Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

Matthew 1:18-23
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”

Are you ready?
asked the checkout operator
as she scanned the last minute gifts we remembered
Are you ready?
A question posed numerous times
in myriad ways
this past few days.
Are you ready?
Our response to that will vary greatly
There is always the fear that we have overlooked something
forgotten something vital
had a senior moment
left things too late.
But the good news of Christmas
For all of us 
Is that it doesn't matter
how ready we are.
God is born.
Emmanuel - God with us
happens over and over again.
Ready or not.
Emmanuel - God with us
comes to those who grieve
to those who worry and fret
to those who feel unprepared
to those who feel calm and ready
to those who are excited
to those who dread
to those who feel that Christmas 
has already been snatched from them
and to those who are waiting to see
what tomorrow brings.
The good news, for all, is
we do not make Christmas 
we do not have to be ready
In every circumstance,
God is born
Emmanuel - God with us.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Fathering God

Matthew 1:24
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,

These past few months have been the most demanding of my life
the most emotionally draining
I've known the fierceness of love and anger
The depths of despair, the unravelling of joy.
But I'm a man
I'm supposed to be hard
I'm not supposed to be turned to mush
by watching the woman I love suffer
She looks so beautiful carrying my child
And it is my child
I may not have planted the seed that grows within her
But I have watched her body change
I have rubbed her swollen flesh
in the night when she aches
I have felt our baby move and grow
I have felt the kicks and the hiccoughs
And I have felt her pain
as our friends have shunned us
No cosy chats with the other women for Mary
Swapping stories, normalising pregnancy
And no back slapping congratulations for me
Or even leery comments
Just menacing silence
sizzling with reproach
Little do they know, my former so called friends
If they had stuck with me instead of cutting me off
They might, just might, have brought me to my senses
But Mary and I, pushed together in our adversity
Have learned resilience 
And grown together, forced into maturity
It's not just us
We have a little life to care for
And we will prove them wrong
Those who think we'll never manage.
We will show them
That we are the people God calls us to be
Parents for the Son of God.
Liz Crumlish 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

Piercing truth

Luke 2:34-35
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

It was a long time in coming
A lifetime and more
But even though he'd waited a lifetime
to greet the Messiah
Simeon could not temper his words
The old prophet could not keep silent 
about what he saw.
This baby, brought to the temple
to fulfil tradition and custom
was recognised by Simeon
as the Messiah on whom he waited.
A Messiah who was destined 
to shake up the institutions 
to challenge a way of life
and to bring searing pain
to the woman who had borne him.
And, having waited so long to greet him.
he could not keep quiet
about the future he saw
in the face of the Son of God.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

You are the story

Luke 2:20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

They came to worship.
knowing that
on this last Sunday in Advent
we'd be ready
to break out the Christmas Carols
and  to unfold the Christmas story.
The star that had been making its way
through the sanctuary
as Advent progressed 
was placed over the choir at the front.
As the children processed
dropping glitter in their wake
there was a buzz of expectation.
Children and adults dressed up
and took part
Angels, shepherds, wise men too.
Mary was a single mum for a time
until one of the shepherds 
stepped into the breach.
One angel was well into his 70s
The three kings were four
And the baby God?
Was there the whole time
from beginning to end
Not asleep on the hay
but coorying in beside
the widower chilled with grief
Embracing the young mother
worn out working all hours to make ends meet
Lifting the spirits of the gran
whose family are all far away
And heading home
with all who were entranced
by the beauty and simplicity
of the story 
of Emmanuel
God with us.

It's all about the story

Matthew 1:18
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

The Day of the Nativity Play
There's a buzz in the air
The adults arrive early
intent on snagging the best seats,
the best viewpoint
from which to see their charges re-enact
the greatest story ever told.
The children too seem extra fidgety
They won't stand still
while tea towels are affixed to shepherds
and tinsel to glittery angels
Even the Kings seem electrified
though they are older
and supposedly more jaded
But with their crowns perched atop slicked back hair
and their gifts clutched tightly in their hands
they too seem ruffled by the moment.
Only Mary seems calm and serene.
Although I don't know how, since Joseph is tearing around
pretend fighting with the shepherds
Just as well those staffs are foam and not wood!
Those tea towels are off again!
And who put the camels, the donkey and the sheep
in those ridiculous positions?
Someone has been messing with the manger!
And the baby Jesus is nowhere to be seen.
But it's time to go.
The choir have finished singing.
The angel Gabriel is making her way down the aisle
Oops - Mary was supposed to go first.
Never mind - the Angel's message will be delivered
Mary and Joseph will carry the donkey 
all the way across the chancel to Bethlehem,
The baby will be born.
The angels will tell the shepherds
who will hurry down to Bethlehem.
And the wise men will make an entrance
with their gifts, hopefully not tripping over their curtains
on the way up the chancel steps.
Someone will find the baby Jesus
and place him in the manger
just in time.
And everyone will say
"What a lovely story"
And, in all the cuteness of the re-telling,
maybe, just maybe,
we will glimpse the greatest gift ever given
and see God born in our midst today.

(To be continued)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Mothering God

Luke 1v 42
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

God, you pick your moments
and your people.
Talk about a big fat Jewish wedding?
Well, the big, fat part came true
as I swelled with the weight of the Son of God.
People thought Joseph was a fool
But I knew differently
It took guts to stick with me
and not run from God
and the crazy plans
he'd racked
up for us.
Once he'd set his mind to it
like everything else he did,
Joseph made a great job
of caring for me
the mother of God's child. 
What other man
would be there at the birth
and not leave it to the women.
Mind you, Joseph had no choice.
No one else would speak to us
disgracing them as we had.
It wasn't really until the birth
that I missed the other women folk
Because Joseph was so loving and caring
He saw the hurt I felt
and tried to make it up to me.
And, for a time, he did.
But, when the time came
to push this fragile life
out into the world
that was when I needed another woman
One who knew what to expect
One who could talk me through the pain
and reassure me
that this was how it had to be
to bring a new life to birth.
I couldn't even blame Joseph
He hadn't planted this seed in me
But I cursed him anyway
with every profanity I knew.
He had to stay
and take it
There was no one else
to catch the Son of God
as he was delivered
onto a straw covered floor
in a place hidden from sight.
No one else to bring him to my breast
so that I could nurture God's Son
the Light of the world.
Liz Crumlish 2014

Friday, 19 December 2014

Beloved child of the light

John 1:9-12
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

Today we bade farewell
and celebrated the life
of one of God's saints.
A child of God.
Even in the darkness of grief
or maybe even especially in that darkness
the light was visible.
The light that came into the world
in the form of a baby.
We celebrated the hope, love joy and peace of Advent
all rolled up in a life of faith
that pointed others to the light 
that cannot be extinguished. 
We gave thanks not just for the light
but for one in whom light shone
one who claimed her power
as a child of God.
And the darkness was pierced
with the light of love
that lasts forever.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Doing Advent

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Good intentions
To"do"Advent properly
To avoid getting caught up in the rush
To take time to contemplate
the miracle of birth
and the miracle of love
But preparation
as an act of love
is exhausting.
Remaining alert
to all the signs 
of God born among us
is challenging
and, quite frankly,
Rooting for that glimmer of light
in all the darkness of the world
is hard work.
Proclaiming the light
is exhausting .
Advent becomes
a bone wearying
energy sapping slog.
Just like that third trimester
of pregnancy.
Hope is high
But there is still so much anxiety.
And other chores
and other concerns
are not diminished
but heightened
as the days move on.
The need for God
to get here already
trumps everything else
and puts paid
to good intentions
of waiting patiently
and preparing well.
Thankfully, God arrives
ready or not
and the calmness 
we tried to create
is forever disrupted
by God among us.
The calm
AND the storm.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Unwitting accomplices

Matthew 2:19-20
The Return from Egypt
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”

We think of the Angels singing:"Peace on earth"
We imagine the shepherds hurrying to Bethlehem
We romanticise the notion of the stable 
complete with a little donkey
and other assorted animals keeping the baby warm.
In our mind's eye is a blissful mother
and a bursting with pride father.
We conveniently overlook the fear
and the poverty
the political unrest
the brutality of occupying forces
and the desperation of folk in that time.
And we try to do the same today.
To make Christmas idyllic
a time of indulgence and goodwill.
A season to deny reality -
be it the harsh reality of today
or of that first Christmas world.
And even when we are confronted
by inescapable inhumanity:
The murder of children
The abuse of power 
The sleaze of politics
The race to consume
Still we hope and pray for a different world.
But the Advent of hope, love, peace and joy
of which we speak and sing and for which we pray
demands that we get real
that we open our eyes
that we are affected
and move to change a world
where weapons are more valued than health care
and where oil revenue is so tightly held
that none can be spared to provide clean water for all.
Where food mountains and arms dumps grow
while people starve and are moved from their lands.
Those who sought the child's life
are still to the fore
and we have become accomplices.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Beyond the door


John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and lived among us

Passing the church door
on a cold and stormy night
And seeing the light and the noise
spill out across the wet cobbles
The light shimmering in the puddles
The noise carrying through the air
The doors are closed against the winter chill
and there's no one in sight
to encourage or repel
A moments hesitation
And then the thought of entering passes
Fleeing as quickly as it came
And I am assaulted again by the thought
that though it is good
to make a joyful noise
with those of like mind
Though God loves and honours our praise
God also nudges - even chases us
out of our buildings
To embrace those who pass by
Those who long for the light
and the warmth
Those who yearn to be loved,
not for what they might become
but for who they are
Cherished children of God
with whom God dwells

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hurrying on

Matthew 2:6
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Barely half way through Advent
but feeling the pressure
to rush on towards Christmas
To sing the Carols
To place the baby in the crib
To hurry the wise men on
To get there already
But the Advent of God among us
was a long, slow journey
Promised by prophets
through centuries of longing for light
Hoped for by folk
through years of yearning for justice
Watched for by nations
walking in darkness
Who are we
to be impatient today?
Yet we, too, 
long for light,
yearn for justice
and need God
to be born among us

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Justice unearthed

Isaiah 42:1-4
The Servant, a Light to the Nations
​Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

The Servant
Bringing justice
Not by force
Or by power
But by gentle persistence
that creeps in
Undoing centuries of wrong
Overturning layers of tradition
Unearthing goodness
buried deep
Ground down by harshness
Lost in the depths of holiness
But there for the finding
And ready to be brought to the surface
Grasped and gently nourished
Coddled into fullness of life
Unable to resist
the pull of love
that elicits the response
of justice held out
Life giving
Life changing.
Justice wrought 
not by force
but by love.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Asleep on the hay?

Luke 2:7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Not calm and bright
Not sleeping peacefully
Not surrounded 
by boy shepherds
with fluffy lambs
Or ox and ass huddled around
To keep warm
Not cosy and serene
that baby in a manger
More like a lion
surrounded by his pride
More like the cyclogenesis
by which we've been assaulted of late.
This baby
and those parents
And the visitors and onlookers
are not naive well wishers
But fierce political extremists
Determined to bring about change
And the only chink in their militant armour
Is that they are pinning their hopes
on a baby
And all these years later, we too,
longing for change
dreaming of equality
weary of political posturing
and failed promises
pin our hopes 
on a baby in a manger
knowing that the stable
is not a benign shelter
but the birthplace of revolution
And we, today's onlookers
are charged with fulfilling promises
creating justice
and exploding love
on an unsuspecting world.

Friday, 12 December 2014

After the storm

Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

After the storm
there's an eerie stillness
when every sound is magnified
And if we stop just for a moment
we will hear sounds 
that we haven't heard in a while
Not because they weren't there
But because we didn't pause to listen
Like bells on the still night air
And the song of angels
And children's voices
arguing to make sense of it all
It's like the ferocity of the storm
clears the way
for the gentle sounds 
too fragile to be heard
in the normal daily rush
But waiting to be discovered
when we take time
to listen.
And once we've heard them 
They remain
bringing depth to our hearing
bringing awareness
of another world.
A world that is ours to inhabit.
Filled with the mysteries of God.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


Not a good time for a journey
Battling against the elements
Hunched against the wind
Battered by the rain
Nowhere to shelter
Just the relentless plodding on
with a deadline to meet
carrying the weight of anxiety
that precludes the hope
of discoveries along the way
And no certainty of welcome
at journey's end,
hoping, at best
for a brief respite
from the weariness
and the opportunity
to draw breath
and gather the resources
to continue the journey.
A common plight for many today
- and little different to the predicament
of those who journeyed
to encounter
the son of God.
2000 years ago.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Love carved out

Isaiah 49:15-16
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.

Loved before birth
Cherished through life
with the unconditional love
of a mother bearing the joys
and sorrow of birth
Releasing her child
into the harshness of life
out of the womb of protection
Suckling, sustaining
Continuing to nourish
and nurture growth
Affirming love
that knows no end
A love that comes unbidden
and is never exhausted
or withheld
A love carved
on the palm
of God's hand.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In the wilderness

Luke 1:80
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

In the wilderness
John the Baptist
Cousin of Jesus
who leapt in the womb
when Mary came to visit Elizabeth
In the wilderness
Until the time was right
to prepare the way
for the son of God
In the wilderness
preparing for the task that was his
to call folk to repentance
And all the while growing 
strong in spirit
Strong enough to play his part
as the herald 
of the one who was to come
Strong enough
to play second fiddle
to God's chosen Messiah
Perhaps the hardest task of all
is to stay out of sight
preparing for one
whose Advent dawns
In the wilderness
Growing strong in Spirit
Preparing to welcome 
God among us.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Messenger of God

Luke 1:26
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

The Angel
I do not float on a cloud
Strumming a golden harp
I do not appear in a rush of air
and a Carol of bells
I am much more gritty 
and down to earth
I am the woman in the next street
deheading rose bushes
or sweeping up leaves
who shares a sympathetic look
as you struggle with your brolly on a windy day
I am the man you passed
on the station platform
with the backpack
and the laptop bag
Who raises an eyebrow
as the man across the aisle shares 
too much information on his mobile phone.
Often I smile
or cry
I try to create beauty
or bring light.
Once in a lifetime I will have
a special commission - or two
I told Mary of the seed that was within her
And then persuaded Joseph
to go ahead and marry her. 
On those assignments I carried
a frisson of fear
and left in my wake
a trail of chaos
but also wonder
and promise
Folk are free to reject me
or ignore my message
or blank me completely.
But Mary and Joseph
And, if not exactly welcoming
they did not write me off
but spent the rest of their lives
pondering my words
along with their import.
And, even if they didn't ever fully appreciate
their uniqueness
They changed the face of history
by listening to me
an angel sent by God.
Liz Crumlish 2014

Sunday, 7 December 2014

For such a time as this

Esther 4:14
For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

For such a time as this
We are called
Not to keep silent
But to speak up
For the poor
For the vulnerable
For the homeless
For the hungry
For those persecuted
because of race or religion or colour
For those whose voices are not heard
Whose suffering goes unheeded
Whose rights are violated
For such a time as this
We are called to take risks
To stand alongside God's children
In Missouri ,
in New York, 
in the Ukraine,
in Yemin,
in Israel
in Palestine
in all those places 
where voices are silenced
and where hatred kills.
For such a time as this
We are called
To keep the hope alive
That light shines in the darkness
A light that cannot be extinguished
The light of love
The light of God with us 
For such a time as this.

Saturday, 6 December 2014


Luke 1:76
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

The Advance Party
Called to prepare the way
Not the one
But called to make the road smooth
What an awesome responsibility
To lay the groundwork
To blaze the trail
And then to step back
Slink into the shadows
Out of sight
There are few of us with grace enough
to be fore runners
Few of us who are skilled
at keeping out of the way
when the time comes
for another to step up
and continue the work that we have begun
We give thanks for prophets
For fore runners
For trailblazers
And pray for the grace
to be more like them
as we prepare the way
for Incarnation.

Friday, 5 December 2014


Luke 1:46-48
Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

How could Mary sing such a song of praise?
when responding to God's call
meant that she was ostracised by her community,
shunned by her peers,
the subject of gossip and slander?
When responding to God's call
brought isolation, anxiety and overwhelming responsibility?
When responding to God's call 
brought a swollen belly
and the pain of labour and childbirth?
How could Mary sing: "My soul magnifies the Lord."
as her body changed
and weariness settled in her bones.
Could it be that the peace in her heart,
the knowledge of responding to God,
of making God's will, hers
was so momentous
that joy overrode apprehension
and love overcame fear
giving way to the knowledge
of true blessedness.
Mary, mother of God, blessed art thou among women.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The little things

Matthew 2:6
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

"By no means least"
God has a way
of raising the lowly
Of bringing import
to the things considered insignificant
Of creating surprises
Catching folk unawares
It's startling
It throws us off kilter 
But God continues to reach into 
the ordinary
the commonplace
the everyday
and extract the extraordinary
or create something spectacular
skewing our perspective forever.
May our daily journey through Advent
be filled with God interrupting
changing the landscape
before our eyes
until we wake up everyday
expecting the unexpected.
The Advent of God.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Matthew 1:17
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Slotted in there
A place to belong
Kith and kin established
But cutting a new mould
Refusing to conform
Impossible to peg or label
Needing no human credentials
or heritage to bring authenticity
But at home nonetheless
At home in every time and place
Welcoming the stranger
On the road with the refugee
Tagging along with the outcast
Standing out with the stigmatised
That's my boy!
The Son of God
The Son of Mary
Stepping out of that noble line
To stand with all of humanity
The Christ - born for us.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dream on

Matthew 1:18-21
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph dreamed
and married Mary
The Magi dreamed
and went home by another way
Zechariah dreamed
and named his son John
Joseph's dreams were invaded by angels
warning him to flee to safety
and telling him when it was safe to return
A story built on dreams
that revealed the will of God.
And what of your dreams?
Are they incredible too?
Are they inhabited by angels
revealing their message of love
encouraging the embracing of hope?
There is nothing that is out of reach
when our dreams become a vision 
of the indescribable love of God.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The star

Matthew 2:1-2
The Visit of the Wise Men
​Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

The star formed billions of years ago
making its way through the Universe
light age by light age
Singled out
to be the compass point
by which the magi navigated.
Singled out
to light up a dingy corner
in an out of the way place
Singled out 
to confirm good news
told to weary shepherds
Singled out
to lift the ordinary
to the realms of the spectacular
A cosmic accident
born in the collision of gas and clouds
already burning itself out
and in its dying throes
Heralding the birth
of the Son of God.

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