get to the heart of the matter. I am being encouraged to grow through these encounters, receiving so much more than giving.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Gaudete







Rejoice!
Just as the steps begin to weary
on a journey that began
with so much promise and hope
there comes a brief respite
while we pause in our journey to Bethlehem.
That pause is filled with expectation,
of rest and renewal
of joy and anticipation.
We salute Mary the mother of God
and take a moment
to ponder, with her
how far we have come
and the journey that we continue
and resolve, as we light the pink candle
to say yes!
to an awesome journey
with the God who loves
to take us on a journey
we would never have imagined
and who gives us the courage
to go along
on a bumpy ride
of discovery.
Rejoice!


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Wonderful love





‘Let me tell you how I love you,’ goes the song of God,
a song that never ends,
instead becoming more elaborate as time goes on.
The God of love
goes to extremes
to show us how
we are loved beyond measure.
God never tires
of finding new ways, revealing to us when least expected the height,
and depth,
and width
of love.
And, just when we think we’ve got the message,
we are stunned again
by the enormity of such love that pursues us
to the ends of the earth, stopping us in our tracks, in our daily grind compelling us
to look up and wonder, and be filled with hope and with joy
as we bask
in God’s love for us.

Liz Crumlish 2012


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Monday, 10 December 2012

Seeing Christ in others




I've always been a bit of a soft touch when it comes to folk looking for handouts from the church. And I've been scammed a few times. So while, perhaps that makes me slightly more cautious, I still feel instinctively that, for folk to come to "the church" whom I represent, asking for help, takes a lot and betrays a real need at some level.
Recently, the number of requests has steadily increased. I'm not sure that this is due to word getting around. I think, rather, it is more an indication of how the recession is deepening and affecting more folk.
There has also been a growth in the number of food banks emerging. This is good and, indeed, our congregation regularly contribute to one of these. However, there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of red tape to be negotiated before relief is given. And that concerns me. Of course there will always be those who abuse any system but there also has to be a way to trust that folk are as desperate as they claim to be and to provide immediate relief until other services can be accessed.
I wish I knew how to draw up a robust policy in helping the hungry and the homeless and I am also aware of my own vulnerability in some situations but there is the very real danger that turning away "the least of these" would be to turn away Christ, the one who "took on flesh and moved into the neighbourhood."

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Refining




The past is always brighter when viewed from the depths of the present.
Memories take on a rose tinted hue when they are explored
from the safety of distance.
We have an amazing capacity
to filter out the dross
and capitalize on the glitz,
the ability to find glimmers of gold in the muck and glaur.
And our God is way ahead of us already sifting,
testing,
cleansing,
scrubbing up the old and tired,
restoring to glory all that’s worth keeping, bringing joy when least expected, transforming all the familiar landscapes with love,
and laughter,
and a baby’s cry.
Settling into the world
and upending everything making it real
with the pangs of labour, birthing new life and new hope in the mess of the world.
(Liz Crumlish 2012)

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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Cradling God




Our Quiet Christmas Service is an attempt to acknowledge that this season is not one of hope and joy for everyone. We light candles and hang memorials on the tree and think of those we miss. And, somehow, there is an honesty in that service where no one is required or expected to be cheerful, where folk are encouraged to be real. And, always, the plight of an unmarried teenage mother, far from home, struggling to make sense of all that is happening comes into focus and the Nativity, stripped bare speaks into the silence. The silence of love lost and dreams abandoned, the silence in which the anguished sigh of God is heard. And God's presence is felt in the starkness of the manger unadorned by fairy lights, in the rawness of grief and loss, breathing warmth that thaws bodies numbed by pain,embracing hearts laid bare in sorrow, cradling fragile souls as fiercely and lovingly as God's son was cradled in his mother's arms.
Into such a world, God comes.
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Friday, 7 December 2012

Seasonal variations




Ministers are never together very long before the conversation invariably turns to funerals. There is no doubt that this time of year brings an increase in the number of funeral services ministers are asked to conduct. A combination of the cold weather and winter viruses. One of the privileges of being a "parish" minister, involved in a "territorial" ministry such as the Church of Scotland values is that anyone in the surrounding area can expect to have the ordinances of religion fulfilled by their local parish church. That includes weddings and funerals.
But the fact that I'm spending more time with bereaved families at this time of year does not diminish other aspects of ministry or call into question the essence of parish ministry. It is simply one of the many facets to which we are called, requiring to be embraced along with all the rest, in all its seasonal variations.
Believing that God gets alongside people in every season, in joy and sorrow sets the agenda for us to do so too.


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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Messy Nativity

This Advent, with some others in church, I've been watching again the BBC's production of The Nativity. Tony Jordan, the producer brought lots of thought provoking nuances to this version, portraying Mary being treated as a whore, Joseph and her parents struggling to believe her story of an immaculate conception and the Wise Men as wily astrology enthusiasts led by Balthasar who recognises the import of this once in a life time opportunity.
It is a very earthy portrayal and speaks much more realistically into the politics and the culture of God's timing of the Incarnation and accentuates how much we in the church have sanitised what must have been a pretty scary series of events for all concerned.
What is clear is that it is not a sentimental drama for re-enactment by children as we have allowed it to become but, rather, a messy, risky affair. God living on the edge.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Missing the obvious





Enjoyed listening to authors Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch today, talking about The Shape of things to come - in Scotland.
They are both wonderful communicators, combining prophetic insight with scriptural exegesis.
One of the most glaring omissions of the church, they claim, is our theology of the incarnation. Not giving the incarnation enough weight results in really skewed practice. When we emphasise a theology centred on the cross or on resurrection or even salvation we diminish our portrayal of the God who took on flesh and who "moved into the neighbourhood". And getting that image wrong means that we get the image of God wrong since Jesus displays the Father. Somehow we've lost that bodily connection, lost the flesh element and substituted something much more cerebral that doesn't get down and dirty enough.
The church, faced with its current identity crisis would benefit from returning to our founder, mirroring the life of Jesus who majored on access for all.
Is there any better time than this season of Advent to start putting some flesh back on out theology?
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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pregnancy blues




In the early stages of my second pregnancy, my gran died. It wasn't entirely unexpected - she was well into her eighties and had been ill for some time. My main concern was that I wasn't sure if I'd make it to her funeral service - because I was being so sick in that first trimester. Whoever called it morning sickness must have been male! It lasted all day and then into the night.
Kate Middleton has been hospitalised because of pregnancy sickness and it is front page news in many parts of the world. It IS a horrible thing and I would not want in any way to trivialise it. However it does seem a bit bizarre that it has claimed such media attention.
When every day there are women and babies who do not survive pregnancy or who are delivered in unsanitary conditions.
And, as the church prepares to celebrate the birth of the baby God once more, conceived, delivered and brought up amidst great risk for all concerned, perhaps we can make room to consider the plight of those women and children who will never become headline news but who survive against all odds, as well as those who do not make it. Perhaps we can resolve to work towards proper health care and sanitary conditions for all women and their children through all hazards that pregnancy brings.

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Monday, 3 December 2012

Into the cold...

video
 
A video for the beginning of Advent.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Beginnings...and endings





As we embarked on another year in church life today,this first Sunday in Advent, we also said farewell to our ministry student who has journeyed with us over the last year. The gestation period is over and it is time for a new birth. We are sustained by the hope of the season and the expectation of another adventure just beginning. Advent heralds growth and change that we embrace with confidence, experiencing Emmanuel - God with us through all of life.
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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Ready?




The Advent candles are waiting to be lit. The Chrismon tree is ready for the children to hang the decorations they have made. The signs are all around the Sanctuary that we await something special. While some folk are eager for the season to begin, others need a little more time. But that is not an option. Christmas is coming, ready or not. Its a bit like the game of Hide and Seek we play as children, where the Seeker cries: Here I come, ready or not! God breaks into our messy lives bringing all the signs of hope and peace and joy - bidden or unbidden. The light shines in the darkness. Thank God we cannot hold that back by our reluctance to begin the Advent journey. It begins and God is with us.
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