Monday, December 14, 2009


This weekend I went home. Well, not home. I was born and raised on a council estate in Birmingham, but as I'm currently in ministerial formation at Regent's Park and I've recently gotten married, I'm now living in Oxford.

Oxford is very different from Chelmsley Wood. And to be honest, I was nervous about going back, nervous about not fitting in anymore, nervous that everything would have moved on without me and I wouldn't really be welcome anymore.
I don't know if any of you have ever been back to the place you grew up only to discover that it's just not the same anymore. Things are all a bit different, not quite as you remembered - it's all changed.

For those of you who have read Great Expectations, I draw your attention here to Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham fell in love with a man who was out to swindle her riches. At twenty to nine on their wedding day, while she was dressing, Miss Havisham recieved a letter telling her she'd been defrauded and left at the alter.
Years later when Pip stumbles across her mansion, he finds her still dressed in her wedding dress, the wedding cake rotting on the table and all the clocks stoped at twenty to nine.

Miss Havisham was unable to move on. Eerily everything was exactly the same as the day she had been jilted, even down to her single shoe.

It wasn't the same when I went back to Chelmsley Wood, things had changed, people had moved on. But it wasn't a bad thing. And somehow, it was still home. And so, whilst sitting in our church hall, surrounded by old friends and family, staring at the messiest Christmas tree I've ever seen (decorated by Sunday School...), and wondering why, even though the place isn't home anymore, even though it's a million miles away from what I've come to be used to, being there felt perfectly natural, inspiration struck. I thought I'd share it with you.

The old man living
In his rented room
Grows steadily lonelier
As the darkness looms

And the boy shooting drugs
As he sits on the street
And the loneliness takes him
Despite who he meets

Lovers lie sleeping
Side by side
A wilderness between them
From which they can't hide

And their unborn infant
Is already alone
So soon to be discarded
Without a place to call his own

Because the scatterer
Has overtaken us
Estranging lovers
Breaking promises

Tearing us inwardly
And tearing us apart
Keeping us restless
And breaking our hearts

And this is why
Those of us who are sated
Find it so easy to ignore
Those of us who are starving

Yet, taken all together
Or taken one by one
We are the holiest of earth's creatures
Taken at our sum

For he who kindled
The fire of the sun
He who draws out new life
From the dead of the winter's cold

He who has whittled
A cabin for the snail
Has also carved our names
In the palm of his hand

He became a child
The better to be near us
Born on a journey
Undeservedly saving us

He grew to be a man
And lived among us
To be our healing
When we were sick
Our bread
When we were hungry
To be the wine at all our weddings

He suffered at our hands
And he forgave us
He sweat from head to foot
With human anguish
And shedding every drop of blood
To give us each other
That loneliness would be dispelled

He gave himself to us
That we might live forever

He gave us even more
Than he has given the angels.

God journies with us, he is living and moving, working with us right now. Advent is about the past and the future. We look backwards to the birth of Christ, and forwards to his coming again. But maybe we've got it wrong; maybe in looking and backwards and forwards, we're missing out on something. Because Christ isn't some dead hero of the past, nor is he a distant hope for the future. He is for the here and now, reconciling us to himself, and to one another.
When we're with God, God is with us. And God's people now, and throughout the ages, are with us too.

1 comment:

Catriona said...

Thank you

I sometimes go back to my 'sending church' and find a mystery that on one hand we no longer fit each other at all, having each moved in very different directions, and in another way it is a still a place I encounter God in a way I do no where else. Mystery is good.

Love the poem. Very thought-provoking.