Incarnation

No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origins in the wonder of all wonders that God became man. Alongside of the brilliance of the holy night there burns the fire of the unfathomable mystery of Christian theology.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

… this is all it takes?

A wonderful reflection from Cheryl at holdthisspace for Christmas in the prison where she works. She notes that “  it’s still a bit rough, but you get the idea…”.

Rough or not, it is certainly worth sharing as we make our way on to Bethlehem… as we wait “for love to be born”.

The story (Luke 2: 1-20) tells us that this is all it takes for love to be born:

you listen to the voice of improbable angels
you dare to believe you might have a part to play in their story

you say yes to the idea of the impossible
you give up the future you thought was inevitable

you defy the protocols and social mores of the day
when they get in the way of what you know is true

you dare to say to those who would deny your value and your role
that you just might have what’s needed, in this moment

you search for your allies and trust them with your dream
you devour the moments of joy when they come

you demand truth from yourself and those around you
you give up the things you are comfortable with

you travel long journeys in inhospitable conditions
you stand up to be counted

you take whatever shelter you can get
you aren’t afraid of darkness or dirt

you do whatever it takes, even if you’re lonely, scared,
a laughing stock, intimidated, overwhelmed, lost, uncomfortable

you accept gifts of wisdom from strangers
you honour those who put their gifts of love, however small, alongside yours

you risk everything, even your life, to give it breath
that’s all it takes for love to be born.

Picture is: Henry Ossawa Tanner – The Annunciation

Body language…

“If John’s Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know about Jesus’ birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.

He was God’s self, God’s soul, God’s life force in the world. He was the breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged peoples’ hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.

John goes on to say that not everyone got that message. Many were blinded by this light and preferred the darkness they knew to the light which they did not know. The Word sidled up to them and hummed life into their ears, but they cleared their throats and walked away. So God decided to speak in a new way. God decided to speak body language. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us – full of grace and truth.” 

This is John’s Christmas story  in a nutshell. Like Luke, John is telling us about an encounter with the Holy One. God’s Word was translated into a human being. God’s self, soul, and life force were concentrated into one mortal life on earth, and as a result, nothing would ever be the same again. Not because everyone listened, because everyone does not, but because the eternal Word of God took human form.”

I rediscovered this quotation today on a post from my old blog. It was originally found among some sermon starters from eSermons and is well worth repeating as we prepare for the “eternal Word of God” to take human form.

Picture is ‘pickwell sunset’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

May the light draw us into life
and stir a longing into our souls
 
May the stars shine along our pathway
and lighten the way with prophecy 
 
May the words of ancient promise
echo in every word we speak 
 
May the sound of a baby crying
haunt every silence born of apathy 
 
May incarnation be more than godly flesh
but a fresh way of godly living 
 
May the Spirit of Christ be born in us
and God make a home among us 

An Advent blessing from: Mucky Paws… I’ve posted it before, but it is well worth repeating.

It caught my attention because me and my congregation have had our way lightened by prophecy this Advent. In Isaiah, there have been words of comfort and hope for us. Words of ancient promise have echoed down through the centuries to touch us today on our particular Advent journey with God.

And the challenge for us (and for us all) is to allow our Advent longings to transform our lives in the coming year…  this is incarnation.

A prayer for the journey…

I was browsing Advent posts on my old blog… reminding myself where I had been and looking for some inspiration and I came across this prayer.

It is ascribed to St. Columba and it speaks about the blessedness of journey. It is essentially a prayer for protection against the unknown -the unknown places where Columba would rest his head and the unknown people he would encounter as he travelled. Some would oppose him, but others would welcome him in -offering their home as his home.

Columba’s prayer so closely mirrors my experience of the journey at the moment, having made the difficult decision to shut the church buildings (see previous posts).

I have encountered opposition (not from within my own congregation) – “poison” has poured from people who really should know better. But more importantly I have encountered great hospitality and grace from my neighbouring congregations in the parish (one Roman Catholic and the other Episcopalian) who have offered their hospitality and support to a congregation without a home… who have made sacrifices to welcome us in.

So this Advent – I hope you encounter “favourable company” on your particular journey of faith and I hope that no one’s poison reaches you

The path I walk, Christ walks it.
May the land in which I am be without sorrow.
May the Trinity protect me wherever I stay,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Bright angels walk with me -dear presence – in every dealing.
In every dealing I pray them that no one’s poison may reach me.
The ninefold people of heaven of holy cloud,
the tenth force of the stone earth.
Favourable company, they come with me,
so that the Lord may not be angry with me.
May I arrive at every place, may I return home;
may the way in which I spend be a way without loss.
May every path before me be smooth, man, woman and child welcome me.
A truly good journey!
Well does the fair Lord show us a course, a path.

Picture is : tate stairs by Jonny Baker on Flickr

Called…

Well… the last couple of weeks have passed in a blur. Closing a church building is much easier than dealing with the ‘fallout’. As I said to one person last week – “I am just making it up as I go along”.

Now, as you would expect, some of the fallout has been good and some of it simply dreadful. But I prefer to focus on the good, particularly on our wonderful neighbours in St Peter in Chains church, who as soon as they heard about our predicament offered their hall for our Advent services (at some inconvenience to themselves). The first service was held there this morning and all went well. We will be meeting in St Peter’s hall for all the Sundays in Advent and hopefully by the time we come to 18 December we will have more permanent arrangements in place for worship.

Also of note amid the chaos was the ordination and induction of my friend Morag Garrett to Kilwinning Mansfield Trinity last Wednesday night. There was an amazing turnout for the service, the place was packed and extra chairs had to be brought into the worship space. It was fantastic to forget about building problems, presbytery planning issues and all the other stuff which has been cluttering up my mind over the past few weeks and to enjoy this wonderful service of celebration with Morag and the congregation in Kilwinning. It was also great to see so many familiar faces from churches where Morag and I both did placements.

I was preaching and giving the charges which was a challenge – both in preparation and in the preaching of words which, although written for Morag and for the occasion, were words I needed to hear again for myself.

Here is the quotation which inspired the sermon… from Albert Schweitzer’s book ‘The Quest For The Historical Jesus’:

“He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who did not know who he was. He says the same words, “Follow me!”, and set us to those tasks which he must fulfil in our time. He commands. And to those who harken to him, whether wise or unwise, he will reveal himself in the peace, the labours, the conflicts and the suffering that they may experience in his fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery they will learn who he is.”

I may post the sermon sometime… when I need reminded again that I am called… called to follow Christ and to fulfil the tasks he has for me … in my time.

(Picture is ‘The Beginning’ )