26 November 2014
I love Advent... I love in some mysterious way the physical darkness of a northern hemisphere December that encapsulates some of what ths season is about. So I'm really glad that Sunday is Advent Sunday and that, once again, we begin our journey towards Christmas holding that strange tension of incarnation and consummation, reflection and anticipation, faith and doubt, hope and fear.
This year, we are using some material from Christian Aid focussed on maternal health as one strand in our thoughts, and will be using the candle liturgy they offer. Each week one or more families will lead this part of the service, and I hope it proves meaningful for us all. In our lunch time series (starting a few days early, tomorrow!) will are going to use some African American spirituals to guide our thoughts - hope in the darkness of slavery and oppression. Added to that are some traditional themes of "Patriarchs and Matriarchs" and "Prophets and Prophetesses" before the Sunday School nativity and all age carol service.
Somewhere along the line, Advent has been subsumed by Tinselmas, the commerical version of Christmas that is filled with 'spend, spend, spend' adverts, parties, canned carols, cheesy songs and, this year, yet another release of "Do They Know it's Christmas?" A nice irony I think given how far most western lives are from having a clue about Christmas and it's significance.
One of my favourite parts of Advent is the opportunity to sing Advent hymns, minor keys that ache with pathos, longing, hope-against-hope and words that are often a little too close to the truth for comfort.
This year, I have many friends for whom Advent is extra dark - relationship breakdown, bereavement, illness, uncertainty and more - some of them even wondering if there is still a light at the end of the tunnel, if the idea of hope is a delusion. Too easy to rush ahead to the prologue of John and announce that light triumphs over darkness, for now what these folk need is the promise of the alongsideness of the shepherd in the 'valley of the shadow of death", friends who cannot make it right, but who carry the "Christlight" for them "in the night-time of their fear".
Lots of my my most precious songs speak of light in the darkness... promises that when it seems all is lost and God is silent that, mysteriously and wonderfully God draws close in friends, family, professionals and even strangers.
For those wont to read between the lines, I am in a 'good place' at the moment... well apart from my poorly kitten of course. Perhaps it is those of us in the 'good places' who need to be willing to step into the darkness alongside others in order to be their hope this Advent-tide.
24 November 2014
... the woman behind me coming out of the supermarket asked her companion.
I had just added my chocolate advent calendars and selection boxes to the growing quantity in the foodbank collection point, where someone had also added some cat food, alongside the regular items
Why would you put an Advent calendar in a foodbank collection? Because someone had the idea that it would bring a smile to the face of a child (or an adult) who couldn't afford to go out and buy one. It's not the foodbanks are 'good' or even 'OK' but they are at the moment something for which there seems to be a real need. Given they exist, then why not add a few luxuries?
The second woman of the pair behind me seemed to think it was a nice idea that people would give chocolate treats, Christmas puddings, or whatever else it was.
I hope the collection is sorted and delivered soon... there was a heck of a lot of chocolate in there!
Above all, I hope that those who this year will be recipients of these items will find real hope and a brighter future ahead of them
23 November 2014
Free Sundays all too often disappear in a blue of nothingness, and so easily that could have been the case today. After a very long day out yesterday (travelling around 800 miles all told, in order to spend three hours with a special friend) I allowed myself to wake up 'as and when' before warming up an almond croissant for breakfast and booking a car so that I can go Christmas shopping tomorrow.
Then I looked out of the windwo, saw a cloudless blue sky, pulled on my boots, wrapped out and headed out for a walk, at the last minute putting my camera in my pocket. Initially intending a yomp of maybe 4 miles, I ended up walking what was apparently 8.5, and had a lovely time soaking up the industrial and archtectural delights I saw as I walked along the river into town, on to the People's Palace for lunch and a quick look at the museum then into the centre of town and out again past the Mitchell library and through Kelvingrove Park on my way home.
Just a lovely gift of a day... perfect weather, enough people around to make it vibrant but not so many it was crowded.
And the camera allowed me to snap some things as I went along - including domes, spires, statues, bridges, lunch and trees. I arrived home glowing from the exertion and glowing inwardly from a grand day out in this city that I love.