Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Full of grace and truth


John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

I do not understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us  - Anne Lamott 


Grace be yours today
Be it in snatched moments 
away from the buzz
In the midst of chaos and noise
In the silence of loneliness
In the yearning for loved ones
May the baby
wrapped in swaddling
and laid in a manger
break free
and grace your life
with light and love
and hope and peace 
and take you
to places
you never imagined 
May God born for us
dwell in you

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Mothering God

Luke 2:6
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

We are all meant to be mothers of God... for God is always needing to be born
Meister Eckhart



Mothering is not easy
And it’s messy
Be it the physical exhaustion
of pushing a fragile life
into the world
through blood, sweat and tears
Or the emotional investment
in nurturing the wellbeing
of another
It is costly
and compelling
and often happens
unexpectedly
unpredictably
when we can do no other 
but respond to 
the call presented to us
The opportunity
to present good news
of great joy
even in dire straits
That is the miracle
of birthing God.
And it’s a call
that rings out clearly
all over the world today
in the obvious
and in the hidden places 
A call to all
and for all
The world is filled
with angels 
and shepherds
announcing good news
highlighting
everywhere
God needs to be born today.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Joseph’s Yes

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

Mary may be pure
But, Joseph, are you sure?
How is one to tell?
Suppose, for instance... well...
W.H. Auden The Temptation of St Joseph



Did Joseph spend his life wondering?
It was a big ask.
But from the beginning
he showed his compassionate side
He sought to extricate himself gently
from their betrothal
rather than go for stoning
which was also an option!
But then an angel’s visit
persuaded him 
to go ahead as planned
and stick with Mary
and the child she carried.
But I wonder...
When things got weird
When the boy got lost in the temple...
When he went on the road...
When the stories got back to the village
of the miracles and the curses
of the crowds who followed
and the authorities who were threatened - 
Did Joseph’s doubts
all come flooding back?
When he saw the woman he loved
grieving as no mother ever should - 
Did he wish he’d followed his first instinct
and got out while he could?
Joseph’s Yes
An important part
of birthing God.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

The Christmas Concert

Luke 2:8-16
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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 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!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

The conductor raises his hands
and, for a moment,
all is silent
until
lowering them, 
the orchestra bursts into sound.
But, in that moment,
just there
is the pregnancy
of potential.
The score is
but black and white markings on a page
until the conductors baton
signals
the first cries of life
and the cacophony gushes forth.
Not as a chaotic
rushing mass
but as a carefully controlled
symphony of beauty
in which each
has a unique
and vital 
part to play.
As the baton falls
there, in that moment,
weeks and months of rehearsal
come to fruition
unfolding
bit by bit.
And, suddenly,
it all makes sense
as parts 
oft rehearsed separately
fit together
in a joyous harmony.
Angels
And shepherds
Magi
And Rulers
Mary
Joseph
Anna
Simeon
Elizabeth
Zechariah
All did their thing
All contributed uniquely
to the birthing
of a whole new melody
filled with grace notes
of love
and love notes
of Grace
as God
was birthed 
in a song
composed for us.


Saturday, 21 December 2019

The longest night

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


We light our candles
thinking of loved ones
who aren't with us this Christmas
Some have died
some are far away
some are lost
some are estranged
we only know they are not here
and we miss them.
We light our candles
taking some time
out of the bustle of the season
to remember those we love.
We light our candles
and place them on the cross
remembering Mary
whose heart was pierced with sorrow
even as she cradled her newborn son.
We light our candles,
the flames flicker
their reflection 
spreads light
through our darkness.
We light our candles
and it is good to share with others,
to remember that we are not alone
that even the longest night
holds the promise of dawn 

Friday, 20 December 2019

Unwrapped


Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

We’ve dressed the story up
Made it cute
with shepherds and angels
and donkeys and camels
Wrapped it in tinsel just like our trees
And we’ve disguised the reality - 
That it was into a world much like today
that God was born
Born not to a serene mother
and doting surrogate father
as painted on our Christmas cards
But into a family forced to travel
to be part of a census
Forced to comply with the whims
of a corrupt and harsh government
A family for whom there was no room
and no handouts -
Like many of our benefits sanctioned families today
We’ve cleaned up the harsh reality 
of folk living in poverty
suffering from years of austerity
with leaders who were tyrants
who kept peace by violence
The story of Jesus birth
is not for churches
not for those who need things 
to be ordered
and tidy
It was into chaos that Christ was born
And it is into chaos that we welcome him today.
For we are just as desperate 
for light
for love
for hope
and for peace
to be born
For all who mourn
For all who yearn to be comforted
For all who long for change
God is born today
into the mess of our lives
and our world
God is born
not to clean things up
But to sit with us in the mess
and to bring us hope
that things will be different
Christmas is not for those
who have everything sorted
Whether we are ready or not
God is born for us.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Rejoice

James 5:7-8
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.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!

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Fulfilling prophecy

Matthew 1:18-25
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.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


Not just Mary, the mother of  God
But Joseph too was visited by an angel 
An angel who encouraged him to stick with it
and prepared him to welcome
the birth of the Messiah
Meantime, I wonder how Mary prepared?
Her cousin Elizabeth
with whom she visited 
was also a novice in childbirth.
So who shared with Mary hints and tips
for pushing a baby into the world?
Who told her how to
breathe into the pain?
Who told her when to push?
Who told her about the afterbirth?
Was there anyone who could help her
with the toe curling pain 
of getting her baby to latch on and feed?
Or help her deal
with the cracked nipples
and bone crushing weariness
of birthing 
and sustaining
new life?
Mere details 
that don’t get a look in
when the focus is on
fulfilling prophecy.
The TMI
of the Nativity.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Grace filled moments


2 Corinthians 12:9
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Sometimes 
we’re trying so hard to get it right
Sometimes
we’re striving for perfection
and fail to notice
grace filled moments along the way
Thankfully
God is persistent
and keeps on confronting us
with the audacity of grace
Until
perhaps in a moment 
of defensiveness
or despair
perhaps in the depths
of anxiety
or frustration
God confronts us 
with our ridiculousness
and, with humour
or tenderness
or maybe even both,
God reminds us
that we are not God
and draws us back
to the awareness
of grace
that invades our days
reconnecting us
to the love in which we are held
and grounding us 
in the one who is the source of all life
the giver of abundant potential
in whom we are invited
to rest 
to be still
and know God.

Monday, 16 December 2019

No offence

Matthew 11:6
Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

In this season
it’s hard to imagine
how a baby
could cause offence
Particularly when 
we’ve wrapped that baby
in tinsel and glitter
But that baby grew
and called out
the incongruity
he saw around him
He challenged 
dearly held traditions
and pompous pronouncements
made without foundation
He questioned religious certainties
and lifted up those excluded
by institutional posturing.
If only we would be offended today
Instead, we’ve sidelined God among us
reduced the impact of the gospel
diluted the call to radical discipleship 
conveniently forgotten
God’s bias for the poor and the marginalised 
We’ve tamed Jesus’ call to action
made following Christ safe.
And God continues 
to be born among us
in vulnerability
trusting us to welcome
and be changed by
God with us 
in our everyday 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Be the change

Matthew 11:2-5
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.

Are you the one?
Or should we wait for another?
What are the signs?
Are the poor hearing good news?
Are the sick being healed?
Signs that will not be accomplished
by any government
or by any political party
or by any economic system
but by ordinary people
taking seriously the demands of the gospel
by caring for one another
and for all of creation.
And, when we are disappointed
in our leaders
despairing and fearful
of what is yet to be unleashed
we are called to be
counter cultural
Called to embrace hope
Called to discover joy
Called to broker peace
in the fragility
of a world in turmoil
- the kind of turmoil
into which God appeared
taking on flesh
proclaiming peace
and goodwill to all
showing us how
to live and to love
how to be the difference
we long to see.



Saturday, 14 December 2019

What hope looks like...

Luke 1:46-55
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 favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
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.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

This is what hope looks like...
Not squeezing our eyes tightly shut
and believing everything will work out
But persisting in the face
of all the signs to the contrary
that God’s promise holds true
That a glimmer of light will persist
in the darkness
That the proud will be scattered
The lowly lifted up
The rich sent away empty handed
and the hungry will be fed
How?
By the work of those whose hope is in God
In God, who strengthens us
for the fight that lies before us
In God, who gives us courage
to never give up
but to keep on reaching for the impossible
In God, who lives among us
and walks beside us
as we work our butts off
to make a difference
where we can
however we can
because we can! 
Enough of the navel gazing
It’s time to set about Operation Hope.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour

Friday, 13 December 2019

Sorrow and joy

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 
Kahlil Gibran The Prophet

Tears come unbidden
rarely far away
and, rather than dismiss
or sweep away
or rush to be done with them
they may be the gentle nudge
of the Spirit at work
urging you to notice
inviting you to awareness
of the compassionate heart of God.
They may be a sign
not of weakness
but of the strength of the Lord
who draws us in
to love fiercely
all that God loves
to notice the sorrow
and to soar with the joy
and to live
precariously balanced
between the two
fully reliant on God
who meets us
and holds us there.





Thursday, 12 December 2019

Broken for you

When Jesus took the bread and said, “This is my body which is broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24), it’s hard to believe that even in his wildest dreams he foresaw the tragic and ludicrous brokenness of the church as his body. There’s no reason why everyone should be Christian in the same way and every reason to leave room for differences, but if all the competing factions of Christendom were to give as much of themselves to the high calling and holy hope that unite them as they do now to the relative inconsequentialities that divide them, the church would look more like the Kingdom of God for a change and less like an ungodly mess. (Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC of Faith, Frederick Buechner)

Lord, forgive our brokenness
The brokenness that demands
that we must pledge allegiance
to one form or another
to this tribe or that
to a set Liturgy
or a moveable feast.
Forgive our brokenness
that takes no account
of your unpredictable Spirit
who so often messes up
our carefully scripted worship
tossing aside our inflexibility 
and inviting us to dance.
Forgive our brokenness
which causes us to forget 
that we are your guests
invited to a feast
and not the hosts 
restricting access to the banquet 
Your table needs no bouncers
for you welcome one and all
There are no border patrols
examining certificates
of baptism
or confirmation
or even professions of faith
For with your brokenness
you hold your arms wide 
to embrace our brokenness 
and bid us come
a multi coloured people
held together as one
in your grace.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Invitation



John 1:1-4
The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.


It’s good to have friends
with whom to let your hair down
Mad friends
with whom you can laugh
and mess about
Friends with whom
there’s no need to explain
Friends who, when  the ceilidh band 
strikes up the first chord
will just drag you up to dance
until you run out of steam 
Exuberant
Undemanding
Fun to be around
But when the music slows
and the lights dim
and the group splits off
into pairs
Who is the one 
who’ll partner you then?
Who is the one
who can go further
Move beyond friendship
to intimacy?
When the Eightsome Reel
gives way
to a slow waltz
who is the one
who will face you
take your hand
and match their step to yours?
The Lord of the Dance
loves a ceilidh.
Loves to jig and cavort.
But also on offer
is the intimacy
of a tango or a foxtrot.
And what is requested
is that we slow down
step up
and look God in the eye
so that the dance may begin.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Advent longing

Psalms 37:7
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;

A prayer as I enter into a time of silent retreat

In the silence, O God
may I know belonging
May I know this space
filled with your longing for me.
May my heart connect with your heart
and your will become mine.
And may my intention be
no more than that
May I be willing 
to move to your rhythm
with no agenda
no conditions
only surrender
to you.
In the silence, O God
may I be attuned 
to your song
the song that makes sense
of all that is in me
that finds expression
in who
and where
you call me to be.
Attune my longing, O God
with your longing
that I may serve you boldly
without reserve
without apology
without shame
but, rather 
with joy
and reverence
partners in the dance 
of belonging together.

Monday, 9 December 2019

According to your word

Luke 1:38
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

Submission
is not passive 
To do the will of another
To be faithful
To be obedient
Do I really have it in me?
Is there space enough
not just to suppress my will
not just to tamp down my desires
but to allow them to be overcome
transformed by the will of  God?
Do I have the courage
to risk the unknown
to attract judgement
and censure
to invite speculation
Can I really make myself
wholly available?
In this Advent season
alongside the longing
alongside the expectation
penetrating the darkness
comes God’s summons.
What will it take
to be able to respond:
“Let it be to me according to your word.”

Sunday, 8 December 2019

The real Nativity


Matthew 3:7-10

But when John the Baptist saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John the Baptist - Just the sort of not-so- shadowy figure you want crashing into your Nativity scene. Motion activated - so that he can hurl insults at everyone who comes within range- “You brood of vipers” and other assorted curses.
He’d sit well alongside the asses and camels and the cute little shepherds and angels.
And his voice would easily carry over the baby who “no crying makes”.
He’s like that no-filter elderly relative who comes for Christmas dinner and spouts their narrow bigoted rhetoric, managing to take a swipe at everyone around the table, with a whole spectrum of objectionable views. The one we humour because it’s just a once a year necessary evil.
Yet people flocked to see this wild man in the wilderness.
They queued up to be insulted.
And they went back for more.
Tired of fake news, they craved the plain speaking.
With everything in turmoil, recognising that even their heritage was no longer enough to see them through, they were ready to listen to this charismatic crazy.
JtB didn’t just condemn and convict.
He offered an alternative.
And the people were just desperate enough to go for it.
As desperate as folk today, hurling hopelessly toward a General Election, where viable options seem to be in short supply.
Maybe it’s time to put away those cute sanitised nativity scenes and cribs.
And let John the Baptist crash the party.
Shaking us to our roots.
And holding us to practising what we preach - indeed stop preaching and just practice, for the love of God.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Making room

Matthew 3:1-3
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’ ”

Where is your wilderness?
And what does it mean?
Is it a place of retreat?
A place of refuge?
A place of sanctuary?
Or is it
a place of brokenness?
a place of  withdrawal?
a place of despair?
And in your wilderness
is there room for healing?
room for rest?
room for renewal?
room for grace to take up residence?
Wilderness it seems has no place
in our Advent greens
or our Nativity scenes
Thankfully 
Grace
needs no invitation
and will surprise us
just when we need it most
transforming our wilderness
into a place of hope,
preparing the way
for us to hear
the cry of God
born in us.

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