Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jesus is our Joy

And so we come to the end of our advent journey, the joy of christmas beckons. thanks to everyone who blogged. I hope you enjoyed the experience. Hopefully anyone who read them found they helpful. I leave you with some thoughts from david ford's little book the shape of living. I've found this a book I keep coming back to, full of some great stuff. Here he writes about joy:

The heart of the good news is Jesus is our joy. He can be rejoiced in without reservation ...

God does not coerce into joy, but there is always more on offer than we can take. There are as many ways into Christian joy as there are people, and the variety of testimonies is endless. Some begin in a burst of joy; others are far more hesitant, and only very slowly wake up to the intense joy at the core of faith. There are also different qualities of joy through life, culminating in the matured peacefulness of those who have been through great suffering, and have had their capacity for joy expanded and deepened in the process ...

We are created for joy, and salvation is inseparable from it ...

Celebration and praise of the God of joy becomes the shape of our lives, as we rejoice in other people, rejoice in truth and goodness, rejoice in creation, and in all sorts of creativity, play and work.

Friday, December 22, 2006

click on the photo to see a larger size.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Face Of Christ (Part 2)

From Marcus

... and yet, and yet,
if you kneel beside his manger
(you will be far too high above him if you stand),
if you kneel so that your face is close to his,
then you will find yourself
looking level-eyed into the face of God.

(Trevor Dennis, from 'The Three Faces of Christ', The Three Faces of Christ
(Triangle, SPCK, 1999)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pregnant with possibilities

A fresh piece of paper
A new day
A found love
A restored friendship
A new house
A repaired instrument
A chance meeting
An unopened parcel
A young woman
Full of child.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

God give us joy

I wrote this for last nights advent explorations (four alternative worship evenings exploring advent I'm running at bunyan)

God give us joy
Joy for yesterday, today and tomorrow
Joy for the sun and the rain
Joy for the beauty of creation

God give us joy
Turn our sorrow into dancing
Turn our despair into hope-filled songs
Turn our hearts to the stranger

God give us joy
Joy for the loved ones we remember
Joy for the birth of new life
Joy for life of our church family

God give us joy
for the gift of advent
for the space to pause
for the peace of Christ

Monday, December 18, 2006

Come into the dark places

A photo of a candle after our Christingle service yesterday. A reminder that Christ comes to banish the darkness, to overcome evil, to bring the light of God's love, to reveal salvation to all the world.

John the evangelist said "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world."

You may like to spend a moment today lifting up to God a situation, a person, a conflict, a community that needs God's good news during this season.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

being Mary

It wasn't Jesus' mother I was thinking of as I dashed around the kitchen in preparation for friends this afternoon; or as I was whipping biscuits out of the oven last night just prior to a meeting. It was Mary, Jesus' friend, who just sat down and chilled out with him. Years ago someone asked me whether I was Mary or Martha and I said both. A clever answer I thought- be busy AND spend some time with God...
Truth is, the Martha bit comes more easily- I love it when people come over- I like them to be comfortable and feel easy without tripping over toys or worse... I like giving them food and drink, and somewhere in the back of my head there is a twinge of pride at my "gift of hospitality"...
But what did Jesus actually say? "Martha you are worried and upset by many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."
Only one thing is needed.
So I want to revise my thinking. I want to be Mary- through and through. Not worried and upset by "preparations". Not resentful with God at giving me no rest from my busy work for Him. In reality this kind of work was never His, but mine. I don't think he wants us working for Him at all- just being with Him. God is single minded in His desire for us- heart, soul, mind and strength. The greatest commandment.
I share these ponderings because this is the season for practical preparations in which we find ourselves duty bound to spend hours and hours toiling at. But only one thing is needed. Mary chose the better way- so dare we compromise? Dare we give away even part of our inner being to worries and upset?
Mary made it look so simple.
Maybe it is.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Joy has Dawned on the World

We sang this song, that is new to me, last Sunday. It seemed so appropriate for Advent so I copy it here.

Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation
God's salvation now unfurled,
Hope for every nation.
Not with fanfaresfrom above,
Not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love:
Jesus born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky
With the songs of angels,
As the mighty Prince of Life
Shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place,
Shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now in a mother's breast,
Vulnerable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb,
Gazing at the glory;
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story.
Gold, a King is born today,
Incense, God is with us,
Myrrh, His death will make a way,
And by His blood He'll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven,
Given as a ransom,
Reconciling God and man,
Christ our mighty Champion!
What a Saviour, what a Friend,
What a glorious mystery:
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of history.

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Face Of Christ (Part 1)

From Marcus Bull

What you must first understand about the face of Jesus
is that it is so small.
He has no hair yet.
His milk teeth are not showing beneath his gums ...
He, the Word of God,
cannot say 'Mamma'.
He, the Son of God,
cannot call him 'Abba' ...
He is the Love of God,
and yet he cannot smile
(though sometimes, when he gets the wind,
his face crumples up as though he can)...

(Trevor Dennis, from 'The Three Faces of Christ', The Three Faces of Christ
(Triangle, SPCK, 1999)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I was in Glasgow today for a meeting. I got rather wet walking to and from the train station - someone informed me that it's been raining here every day for the past 30 days! On the way to the station I passed by a travel adgency called Flight.

It got me thinking about how many people head away to get some winter sun at this time of year and how this contrasts with the flight which Jesus took. I'm not yet thinking about the flight to Egypt after he was born, but his leaving heaven to come to earth. It was a downward flight, from grandeur to simplicity, from power to weakness, from riches to poverty. Yet the flights we dream of are so often aspiration's rather than downward.

So I'm left hear in my damp clothes waiting.....thinking what it means to be "in Christ" in His downward movement, to taking a very different winter flight from the many.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

John The Baptist

I have to admit it, I’m a big fan of John The Baptist! He was a real man of God, I know we don’t know a great deal about him and we only get a brief window in to his life in the bible.

One of the readings set for last Sunday in the lectionary was Luke 3:1-6 I love this reading the imagery of it is so powerful, John shouting his hart out trying to get the people to see, to turn and be a repentant people is not a job for the faint hearted, I’m sure some of them would have said, “why should I, I love my life as it is, thank you very much, any way who are you?”

I invite you to read Luke 3:1-6 slowly take it in to yourself, own the text, think about your responses to John

As I’ve meditated over this passage I’ve come up with the following questions. Maybe you might like to ask yourself and the text one or more of the following?

What is God saying to me as an Individual through this text?

How can I as an Individual prepare the way for the Lord in my own heart, what do I need to let go of from my life?

How can the church prepare the way better, what pre-conceptions does it need to let go of?

How do I / the church respond to those on the margins?

Do I care about my community enough to cry for it, engage with God and seek his guidance for it?

Monday, December 11, 2006

a highway in the desert

This is a photo of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, taken during a flight from Johannesburg to Namibia back in 2004. For miles and miles there is nothing but parched desert, but from time to time straight paths could be traced. This reminded me of Isaiah 40:3 - a passage often referred to during Advent.

"A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"

In Luke's gospel, this quote is used to refer to the ministry of John the Baptist. Luke adds, "the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

Lord, straigten out the areas in our lives which hinder us from drawing close to you and which prevent others from seeing you through us. Clear obstacles out of the way and build a highway in our hearts as we prepare the way for Christ.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I wonder...

Imagine this: It's your birthday. Friends have planned a huge party with food, speeches, live band and entertainment. The biggest ever. Unfortunately, they forget to invite you.
So you watch the camcorder playback the next day.
It has to be the most enormous gathering you have ever seen- anyone who is anyone is there- lots of people who you have never even spoken to are claiming to be close friends. The more you see, the more confused you get: this isn't at all your kind of party- you are uncomfortable to the point you are glad not to have been there. The most shocking bit is the speeches- did these "friends" even know you? You haven't felt so misunderstood, so misquoted ever. It's like they are using you to say what they want and do what they want; regardless of you.
How do you feel? Is this the kind of birthday you want ?

I wonder how the God of the poor feels when I exploit His people for the best bargain...
  I wonder how the God of the hungry feels when I eat enough to feed a whole family because it's what you do...
   I wonder how the Prince of Peace feels when I fight over who watches what, who got who what, who gets invited to what or whatever...
    I wonder how the King of Kings feels when I sacrifice to the god of consumerism...
     I wonder how the Wonderful Counsellor feels when I ignore the needs of the lonely and the marginalised cos they don't really fit in to my idea of a good Christimas

As I prepare this year, I am challenged to STOP. To actually consider the One I am preparing for, and His values. I am challenged to remember that He cares how I celebrate and the choices I am making. I want to be like the baby who grew up to be the most radical man the world has ever known. I pray that Jesus, who was not afraid to challenge the accepted way, will give me the strength to truly prepare for Him, not me this Christmas.

Micah 6 v 8: "He has showed you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Foreward Planning

Matthew 1:1-17

How good are you at planning ahead? I am not a last minute person. I like to be organised but I have learnedthat carefully laid plans can be altered in a minute by unforeseen circumstances or pressure of work.

This isn't true of God, however, His plans have been laid since before the beginning of the world. His plans are eternal and will come to pass. The beginning of Matthews Gospel tells of Jesus' family history. Matthews aim is to convince his Jewish readers that Jesus is the Messiah who will carry their history to its climax.The genealogy of Jesus is a bridge from Old Testament history to the coming of the Messiah. He was a man born of flesh and blood, with a Jewish heritage from Abraham and was a son of King David.

All the great eras of Jewish history find their climax in Jesus.Everything was building up to His coming. It was the turning point of history, the fulfilling of God's purposes in the world. All the preparation and anticipation of previous generations was fulfilled in the advent of Jesus, but many eyes were blind to this amazing event.

"Come Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free." (Charles Wesley)

The birth of Jesus was bringing in something new. God was breaking into history, to bring salvation, at His appointed time.

"Hail to the Lord's anointed,
Great David's greater Son,
Hail in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun." (James Montgomery)

At this time of Advent let us recognise the wonder of the fulfillment of God's plan to express His love to a needy world. To bring His Son, our Saviour to be "Emmanuel God with us."

"Hark the glad sound the Saviour comes.
The Saviour promised long.
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every heart a song. ( Philip Dodderidge)

Barbara Francis

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Kick'em in the Baubles

'Kick'em in the Baubles' - so ran the banner headline for a full page spread in the Sun Newspaper Today. Indeed in some editions it was the front page (not here in Scotland where we had a picture of the MacDonald brothers of 'X' Factor fame!)

The Sun's complaint as they unashameably showed a picture of a decorated Christmas tree was agains the 'PC killjoys' who want to ban Christmas. This reaction was provoked by a survey that showed that 'three out of four firms have banned festive decorations for fear of offending religious minorities'. They write: 'Our bold decision to publish and be damned flies in the face of the snowballing attempt to strip Christmas of all its meaning and fun'.

In the editorial they claim that we are 'seeing centuries-old customs barred on daft safety grounds' and write:

  • Mince pies are outlawed as a health risk
  • Firms are banning Christmas decorations in case they offend other faiths
  • Christmas has been rebranded as Winterval
  • Cards carry 'Holiday Greetings' instead of 'Merry Christmas'.
  • Nativity scenes are banned in case non-Christians find them offensive.

They write: We need to act now - before Christmas becomes just another boring public holiday.

Oh dear - oh dear what to make of all of this in Advent;

Should I rejoice (as a Free Church radical) at the collapse (quicker now than the England cricket team - sorry!) of another bastion of Christendom that will release the purity of the Church into its true witness. Come on for years we have preached against Christmas being about tinsel and baubles.

Should I lament the above complaining of discrimination against Christianity and Christian festivals because well after all we have a Christian heritage if we are not necessarily a Christian country.

As I reflected I actually moved out of the Christendom/non-Christendom box of thinking into one of more general culture and indeed specifically popular culture as represented if indeed not defended by the Sun and sometimes despised and rejected by the Church.

I found myself longing for a non-Christendom, Free Church response to the 'popular spirituality' if not 'popular Christianity' represented in the glitter and baubles rather than feeling that I wanted as I have in the past to rant against it. I found myself searching about in the tinsel and baubles for Jesus maybe realising that actually in some peoples memory and experience he is there and rather than complaining about that I should be seeking to explore and expose and rejoice in that creatively with them not against them so that he can appear the more brightly as Good News.

I don't know...I'm just wondering...but in wondering as I walked past the gaudily decorated Christmas trees in the streets where I work - I sensed that he could be there...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

open our eyes

this is just a great prayer from wild goose worship group (you can find it in there advent, christmas and epiphany book Cloth for the Cradle, 1997). I used it at advent explorations last night.

Open our eyes, Lord
especially if they are half-shut
because we are tired of looking
or half-open
because we fear to see too much
or bleared with tears
because yesterday and today and tomorrow
are filled with the same pain
or contracted
because we only look at what we want to see

Open our eyes, Lord
to gently scan the life we lead
The home we have
The world we inhabit
and so to find
among the gremlins and the greyness
signs of hope we can fasten on and encourage

Give us, whose eyes are dimmed by familiarity
a bigger vision of what you can do
even with hopeless causes and lost causes
and people of limited ability

Show us the world as in your sight
riddled by debt, deceit and disbelief
yet also
shot through with possibility
for recovery, renewal, redemption

And lest we fail to distinguish vision from fantasy,
today, tomorrow, this week,
open our eyes to one person
or one place
where we – being even for a moment prophetic – might identify
and wean a potential in the waiting

And with all this,
open our eyes, in yearning, for Jesus

On the mountains
in the cities
through the corridors of power
and streets of despair
to help, to heal
to confront, to convert
O come, o come, Immanuel

Monday, December 04, 2006

click on the photo to see a larger size.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Go out into the world
Go speak truthfully
Go live peacefully
Go walk faithfully
Go give generously
Go share outrageously
Go listen carefully
Go welcome everybody
Go laugh loudly
Go shout passionately
Go pray fervently
Go eat healthily
Go read widely
Go grow deeply
Go forgive wholeheartedly
Go love openly
Go follow humbly
Go show kindness
Go seek wisdom
Go act justly
Go buy fairly

Friday, December 01, 2006

Enter Here

Enter here,
Pull ahead,
Drive slow,
Take time to think,
The Christ Child is coming,
Pull ahead,
Drive slow.