Showing posts from 2013

Christmas Eve

Lord Jesus Christ, your birth at Bethlehem draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: accept our heartfelt praise as we worship you, our Saviour and our God.
a Christmas season prayer from Common Worship Daily Prayer
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

O Come O Come Emmanuel

The house is clean (ish), the tree decorated, presents wrapped, food stocks ready for the family who will arrive over the next 3 days. Advent is almost over. Christmas is nearly here, the great celebration of 'God with us', 'Emmanuel'. If you have been busy preparing, why not take 3 - 4 minutes to be still, rest, watch a flickering candle and listen to this beautiful  version of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel'.
For another version of this last of the 'O Antiphons' for use in the 8 days before Christmas Eve see my post last year here.

Light in Darkness

I've just realised that today is the 'shortest day'.

In the northern hemisphere December is a dark month. The days get shorter until 21 December.

From tomorrow onwards the hours of daylight start to get longer. I can't wait.

One of my favourite Advent images is light shining in darkness.

"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."
Isaiah 9: 2

Image Credit: Travis Silva on CreationSwap

Nelson Mandela

I've ditched a St Nicholas Day post because there's no way I can ignore yesterday's death of Nelson Mandela, one of the people of our time that I find most inspiring.

I think the best way to pay tribute to him is to use some of Mandela's words. Here's a few that mean something to me:
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."" be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.""As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.""I am not an optimist, but a great believer of hope."And here are a few links I found helpful today:

Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town's Prayer f…

Christmas Newsletters

The first Christmas cards and annual newsletters are starting to arrive in the post. Some people are so well organized. I wonder if the age of those round-robin Christmas newsletters is well past in this digital age? Probably not. Most of those we receive come in the form of an email sent to multiple recipients. So they continue but in a different way.

As far as I can remember we only once sent one as a family and that was at least a couple of decades ago. Such letters are hard to write if you have any sensitivity for the people to whom you send them.There are so many pitfalls - what to put in - what to leave out. If you had a miserable year do you moan about it and make the recipients feel guilty or sorry for you? If it has been a year full of happiness or remarkable achievements by yourself or your children, how do you say that without sounding unbearably smug and causing some to feel jealous while others may be delighted?

And when annual newsletters are often written in a hurry becau…

Disturbing Advent images

What is your favourite Advent image? What is your least favourite?
I was challenged by a sermon last Sunday to spend time looking at one or more of the disturbing images presented in the Bible readings set for the Advent season.
My preference is the image of light, the idea of the new day soon to dawn after night (Romans 13: 12) or the lighting of Advent candles. Just looking at pictures selected on this blog to represent Advent,such as the one at the top of my Advent and Christmas page, I seem to go for the warm and light-filled images.
Last Sunday's gospel (Matthew 24: 36 - 44) included two disturbing images of the coming of the Lord: a catastrophic flood and a thief breaking into a house at night. Rather than dwelling on such signs of coming judgement at a time known only to God, wouldn't we prefer to concentrate on preparing for the baby wrapped in cloths in the manger? So much more cosy. 
Next Sunday's gospel (Matthew 3: 1 - 12) is about as far from cosy as you can get. T…

Advent hope against hope

I'm trying to get back to posting here more regularly. I haven't felt much like doing so during the last few months of coping with bereavement, health problems and a recent operation among other things.

I now actually want to write more which is a good indication I am recovering. I still lack energy so some posts may be reposts or borrowing other's material, rather than much originality - but who knows how it will go?

Today is the 3rd day of Advent. One of the recurring themes of Advent is hope. Without hope people die. When hope dies people die. I love this call by Daniel Berrigan to enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope.

You can find information about Daniel Berrigan's life and work here. Or you can read his Advent call which I quote below. The formatting is mine.

ADVENTIt is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss --This is true:For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shal…

Advent Starts Today: an explanation in 2 minutes

For a previous post for today see 1st Sunday of Advent.
For a poem for the Advent season see Advent Coming.

St Andrew's Day Rambling Roundup

I planned to write something clever and wise for St Andrew's Day. I haven't. I'm still making a priority of resting after a recent operation. So instead of what I intended, here is a rambling miscellany of thoughts and links to other posts.

Firstly, why the image of aeroplane vapour trails? What has that got to do with St Andrew's Day, apart from the idea that Andrew was martryed on a diagonal cross? A diagonal white cross allegedly appeared in a blue sky on the morning of the battle in  832 A.D. between Angus (Oengus), King of the Picts (helped by the Scots) and Athelstane, the Saxon King of Northumbria. According to a story written by Walter Bower (1385 - 1449) King Angus prayed to St Andrew on the eve of the battle. The next day King Athelstane fled from the field and Athelstane was killed near what is now the village of Athelstaneford. Because of this story, the village now prides itself as being the birthplace of the Saltire, Scotland's national flag that has a…

Hilda of Whitby

As the General Synod considers yet again how to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of England without driving out those of its members who are unable to accept that change, it seems apt that today's commemoration is for Hilda, Abbess of Whitby.

St Hilda (Hild) was a woman of great influence in the 7th century church in England. As Abbess of a monastery for women and men at Whitby she, "...taught there the strict observance of justice, piety, chastity, and other virtues, and particularly of peace and charity; so that, after the example of the primitive church, no person was there rich, and none poor, all being in common to all, and none having any property. Her prudence was so great, that not only indifferent persons, but even kings and princes, as occasion offered, asked and received her advice; she obliged those who were under her direction to attend so much to reading of the Holy Scriptures, and to exercise themselves so much in works of justice, that many…

Remembrance Day 2013

A few minutes ago I kept the traditional 2 minute silence for this day Remembrance Day/Armistice Day.

The 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918 was the official end of World War 1, the 'war to end all wars'. If only it had. I haven't much that is original to say about this commemoration, but have read some excellent material written by others. As a remembrance round-up here is a taster to share with you:

A thoughtful broadcast talk by Dr Sam Edwards is summarised in the BBC News Magazine and asks How should we remember a war? He writes of how memorials are changing and suggests that now the last veteran of World War 1 has died the time is now right to look at that war with new eyes:
"The time is right to complicate our traditions of commemoration - not as a means to denigrate or dismiss the sacrifices asked of - and given by - British soldiers, but in order to recast the prism through which these sacrifices are refracted.  For the events of 1914-18 did not just butcher a …

Remembrance Sunday 2013

On Remembrance Sunday... At the going down of the sunand in the morningwe will remember them.We will remember them.Thanks to the Royal British Legion poppies continue to be a symbol of lives given, lost or damaged by war and the need for support for those affected.
Not all who die or suffer through war are heroes. Many performed heroic acts in service with the armed forces in the wars of the last century. All deserve respect and should be honoured and remembered with thankfulness. But in modern wars and conflicts the majority of casualties are civilians, including children. You only have to think of places like Syria. We remember them too.
What a mess the world is in. We could blame people in power. We could blame uneven distribution of resources. We could ask, why does God allow dreadful things to happen? I wonder - would he ask us the same question?
In many Remembrance Sunday services today, these words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount may be read: blessed are the peace-makers,for they …

All Saints Day

On All Saints Day it's good to be reminded that the saints of old, venerated in stained glass and icons, were all flawed people just like the rest of us. Saints have been described as people that the light shines through, but all had their dark side and dark experiences.

In 'A Short Story About Saints and Bullies' Nancy Rockwell reflects on the story of Zacceus and how Jesus saw the saintly potential in him, a man others held in contempt. She links this with the stories of other saints and heroes who were certainly not seen as perfect or were bullied and despised by others. She writes:
"Saints are people who are windows in this world.  The light of God shines through them so brightly that people say they have seen salvation in them, and in the household of their lives.  A remarkable thing about them is that many were scapegoats early in their lives, bullied and called contemptible by folks around them.   To mention a few:St. Francis of Assisi’s father dragged him into c…

Archbishop Justin, Christian Baptism and a certain royal event

'Baptism' or 'christening' will be much in the news tomorrow because of a certain event involving the British royal household.I was encouraged by this well made video. Justin Welby can't say in just over 5 minutes all that could be said about Christian baptism, but it's a welcoming introduction. I would recommend any new parent wondering about baptism/christening for their child or themselves to take a look at it as a starter. (You can read more about Christian baptism as practised in the Church of England here.)
A yearning to mark significant life events with rituals involving family and friends is a universal human need. For those with some belief in God there is often a desire for "bringing God into the middle of it all", whether that is for a birth, marriage or death. God is already there of course but we often need help in articulating and knowing that. And we need help to turn towards God who is always drawing us to himself.
That generously offere…

Saying goodbye to a childhood home

It's hitting me today. The house is still there, but tomorrow is sale completion day on my late mother's home. This photo shows the gate at the bottom of her garden. What fun we children had, going beyond that gate into the wooded area beyond, down the hill to the small stream which we often attempted to dam. Sometimes you have to close a gate, knowing you can never open it again. I did that (tearfully) with this gate not long ago.

I still have a key to "Mum's house". Before the new owners take over tomorrow I could have gone there today and wandered around one last time, but it's too far and I've already walked out for the last time from my childhood home - more than once in fact. It's the place where my brother, sister and I grew up. It's a place of security and happy memories. It's the place where my father died, far too young at 55 years. It's the house my parents bought to provide a bigger place for their growing family. We saw it bein…

Coping with Disappointment

How do you cope with disappointment?
Disappointment is a common human experience. I would be surprised if you could honestly say you have never experienced it. Not unless you have never done anything, never tried anything new, never supported a football team, never loved anyone, never had any dreams or hopes. Disappointment is a normal response to failure, either your own or someone else's.
You can be disappointed in yourself.
You failed an exam, to get the job, reach work targets or achieve the desired promotion. You broke a promise. You let down your colleagues, friend or relative. You are disappointed in yourself. You know something of how Peter felt after denying he knew Jesus.
You can be disappointed in other people.
You may blame others for your disappointment. “They” did not do what you wanted. “They” did not do what they should have done or promised. “They” have failed. You are disappointed in them, reluctant to trust them again. You know something of how Jesus felt when his di…

What does it mean to trust God?

What does it mean to say you trust God? I suppose a lot depends on your concept of God. Earlier today I read The God in whom I do not believe. It's a post well-worth reading.

That got me thinking about the God in whom I do not trust.

The God in whom I do not trust is the one who:
provides me with a car parking place exactly where and when I want it, although I am able to walk a good distance;arranges things entirely for my convenience so I can have an easy life while others struggle just to survive;holds off the rain when I have an outdoor activity planned, even when the local farmers are desperate for rain;ensures I never experience failure, disappointment, pain or grief.
I could go on but I hope you get the picture.
Why am I thinking about trust and particularly trust in God?
I've just signed up for a 40 day prayer journey about trusting God. This is part of the 'Prayer Works' project at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. The project aims to encourage crea…

Michaelmas: praying with angels and archangels

Prayer sometimes feels to me like a lonely activity - not always, but often. When it does I'm encouraged by the thought that no one is ever alone in prayer. 

I sometimes imagine prayer and praise to God to be like a river that is constantly flowing whether or not I dip my toes into the water. When prayer feels hard or impossible, it's good to know others are praying. And that unseen glorious beings are always praising God and ready to act as his messengers.

Today is Michaelmas - a feast so popular in England in times gone by that although other feasts of angels were removed from the Church of England calendar during the Reformation period, Cramner retained the Feast of Michael and All Angels which falls on 29 September every year. And today as at every service of Holy Communion in the C. of E. as in many other churches around the world during the great prayer of thanksgiving we will hear and say:

Therefore with angels and archangels,
and with all the company of heaven,
we proclaim …

How not to welcome visitors

This must be the most unwelcoming sign I've seen inside a church.

A few days ago my husband and I were visiting the Czech Republic. We stepped inside a church in Prague. What was the first thing that greeted us? This sign in English,
'STOP TOURISTS'.I collect ambiguous signs as they appeal to my sense of humour. So I took this photo. Is it a slogan to rally people to stop tourists entering the church or visiting Prague which has a lot of tourists?

On further inspection it seemed intended only to stop visitors from entering the north aisle where restoration work was being done. OK. Understood. But I didn't feel welcome. Would you?

What's the most unwelcoming sign you've seen outside or inside a church?

Image: my own

PS. For other ambiguous or funny signs see:

Ambiguous SignsAlarming or helpful?Humans Welcome by Appointment only

St Matthew's Day Reflection

Who me?
You want me to follow you?
You must have got it wrong.
I can see you're a good person,
- not like some hypocrites. 
You need someone better than me. 

Who me?
Don't you know who I am?
I'm a traitor.
I work for the enemy occupiers.
I handle their dirty money.
You need someone better than me.

Who me?
You know I steal from our people.
I call it commission but I cheat.
I make people poorer by extortion.
I'm a despised tax-collector.
You need someone better than me.

Who me?
I'm a sinner - the lowest of the low.
You can't want me to be your disciple.
What me? Really?
You are calling me?
You need someone just like me?

The detail from Caravaggio's painting of the calling of St Matthew
says it all - the unexpectedness of the call, the sense of unworthiness, of the reaching of a pivotal moment, the dawning realization as the light shines on Matthew, a hand beckons and a voice invites,
"Follow me".As I wrote in a St Matthew's day post last year


I don't understand how any violent action by the USA or any other power could achieve anything in Syria other than escalating the already appalling situation there.

I also don't understand how it is more morally acceptable to kill people by cruse missiles than by chemical methods. Talk of swift 'surgical' strikes may sound clean, even healing, but isn't such language only using euphemism to disguise the true horror?

Perhaps I am naive. I certainly don't pretend to understand the complexities of Syrian politics or the balance of power in the wider region of the Middle East. I do know that men, women and children are going through hell and need all the humanitarian help that the international community can give. 

Oxfam is sponsoring a petition 'Don't let Syria Down' which urges President Obama, President Putin and other world leaders to use their political weight to push for peace talks now and help get all parties to the Syria conflict around the table …

Cost of speaking truth to power: Beheading of John the Baptist

One of the reasons the Bible rings true is that all human life is there: the good, the bad, the ugly and the really horrible. It provides a mirror to humanity at its best, worst and even plain ordinary. It does much more, but that's for other posts.

Today is the 'lesser festival' of 'The Beheading of John the Baptist'. It commemorates a truly horrible and sordid story. Caravaggio's painting shown here is one of the less gory depictions of the scene.

I wrote about this story from the angle of the women involved over on the Bible Bible Project in 'Women Behaving Badly' and on this blog here. Today I'm thinking about the courage it took for John to fulfill God's call with passion for truth and justice. He was no crowd pleaser among those who held power.

John the Baptist's beheading is recorded in the gospels in Matthew 14: 1 - 12 and Mark 6: 1 - 29. what had John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah done to deserve such a death and to have his head pre…

Blessed Virgin Mary

15th August in the Church of England calendar is the Festival of The Blessed Virgin Mary.

For Roman Catholics it is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating a dogma that I won't attempt to explain because I neither understand nor believe in it. You can read the official definition here.  I think there is no Biblical basis for this and (as I wrote last year) assumes too much. It has inspired some magnificent art though. 

I grew up in a Reformed (Presbyterian) tradition and Mary mother of Jesus only ever seemed to get a look in at Christmas as far as I can remember. I've moved from that position of ignoring the significance of Mary most of the year to finding more and more reason to honour her as 'theotokos' (God-bearer), the greatest of the saints. I want to celebrate the whole of her life but much more the priceless treasure of the first-fruit of her womb. She is truly 'Blessed'.
Almighty God,who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed …