Friday, 27 December 2013

Friday Five Festive Fun Edition

I am hosting Friday Five for the first time!! And as I have pondered, and enjoyed playing over the year I have also reflected what I would do. I like alliteration, so I came up with the following headings:
Family – my family has changed greatly in the past few years; my three sons are still here, but now there are two beautiful girls in tow! And in recent years, my new beloved has brought his family in too. He has two sons and two daughters, and a daughter-in-law, and this year a granddaughter arrived too! His oldest, married son, and their beautiful baby live in Boston, so our newest family tradition was Skyping with them – when we’d finished lunch, and they were getting ready for it. This year, we are doing Second Christmas, when my boys arrive today, having spent Christmas with their Dad away in Aberdeen.
Friends – when the boys were growing up Boxing Day was friends day; 26th December we would gather together with my best friend and her family and have our special gathering; Ruth now lives in Kuala Lumpur... so that doesn't happen. But on the 26th... Boxing Day, I did Skype with her!
Fun – for us this always includes games! Board games; card games, and now, competitions on the Wii!! The boys all inherited my competitive spirit, but my youngest is probably the worst (best!?) and his girl is similarly minded, so I imagine later on today we will be planning some sort of tournament for the weekend – which will include much laughter as time goes by.
Festivities – nowadays I always have two trees; when they were young I let the boys trim the tree; and then made it how I wanted later on. I never thought they knew, until middle son told me last year, but Mum, you always trimmed the tree, we knew you’d redo it after we went to bed! (me? Control freak???!!) I have kept every decoration they made; and each year something new was added, so now, all the original glossy baubles are gone, and in their place are reminders of Christmases gone by. So that even though I now trim the tree by myself, each piece I take out reminds me of them, of places I have visited and friends who added to my collection.
Food – my mother is Irish, as of course was my grandmother, and every year I make Grandma’s stuffing for the turkey. If someone new is at our table I have to explain this; it’s part of my ritual, for it is potato based, and can be a surprise if you’re not expecting it! We love the proper traditional feast: our tradition of course may not be everyone else’s too! Roast Turkey and a honey glazed ham; potato stuffing; roast potatoes and roasted parsnips; carrots, Brussels sprouts - sautéed with little shallots & bacon lardons; bread sauce; cranberry & orange relish; and rich gravy.... we do not eat traditional Christmas pudding, and the dessert varies year to year, this year it was sherry trifle – having finally worked out how to make it dairy free! (‘twas delicious!)
I do have a Christmas cake (also dairy and gluten free) but we didn’t break into that yet...  

So many things we do at Christmas are the same as for everyone else; and many things are I guess unique. But whatever we do, or did, is wrapped round with Christ. Because for me, and mine, it wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t, so joining the church family to greet the bells, and ring out the tiding of joy is very definitely part of the festivities too. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Light comes into the World - Christmas Eve sermon

Genesis 1: 1-5

John 1: 1-14
Luke 2: 8-20

“And the Word was Made Flesh” by Laurence Housman.

“Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
‘Thither will I go’, said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
‘Thither will I go’, said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld Hatred.
‘Thither will I go’, said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought Life.”

Tonight’s message is about light; though it could also be about beginnings... in our readings we heard from the very first verses of the bible: the creation narrative in Genesis
And then from the beginning of John’s Gospel – a different creation narrative
And then from Luke’s Gospel – the nativity narrative: God’s creation in a very different way and a new beginning for the world

Each story; each explanation; each narrative is about LIGHT coming into the world

Light to dispel the darkness
Light to show the way
Light to chase fears away
Light, that leads us through life, and ultimately beyond it into the glorious Light of God’s presence.

Light is Love – God’s love, taking on flesh, for us
Light is Intimacy – God coming close enough to know everything about us
Light is Goodness – God who will not do anything other than good
Light is Hope – God’s whose actions bring only hope
Light is Trust – God in whom we all trust, for his promises are fulfilled this night
Love, Intimacy, Goodness, Hope, Trust: LIGHT

In the beginning
There was nothing
And then there was LIGHT
Light is the first thing God created, because light is needed for everything else
Without light nothing will grow; nothing will flourish; nothing will thrive
With light comes life
And with life comes everything else; the poem I quoted at the start of this message says it all:

“And the Word was Made Flesh” by Laurence Housman.

“Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
‘Thither will I go’, said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
‘Thither will I go’, said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld Hatred.
‘Thither will I go’, said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought Life.”

Light came into the world as the Word became flesh
Light it is that calls us home – to God’s kingdom of light, where there is no darkness
John, whose beautiful words paint a vision of the Word and the Light that comes from the word, also wrote about the kingdom to come where there was no need for the sun or the moon because the glory of God lights the way, and the Lamb of God is the Light of that World, and in that place there is no night – all is light.

And all of this came about because of what we remember tonight.
A lowly stable
A courageous and willing couple, who accepted the challenge of bringing that Light into the world
And the Glory of God
Shining forth as angels filled the heavens

The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us
Light has come into the world, and even in our darkest night, will shine for us; will shine for all to see.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Transfixed in Awe

Talk given at our Sheltered Housing and Nursing Homes 

Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign

On Sunday we held our annual Nativity Play; each year, many churches either spend a deal of time, rehearsing the children to within an inch of tolerance. Or worry because they don’t really have enough children; or panic because the children are too young, too scared... and already have far too many other things on.
Many years ago, as a new minister, faced with just such a problem, I was approached by my then Sunday School leader, who also happened to be a Primary School teacher, with a suggestion – and thus the DIY Nativity was born!
It is a little like organised chaos – but it is also stress free for children and their parents. Invitations were sent; posters displayed and trust in God’s good providence prevailed.
We got exactly the right number of children!

Mostly boys it has to be said, but two little girls, who both arrived dressed as angels.... both in pretty, sparkly outfits and the younger is only 16 months old!

Little Aimee stole the show
When we called for angels, her daddy brought her up, and stood her beside the crib
She was utterly transfixed!
So transfixed that she didn’t notice when daddy returned to his seat
And then, as the “big boys” appeared dressed as shepherds, she looked on in awe!
And then, the Kings arrived, and she stood, mesmerised by the shiny gold cloaks...
And we were all spellbound too

Suddenly, in Aimee, there it was: the wonder and awe of Christmas in a moment: the baby in the crib, the strange, and ordinary visitors; the joy, the utter joy of the occasion, as we all saw, in her, the glory that is,

“Love Come Down at Christmas”

Monday, 16 December 2013

A Light will Shine in Heaven

She is my friend
and she is dying
And she is dying well
with dignity and love and light

She is my friend 
and she has been, in my life,
a great source of strength and light
and still she shines

Her body is giving up
but her spirit soars
she radiates love 
frail now, and looking older than she is
but, her inner beauty remains 

she is my friend
and I will miss her
but for now
we make the most of what we have

This fragile line we walk
between friend and pastor
confidante and minister
is not sharp, the edges blur

Her light is shining here
and we make the most of it
and I know, we know,
that light will continue to shine
in Heaven

Monday, 9 December 2013

on the 9th Day of Advent....

It was time to get the Christmas cups and towels out!! 
Christmas is coming, nearer and nearer
time to bring Christmas down from the loft
time to light up the darkness
share the Christmas Cup
hang up greens to counter the barren trees outside
time to bring the Christlight and let it shine!! 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sermon 8th December: Signs of Peace

Isaiah 11: 1-10
Matthew 3: 1-12 

Last week’s reading from Isaiah gave us a vision of hope
And this week, the vision he presents is one of peace...
Not just the “absence of war” sort of peace,
But peace that is absolute: peace where even the animals live without fear or mistrust
Where they no longer hunt each other, but lie together, all old enmities forgotten

Last week we reflected on a tragedy that had touched many lives in Glasgow over the weekend – yet still had signs of hope

This week, there is another sadness, not a tragedy, but sadness at the passing of one of the world’s greatest ambassadors for peace.
For Nelson Mandela – remembered in Glasgow very fondly - passed on Thursday at the great age of 95.

In his lifetime, not only did he spend many years in prison for crimes at the time considered to be terrorism, but later viewed as heroism...  but, on his release he became such a force for good; such a symbol for the oppressed nations and people of the world that he is rightly remembered –
If ever there was a modern day symbol of peace – of former antagonists living together in equality, it is the image of Nelson Mandela and F W De Klerk.

At his trial, before he went to prison he said this:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

By the time he came out, 27 years later, into a very different world he knew this:
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison”

And his goal became something very different indeed:
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

He understood that to truly make peace between black and white in his country he needed to work with others; and, during his incarceration, F W De Klerk had reached the same conclusion; and recognising that the apartheid system was not just flawed, but totally unjust, he took that bold step to change; in releasing Mandela, he didn’t admit defeat, he rose to the challenge and accepted change, which in turn, eventually, brought peace and reconciliation to South Africa

Out of the ashes of apartheid – a dead stump if ever there was one, came new shoots of hope and peace

That new growth is the essence of Isaiah’s vision: that even in the most unpromising circumstances, new life, new hope, will come
That even in the midst of oppression and hopelessness there can be peace

The gospel reading brings us to the preaching of John the Baptist – his vision was of a world where people turned around; abandoned their old ways; came back to God, and giving up their former lives, chose the new path: he was the messenger
The one to come was the one who would bring about the new kingdom – the Kingdom of Peace...

Of course – the reality is that we – humanity, have not grasped this concept fully
We still fight – from petty arguments, to full blown political and religious wars

Yet – Isaiah’s vision is possible: the kingdom to come will have those exact circumstances: the lion will lie with the lamb
Children will be safe

Isaiah’s vision of peace and love and hope... was grasped by Nelson Mandela
“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.” 

If they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love...

Imagine what the world could be like....

There is a song that paints that image too, some of it does not resonate with me, for it imagines no God, no heaven, no religions... but what it also imagines is humanity’s potential:

Imagine all the people,
Living life in peace
You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... (John Lennon)

In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela realised that having a goal and achieving it is indeed great, but it is not the end. Life throws up many opportunities, many challenges, many tasks; each of the tasks just a step on the way

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment”

Never give up
Never give up on peace
If we can imagine it

God can make it happen

Poem for 2nd Sunday in Advent

The Peace offering

He was one of those children
who had an angry stare and a runny nose
no one wanted to sit next to him, and
He was used to fighting for everything

Being at school
And being nine
and having no one to sit next to
is a lonely place to be
He was used to fighting for everything

He had been in another fight
He knee was scraped
And his jumper was dirty
And his nose...
...was running
As she came to him, he got ready to fight again
She sat down, passed him a hanky, and said
'Peace  Offering' 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Stir us up we beseech thee O Lord....

Fruits soaking in a bowl
Fruits for my Christmas Cake...
and as we stir at this time of year we pray...
Pray that those who share this feast will be blessed
Pray those we'd like to share with are blessed
Pray that those who are with us in Spirit are blessed
Pray those we remember fondly are blessed
Pray that God will stir us up as we stir up these fruits
Stir us on to love and pray and eat and share these fruits and work of my hands 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Open Door....

It is on my fridge
and there is a door for each of the first 24 days on this month
today's picture is of a girl and a golden figure... 
and the words say:
"Do not be afraid" 
how often have we opened a door, and whispered "do not be afraid"? 
doors are for all year round - not just Advent (!)
whether your door is real
or imagined
looked to
or dreaded
when you open it remember.... 

"Do not be afraid" for we are never alone 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Do Nothing.....

I have a wee advent book
with ideas and thoughts and reflections for the season
its main theme is not doing, acting or giving...
but Do Nothing...
Do nothing...

stop and simply be
immerse yourself in the moment
watch a brass band as they play familiar tunes
smile at the exuberant joy of small children
open your box of decorations and simply remember... 
because who doesn't have a few homemade things
that spark a distant memory

Take time for quiet
Take time for peace
take time for anticipation
Time for expectation.... 

Christmas is Coming
take time to do nothing...
just for a moment