Showing posts from 2019

Advent Word: Beloved

On the 24th day of Advent and Christmas Eve the Advent Word is 'beloved'. The word 'beloved' reminds me of this verse from Chrisina Rosetti's poem, 'In the bleak mid-winter'.
"Angels and archangels may have gathered there,Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,Worshipped the beloved with a kiss."
Image Credit: Flickr, CC License

Advent Word: Message

Today's Advent Word is 'message'. It's nearly the end of Advent. Christmas Eve is tomorrow so I'm thinking of the message of Christmas. The heart of the Christmas message can be found through the Christmas story.

The Christmas story takes us to a manger where Mary laid her baby, because there was no room in the guest rooms of Bethlehem.
Once upon a time, shepherds hurried there to find the new born Christ-child. There had heard a message from angels about good news of great joy to all people.
Once upon a time, wise men came to worship him. They had received a message through studying signs in the heavens.
But the message of Christmas is that God isn’t confined to ‘Once upon a time’. God has become incarnate – taking on our flesh, expressing himself as babies do in such an immediate way to to hunger, pleasure, joy, pain. What an amazing message.
The message of the story is that in Jesus, God gave himself to the world, not in overwhelming power, but in the vulnerability a…

Advent Word: Restore

On the 22nd day of Advent the Advent Word is 'restore'.

I am enjoying looking at this image of a peaceful path and summer greenery.

The weather in the UK has been mostly dark and wet during this Advent season. I look forward to summer and the chance to walk on dry paths again.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to the celebration of Christmas.

Christmas can be very busy, but it can also be restorative, a time to renew relationships, take a break and enjoy a time of rest and refreshment.

The word 'restore' makes me think of Psalm 23 about the divine 'good shephered'. Here are the first 3 verses:
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.He makes me lie down in green pastures;he leads me beside still waters;he retores my soul.He leads me in right paths for his name's sake."Psalm 23: 1 - 4 NRSVI hope all who read this will find some way to be restored today, even if you are busy.

Image Credit: dor619 on Flickr, Creative Commons License

Advent Word: Rest

On the 21st day of Advent the Advent word is 'rest'.

To rest sounds like a good idea at this busy time. So, I will do just that and imagine I am resting on this seat, warmly wrapped up and enjoying some winter sunshine.

And while I do that, on this oh such a short day in the northern hemisphere, I will look forward to the coming of more light (in every sense) into the world, as the day's start to lengthen.

Image Credit: Flickr, CC License

Advent Word: Go

This morning I had to go on an unplanned journey, following an unplanned breakage of our shower unit. I really did not want to go, but I did want people to be able to shower over Christmas, so going to buy the necessary replacement parts was a must. My husband has now skilfully done the work necessary, for which I am grateful.

Today's Advent word on the 20th day in the Advent Calendar I am following is 'go'. As time is limited today, I am reposting below, some thoughts on the word 'go' that I first posted in Advent last year in a post called #go.

The word 'go' got me thinking about the last journey we each have to make, that is death.

'Go' also reminds me of the many ways we need to 'let go' in life, sometimes to let go of things, attitudes or habits, in order to make room for something better.

The final letting 'go' is the letting go of life as we go into death. For Christians, that final letting go into death, is in the 'sure and c…

Advent Word: Bless

The word 'bless' - today's word in the Advent Calendar I am following this year, sound such a comforting word. Yes, to bless someone, does show good intentions, even if it's just to say 'bless you' when someone sneezes. At the very least, it shows someone has noticed your problem.
These last days of Advent bring a mixture of blessings and woes. We want and are encouraged to experience all the joyful aspects of the Christmas season. There's nothing wrong with that, unless in so doing, we stop noticing the problems in and around us, or worse still, stop caring.

Can some of us too easily avoid uncomfortable Advent themes by focusing exclusively on the feel-good factors of Christmas? We are still in the Advent season. One of Advent's major themes is the challenge to make way for the Lord of justice, truth, peace, love and grace to come among us. So today I am posting again a most uncomfortable prayer for God to bless us. I do not know its origin. There are se…

Advent Word: Worship

Today's Advent Word in the Advent Calendar I am following is 'worship'.
The word worship reminds me of 2 things that William Temple said about worship of God. The first answers the question, why worship? The second answers the question, what is worship?
The first is this: "Worship is worthwhile because God is worthyand worship is God’s work in us."
In other words, worship is both something that the worshipper does and also something that God does in the person who worships. 
The second is a definition of worship which resonates with me:
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.

It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness;

the nourishment of mind with his truth;

the purifying of imagination with his beauty,

the opening of the heart to his love;

the surrender of the will to his purpose

– and all this gathered up in adoration,

– the most selfless emotion

of which our nature is capable….”

Source of quotes: Readings in St John’s Gospel, 1938/9 by William Temple, b…

Advent Word: Pray

Today's Advent Word in the Advent calendar I am following is 'pray'.
In response, I am quoting something I published on this blog in August 2016, in the post 'How to pray when you don't know how'.
"Even when I want to pray, I sometimes feel I don't know how.
Faced with disasters on a grand scale, or the smaller but just as painful griefs we all encounter at some time, there don't seem to be the right words. That doesn't matter. Prayer is about the focus of the heart, not the babbling of the mouth.

Jesus taught that when we pray we shouldn't keep on babbling in the hope that God will hear because of the repetition of many words.

When Jesus' disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he gave a framework or pattern for prayer which Christians call 'The Lord's Prayer'. 
There are two versions of the Lord's Prayer in the gospels, one in Matthew's gospel and one in Luke's gospel. Here's the Matthew version, from the New …

Advent Word: Learn

In this time of Advent preparation for the celebration of Christmas and the coming of Christ, what is it that I need to learn on this 16th day of Advent? Or maybe there is something I need to re-learn? As the day unfolds, maybe an answer to that question will come.

I wonder what the child in this image is learning as she walks with her father? Or perhaps he is learning from her? Could she learn from him how to recognise the right path to lead them home before dark? Could he learn from her how to take life more slowly, how to stop and notice the little things on the way? 

In the global Advent Calendar I am following, the Advent word for today is 'learn'. Perhaps the most important lesson for any of us to learn, and keep on learning, is wisdom. For the most part, we humans are rather foolish creatures, who find it hard to learn wisdom or even to know where to look for it.

In many places in the Bible, its various writers speak of true wisdom as to be found in God. The letter of Jame…

Advent Word: Turn

Today's Advent Word in the 2019 Advent Calendar I am following is 'turn'.

'Turn' makes me think of the call found throughout the Bible to turn away from evil and turn back to God.

Doing that can mean having to take a U turn in life's journey and choose a completely different way.

It can mean taking a serious look at the direction in which you are heading and consider if that is really what you want?

Or, might it be better to turn back?

Might there be a better way?

I haven't time to write much of a reflection today, but you might reflect on these words from the prophet Isaiah:
"Seek the Lord while he may be found,call upon him while he is near;let the wicked forsake their way,and the unrighteous their thoughts;let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."Isaiah 55: 6 - 7. NRSV

Image Credit: Pixabay

Advent Word: Gather

On the 14th day of Advent today's Advent Word is 'gather'.

Gather always sounds to me like a strangely old fashioned word, but rich in meaning. It can be used in so many different contexts: to gather people together, to gather things that are separated, to gather crumbs under a table.

This image of part of a bronze statue of a shepherd in Cumbria, England, show him holding a lamb. I love the detail, the purposefulness of his walk and the way he is looking up, his attention focused.

This image reminds me of words from Isaiah's vision of God comforting his people:
"He will feed his flock like a shepherd;he will gather the lambs in his arms,and carry them in his bosom,and gently lead the mother sheep."Isaiah 40: 11 NRSV

Image Credit: Des Colhoun on Geograph, Creative Commons License

Advent Word: Water

Water is today's word in the Advent Word Calendar 2019 for which I am trying to write a post each day.

Water is essential to life. Is that why I've written about water so often on this blog? There's nothing more refreshing than water when you're thirsty and tired. There's nothing more life-giving than water when dehydrated. There's nothing more cleansing than water when dirty. Without water we stay thirsty, tired and dirty. Every cell of our bodies need water. Without water we die.

I'm used to having safe water on tap at home. It's hard to imagine how hard it must be for those who don't have easy access to safe water for drinking or hygiene. How tiring it must be to have to carry water daily from a distant source, a task usually done by women and children. This Advent, how about giving a Christmas present to help the 785 million people in the world who do not have clean water close to home. You can do this by donating to a charity like Water Aid or an…

Advent Word: Harmony

Harmony is the word for Day 12 in the Advent Calendar I am following. And today is polling day in the UK General Election.

The various election campaigns have been anything but harmonious. People in the UK are deeply divided on many political issues, not least Brexit. And whatever the final result of this General Election, it will not act like a magic wand to immediately heal divisions and create #harmony between people of widely differing situations and political ideologies.

The word harmony makes me think of music. A melody, sung or played by an individual or group in unison, may be beautiful, but for me it is harmony in music that I love most. There is nothing like an orchestra or band with a variety of instruments playing different notes that all work together. Or a choir of different voices singing in harmony of 4 parts or more. That is, of course, if they are all playing or singing their separate parts in tune, on beat and in line with the composer's and conductor's instru…

Advent Word: Confess

Day 11 of the Advent Word Calendar and today's word is 'confess'. To confess can mean to acknowledge guilt. It can also mean to declare faith in or adherence to something or someone, for example faith in Jesus or loyalty to him.

This photo of the painting 'The Return of the Prodigal Son' by Pompeo Batoni, shows a repentant son confessing to his loving father. It is based on Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15: 11 - 31. In my mind this 18th century painting shows the 2 meanings of to confess that I mention above.

Homeless, hungry and in desperation, after wasting his share of his father's wealth, the young man returns to his father to confess he has wronged him and feels unworthy to be called his father's son. He has enough faith in his father to hope to be taken on as a household or farm servant. The wide embracing arms of his father show the father's love and loyalty to the son he has never given up on.

What was the result of the prod…

Advent Word: Grace

Today's Advent Word on Day 10 of the Advent Calendar 2019 is 'Grace'. It is such a lovely word. 

'Grace' is used to mean many things. In the Bible 'grace' is an attribute of God's character. Grace is linked with unearned mercy, undeserved forgiveness

That compassionate nature of God is revealed particularly through Jesus. In the end, the grace of God is all we can rely on to save us from the mess we are in as sinful humanity.

I love this description of the loving kindness of God, revealed in Jesus: '
"The gospel portrait of God as expressed in and through the person of Jesus is a picture of - a God who loves us totally and unconditionally, just the way we are at any given moment, not the way we think we should be, a God who forgives us even before we realize we need to be forgiven...a God who wants us to be healed and whole and happy, who enjoys surprising us with lavish gifts...a God who wants to be with us in suffering and in joy, in victory and …

Advent Word: Root

I've recently planted some winter onion sets and some garlic. Although the roots of these vegetables are always short, my hope is that they will take root in this cold season. With all the rain we have had, they are not short of water. After Christmas, once the hours of daylight start to increase, they should start to send up tiny green shoots, the promise of a harvest to come by the summer.

Today's Advent word in the Advent Word 2019 Advent Calendar is 'root'. It is a word that resonates with many of the Advent themes and readings. In a previous post 'O Root of Jesse come and deliver us' I wrote about Isaiah's prophecy of a coming Saviour and his image of a new shoot that would emerge from the old "root of Jesse". 

For today, I have posted an image of trees growing each side of a stream. You can see the roots of the tree in the foreground reaching down into the life-giving water. This reminds me of what the prophet Jeremiah said about those who tru…

Advent Word: Worthy

Why post an image of battered leather sandals to illustrate today's Advent Word 'worthy'? These sandals may be well made but they are not worth much.

I've chosen this image because I see a link with the gospel reading used in many churches on this Sunday, Matthew 3: 1 - 12. It's about John the Baptist who prepared the way for the start of Jesus' ministry and may have worn sandals like these.

In the New Revised Standard Version of Matthew 3: 1 - 12 the word 'worthy' occurs twice in the message John the Baptist gave to the religious leaders who came to him for baptism.

He tells them to "bear fruit worthy of repentance". In other words, it's no use saying you want to turn over a new leaf, to turn away from sin and return to God. Genuine repentance produces the good fruit of a changed life.Then he announces that someone more powerful is coming after him. John the Baptist said, "I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with t…

Advent Word: Unity

I continue to use each daily word from the 2019 Advent Word Calendar as a focus for a brief reflection.

This is the 3rd year I have done this during Advent.

I have found this discipline helpful. Rather like a daily Bible lectionary reading, it makes me focus on something I might not have chosen myself. That process often leads to creative surprises or challenges.

Today's Advent Word is 'Unity'.

At a time of considerable political disunity just now in UK politics in the run-up to a General Election in a few days time, the idea of unity among people in the UK seems like a utopian dream. In a democracy, I think it is good to disagree about political policies. The alternative would be a dictatorship - and potentially an evil dictatorship where all dissent is repressed. One of the many problems we have now in the UK is we seem to have forgotten (if we ever knew) how to treat each other with respect, in order to foster good disagreement, to listen to each other as well as present ou…

Advent Word: House

This house is built on rock. It stands near the harbour at Pittenween, Fifeshire, Scotland.

This house, built on rock foundations  has withstood rain, high tides, wind, hail and snowstorms since the 18th century. It is built on secure foundations.

When I thought about today's word 'house' for Day 6 of the Advent Word Calendar 2019 my mind went straight back to being a child in Sunday School. I remember so often singing a chorus, "The wise man built his house upon the rock." That children's chorus was based on a parable of Jesus about people who hear Jesus words and act on them, in contrast to those who hear Jesus' words and do not act on them. I loved singing about the house on the rock standing firm in rain, floods and winds, while the house on the sand fell FLAT.

In Matthew's Gospel, the parable of the wise and foolish builders comes at the end of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Here is the parable:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and a…

Advent Word: Raise

On Day 5 of the Advent Word global Advent Calendar, today's word is #raise.

The word 'raise' reminds me that we all need a helping hand to encourage and lift us up. This is especially so when life really gets us down so that even just getting up in the morning feels too hard to do.

I love the way that the Book of Psalms is so honest about life's difficulties and miseries. Many of the Psalms are full of complaints to God. The Psalms are also full of trust that God is able to help.

Psalm 145: 14 reads:
"The Lord upholds all who are falling,and raises up all who are bowed down."
Image Credit: sasint on Pixabay

Advent Word: Humble

I am trying to post a brief response on the blog each day to that day's word suggested for #AdventWord2019.

Today is Day 4 of the 24 days of this calendar leading up to Christmas. Today the Advent word is 'Humble'.

When I thought about who is truly humble, it was Jesus that stood out among all the examples of humility that I know.

In response to that word 'humble' I thought of these words of Jesus, shown in the image above. They were addressed especially to those who are "burdened and heavy laden". Is that how you feel today? 

Image Credit: Christiane von Heerden, image found on Twitter @chrisvanheerden

Advent Word: Time

Day 3 of the Advent Word Calendar 2019 and today's word is 'Time'.

One aspect of growing older is the experience of time seeming to move very fast and you realize just how short life is. 

It is good to make the best of the present time which will soon be gone. That feels all the more poignant today when I shall attend a funeral.

The word 'Time' reminds me of some verses from the Bible, often read during Advent, Romans 13: 11 - 12:
" know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is fat gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light;..."
Image Credit: Conger Design on Pixabay, Pixabay License

Advent Word: Visit

Today's Advent Word in the 2019 Advent Word Calendar is 'Visit'.
Over the next couple of days I will be making a visit to a part of the country I know well, but no longer visit as much as I used to do.
The main purpose of the visit is a funeral. That will involve a visit to a church new to me. I wonder if it will have Advent candles - a reminder of the various ways in which God comes to visit, through various chosen people and then supremely in Jesus, son of Mary of Nazareth.
The visit will also include a visit to relatives and hopefully an enjoyable time catching up with each other and enjoying shared food.
I hope to visit places where I have enjoyed many walks and picnics in the past, including the place shown in my photo. At what can be such a busy time of year, preparing for Christmas it will be good to find some peace by visiting a place that includes such happy memories.
What does the word 'visit' evoke in your mind?
Image Credit: my own photo taken while grieving.

Advent Word: Unexpected

Advent begins today. It's a season of waiting, of expectancy, of hope.
That raise the question what do you expect as you wait in hope?
One thing I expect is to follow the themes of #AdventWord through Advent which this year is only 24 days. Advent always has 4 Sundays before Christmas. It always starts on a Sunday. That is why in the church the 1st day of Advent varies between the end of November and beginning of December.
For the last 2 years I have tried to post something each day that connects with the word of the day suggested by #AdventWord. I expect to manage that again this year, but life is full of unexpected events and my plan may have to be abandoned.
Today's Advent word in the global Advent calendar I'm following is 'unexpected'. When I saw that word I immediately thought of Mary's unexpected pregnancy announced to her by an unexpected angel. Or the unexpected pregnancy of her post-menopausal cousin Elizabeth. Were they ready for that?
Rowan Williams wrot…