Saturday, 24 December 2016

In those days...

Luke 2:1
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.

In those days...
When darkness stalked the earth
When nations were at war
When people felt oppressed
When fear was a constant companion
When hearts were filled with longing

A decree went out...
And people complied or resisted
Responded with fear or compulsion
Were forced to be registered and recorded
Became united in their plight
or divided by their contempt

From Emperor Augustus...
The region's super power
Imposed and unelected
Revered and despised
Invoking terror or respect
Eliciting confidence or despair
Harbinger of ill to follow

All the world...
The high and the mighty
The poor and the lowly
The stranger and the neighbour
Every creed and culture
Minority and majority

Into this world
A world of hatred and division
A world of fear and contempt
A world of longing and of hoping
God intervened
Became flesh
And dwells with us
In those days
In these days
Hope, Peace and Light dwells among us.

Friday, 23 December 2016


Isaiah 56:1
The Covenant Extended to All Who Obey
Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

Soon salvation will come?
How about now? 
When the darkness seems 
as dark as it can be...
Now would be good.
Now would be good.
for light to come
an dispel the darkness.
Please, soon.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Christmas Message

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.”

Our sanctuaries are busy this time of year - Carol Services, Longest Night Services, School Assemblies and soon there will be Watchnight and Christmas Day worship. A refrain I've heard a lot this week is: "If only it could be like this all year round!" 
Do we really want the frenzy of often forced joy with lots of strangers to be the norm that inhabits our worship space?
Do we want the often superficial greetings exchanged to be what characterises our time together in communal worship of the baby God, whose life as an adult impacts us not at all the rest of the year?
Do we want to keep on proclaiming a dumbed down, watered down version of God's story that appeals to the crowds all the year round in an attempt to woo folk back to worship?
What then, when "the season of goodwill" has passed - and hardship and difficulty must be faced? How has our seasonal worship of a baby prepared us for that? How has it helped build resilience or fostered trust enough to seek out those who care? Where is the space for doubt and sorrow, for anger and fear in the sanitised worship of a baby God so far removed from the world into which Christ was born?
And how, in sanctuaries filled with folk looking for something that neither challenges nor convicts, will we rediscover the urgency of the gospel that is for all the world when we've even forgotten how to nurture faith that makes a difference in those who come?
God is reshaping the church. Declining numbers in worship challenge and confront us to discover what God is about and begin to discern, individually and corporately, God's invitation to be part of that reshaping, to be part of God's mission in the world, beginning with the communities we serve.
Of course we can make an attempt to reach the Christmas revellers with the heart of the gospel but we'd probably be accused of being killjoys. 
Who wants to hear about fear and oppression and political unrest and hardship and poverty, about the slaughter of innocents, about refugees, about vilification and tyranny and corrupt government...
All contained within the Chrsitmas story.
Not the things we want to focus on in our Christmas Carol Services and Nativity plays.
And yet...
Much more akin to the world around us today.
Much more in keeping with what we read in our daily newspapers or watch on our television screens in our nightly news bulletins.
Perhaps we need the escape just for a while - to flirt with joy and wonder and angels and shepherds.
But let's not long for that all the year round.
Christ was born into a world much like this.
To challenge and confront.
To proclaim, through living and dying and rising again, that the world can be different.
And to call us to work alongside him in not just proclaiming a new kingdom but in working to build that kingdom now.
Now who wants to hear the Christmas message?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Longest night

Luke 2:8-10
The Shepherds and the Angels
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

May the sparkle and glitter of each Christmas card we receive
bring messages from friends that surround us with love
May the twinkling lights on trees in homes and in streets
pierce the swirling darkness of our loss
May each Carol we hear sung or played in season
become a melody that infiltrates our song of grief
May shepherds and angels whatever their age
whisper the Christmas story again in our ears
A story of light dispelling darkness
Of hope overcoming despair
Of joy penetrating sorrow
And of love born in a stable 
to stay with us forever.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


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

Light in the darkness
Love for all the world
The story of God's love born for us
told with laughter
symbolised by an orange
and sweet things 
for every season
and every corner of the world
Told for a new generation
and proudly carried home
A reminder
of God with us today

Monday, 19 December 2016


John 1:9
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Layer upon layer of darkness
War and terror
Political unrest
Prison riots
Industrial unrest
Withdrawal of labour
Grief and loss
And so it continues
Finding light in the darkness of 2016
takes some doing
Much like the world into which
Jesus was born
Born for those who grieve
Who were afraid
who were oppressed
who were displaced
who were longing
for a different way of life.
And still he comes
with the promise 
of light
in all the darkness.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The signs

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

The Service of Lessons and Carols 
like the Easter vigil
reminds us of where we have been
and points to where we are headed.
Those familiar or not so familiar stories
that hint at a trajectory - 
Light in the darkness
And the Advent
of Immanuel 
God with us

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Great Cover Up

Matthew 1:6-11
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

She who must not be named - 
The wife of Uriah
aka Bathsheba
carefully disguised
in a genealogy
rooting Jesus
Son of God
in a line of ordinary
messed up folk
rooting Jesus
alongside the 
messed up folk
of every age.
Inviting those 
who would follow him today
to be among
the flawed
and messed up
and especially with those
whose names
have been erased
finding in the eyes of the overlooked
the face of God with us today.

Friday, 16 December 2016

The gift

John 4:7-10

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The gift
of creating space
in which encounters happen
The gift
of inviting exploration
of thoughts
that long have been buried
tamped down
kept inside
The gift
of encouraging
playful imagination
giving free rein
to the unimaginable
opening up possibility
expanding horizons
encouraging growth 
All achieved
when one creates space
for the other.

Thursday, 15 December 2016


Luke 1:76-79
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

alongside the advent of God,
Zechariah and Elizabeth
were grappling with the blessing of the gift 
of their son, John
John who "was not the light"
but who was sent to
Prepare the Way
As if the blessing of new life
were not enough - 
To know that this child, their child,
would be the one
to herald the advent
of the long-awaited Messiah
bringing light into darkness
and peace on earth
What a gift!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Taming the message

Luke 1:50-53
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

How we have tamed this song
A song once banned
because of its subversive nature
A song uttered with passion
in the face of grief and turmoil
used to shame the oppressor
an indictment for corrupt rulers
Now, at best, disguised in a complex choral arrangement
or, at worst, read without tone or inflection.
Mary, blessed among women,
knew how to express
the perverse nature of God
and , in all her wisdom,
saw the power in her womb.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Fix this

Leviticus 26:6
And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land.

When. O Lord
How long?
Promises, promises, promises...
When will they be fulfilled
When will the scenes we see in 
And all those places
that have stopped being "news"
be consigned
to Horrible Histories?
When will our world know peace 
and humanity
When will our nations
learn to stop looking away
and face up
to genocide?
God when will you step in
and fix this?

Monday, 12 December 2016

In every note

Psalms 146:1-2
Praise for God’s Help
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Today, I am thankful
for the gift of music
Notes that lift in celebration
or plumb the depths with us.
Melodies that accompany 
our journey through life
Rhythms that spur us on
Cadences that slow us down
Doleful sounds
that become companions
when melancholy is in the air
Light harmonies
that soar with emotional highs.
All of a piece
drifting in and out of our day.
Giving thanks to God
for the gift of music.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

What do you see?

Matthew 11:2-6

Messengers from John the Baptist
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

Are you the one?
A question asked
time and again
throughout all of history.
Are you the one?
The one to bring hope?
And light?
And joy?
And peace?
Are you the one?
Answered by:
What do,you see?
The blind see
The lame walk.
Lepers are clean
The deaf hear
The dead are raised to life
The poor have good news
Are you the one?
What do you see?

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Prepare the way

Luke 3:4-6
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

Down the High Street this morning
surprisingly quiet 
though i suppose it was quite early
The Salvation Army band
had stopped for a break
 And even the weather was unseasonably mild.
My companion remarked:
"it doesn't feel like Christmas"
But what does Christmas feel like?
All flesh shall see the salvation of God
What would that look like?
How would it sound?
How would it feel?
Like Christmas?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Keeping it all in

Luke 4:33-34
In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Standing on the edge of the platform
looking towards the approach to the station
Trains are criss-crossing over the tracks
Some arriving
Others leaving
Wending their way to who knows where?
Carrying human cargo
each of whom also carries so much
Joys, sorrow, excitement, anxiety, plans, despair, hope
All contained in carriages -
of trains 
of minds
of hearts
That containment 
makes the journey possible
An overspill would spell disaster.
And so we go about our business
We travel to our destinations
barely connecting with one another
lest we should breech 
those walls of containment
and risk being tainted
by another's overflow.
It's safer to keep everything
all tucked up
out of sight.
I can't help thinking
that safety is over-rated.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Wisdom to soothe

Luke 4:16-17
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

How did you cope,
day after day, Lord Jesus
with the questions
and the accusations
and the put downs?
How did you manage
not to simply retreat
and leave them to it- 
those who just wanted to trip you up
as well as those who desperately needed your wisdom?
How did you do it
with mettle
with grace
with compassion
with love,
often speaking hard truths
but never avoiding awkwardness
or difficult conversation?
How did you manage
to keep on believing
that truth 
and love
would prevail?
Lord, in all the messiness
and hurt
and mistrust
with which we grapple
may that same
calm, loving assured Spirit
be in our midst.
May we know you
who walked this way before
right there beside us
when we tie ourselves in knots,
unraveling the bonds,
bringing ease,
bringing hope, love and grace.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Running out of words

Luke 4:42
Jesus Preaches in the Synagogues
At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them.

On a day filled with words
Mostly good words
Although a few did rankle 
And clearly - some words were sent by God
On this word-filled day
I crave a moment of blankness -
(Even as I produce more words)
On a day lived under fluorescent lights
Lights of the meeting room
Lights of the lunch time venue
Lights of the train journey home
I crave darkness
On a day filled with voices
Encouraging voices
Gentle voices
Wise voices
I crave silence
On a day filled with reports and deadlines
and opinions and responses
and all manner of requirements
I crave the undemanding, 
silent night
in which to dwell in God
who has been present 
in every aspect of the day
and who will be present
in every facet of the night.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas Spirit

Joel 2:28
God’s Spirit Poured Out
Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.

I met with some colleagues today, a wonderfully supportive group who have been meeting together for some time. We met in a local visitor centre coffee shop surrounded by Christmas decor. Santa even made an appearance.
In the midst of this winter wonderland, we were discussing the Spirit of Christmas, asking: What is it? And when and how does it arrive?
I described the years when I'd been concerned that it wasn't actually going to reach me, this seasonal accessory but, somehow, there was a point in the Christmas Watchnight service where God stepped in, bringing warmth and joy.
If Christmas Spirit is to be in any way meaningful, it must become more than an accompaniment to the season. It must affect the way we care for one another, the way we reach out to others, it must involve fulfilling the Jesus manifesto - bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, release for the captive, 
We celebrate the birth of a baby who came into the world over 2000 years ago. Surely God with us should make a difference all the time, not just at Christmas.
We may wait in vain for some Christmas Spirit - but God's Spirit is upon us. Our call is to make a difference by letting that Spirit infect us and affect all that we do - at Chrismas time and all the year round.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Glimpses of God

The train
in the early morning light
filled with folk commuting
to work
to school
setting out on business trips
settling back into routine
after a weekend
of who knows what.
Early Monday morning- 
not as busy
as late Saturday night
on the train
and a lot more subdued-
No carriage clowns
attempting to entertain
their travelling companions.
No loud discussions
and banter.
No sharing of food and drink.
I'm not sure they would be welcome
on a Monday morning
when in the half light
there is the quiet rustling of newspapers
the unapologetic application of make up
the low murmur of hoarse voices
even some catching up of sleep-
passengers beginning their week
perhaps reluctantly
Car headlights punctuate the dark
of the road that runs alongside the rail track
And streetlights illuminate
the frost covered verges between
and I can't help wondering:
Is God more present
in these quiet, tired commuters
Or in the raucous Saturday night passengers?
I think God has harder work to do on a Monday morning
when folks have their heads down
preparing for the week ahead
than in the Saturday night crowd
who are up for a party
and open to something new (or old).
But I also know 
that God is up for both
And God is in both.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

With us, always with us

Luke 11:12-13
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

God we thank you 
that you didn't just tell us what to do
You came to earth and showed us
And, when you left,
you sent the Spirit
who nudges us
when we forget
and stays within us
a part of you.
And so we are caught up
in the Divine dance
of Father, Son and Spirit
with us always
Speaking, acting, prompting
With us all the way
Thank you for the dance
that keeps us close to you.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

From the inside out

Joel 2:12-13
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love

Longing for change
Not superficial
Not minor afjustments
But deep, penetrating change
Change that will last
Change that will come about
through journeying
through silence
through meditating
Change that will not be swift
but will seep in 
Changing the heart

Friday, 2 December 2016

Already here

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,

Already here
Loitering in the shadows
with the poor
and the outcasts
the downtrodden
and the marginalised
Already here
bringing light into darkness
and hope into fear
And we do not see him
God with us now
God's kingdom
not some future hope
but here, now
as Christ lives among us
always showing up
bringing light and love
revealing the kingdom here now.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

World AIDS Day

Matthew 10:8
Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

In a world where tachnology
and in particular
medical technology
has come so far
but where love 
and hope
and humanity
are often withheld from the vulnerable
We pray this day:
For the misused
the stigmatised
the marginalised
the bereaved
the unrecognised
the rejected
the frightened
the lonely 
For those cast aside
left out
For those denied hope
whose voices are not heard
whose pleas are played down
whose needs go unmet in a world of plenty
Lord, forgive us
for we know just what we do.
Forgive us
and break our hearts
for those for whom your heart is breaking.

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