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  • Christmas Eve

    One of my favourite parts of Christmas Eve is when the shops shut.  Dependent on where you live in the UK the time will differ.  I recall that when I was a child it was usually about 4:30p.m.  As an adult it has been as late 10 p.m. especially if you live near a 'corner shop'.  But whatever time it is, for me the 'magic' starts when it is no longer possible to buy that last minute thing - be it cranberries (as per the rather cheesy song) or a gift for great uncle Wilf who arrived unexpectedly.  The tills stop beeping, the shutters come down and for just a day there is a 'general pause' (yes, I know a few shops open but go with me!) if you don't have it now, you'll have to do without... for me that breings a sense of relief!

    As darkness falls, just for a moment things are still, no commerce, no bustle, just a sense of anticipation...

    Perhaps we really are on the verge of something special...

    May it be so.

  • BBC Nativity

    I think this did what it said on the tin - gave us a nativity play which ended with a nice stable tableau not so very different from the one most Sunday Schools offer.  But at the same time it had some nice touches that challenge the saccharine sweetness of the familiar.  I am saddened that some Jews and some Christians have found it offensive, but I fear that says more about them than about the portrayal.

    For me, the highlight was the portrayal of Joseph, always a bit part player suddenly made important, as he must have been.  His delight in securing Mary's betrothal followed by his wretchedness and anger when she turned up obviously pregnant and even his wrestling with the angel's message in his dream were convincing and valuable.

    Although offensive to some Jews, the portrayal of Mary's treatment was an important aspect of the story, reflecting the society in which she lived and the scandalous nature of her pregnancy.  I fear anyone reading across from the characters in the story to real life 21st century Jews in diaspora is missing the point and perpetuating old antagonisms.  Yes, Jews have been wrongly portrayed by Christians and there are many shameful things in our history, but let's be grown up here.

    Likewise the extreme Christian views that this is a liberalisation of the story bug me - it is no more and no less interpretive than any other nativity, and a darned sight better than most.  There were some clever touches such as putting bits of gospel in to the mouths of the magi that allowed the story teller to make this a theological telling.

    The purists won't like the ending with kings and shepherds kneeling like a classic nativity set, but I'm not really sure what else we expected... it is too complicated to separate them out and try to interpolate Luke and Matthew as a coherent whole.  And would we really want Holy Innocents before Christmas..? I reckon not.

    Overall I think it was a good effort, well delivered and avoided sentimentalisation of the story.  If it scandalised some, well that sounds fairly authentic to who JC was/is...

  • Advent 4.5

    Yes, today we have our final Advent reflection, one which moves us ever closer to Christmas itself.  I have enjoyed this series, a little different from the usual with its emphasis on visual art, and today I have to raid the Sunday School cupboard and the Flower Lady's stash for props!  Don't tell anyone.

    Then I have to tidy my office ready to vacate it for four months... that feels kind of weird.  But it is a mess and I don't want to come back to an Advent mess at Easter!  I think the inanimate objects are conspiring against me too - why does my colour laser need two new cartridges the last time it'll be used for a while (unless I take it home of course).  And will Lazarus, my computer that is at least eight years old, last out the day... so far so good but he's tired!

    Bit of an odd day really - at one level absolutely normal for the time of year and at another not at all.  I guess that makes it a bit like the first Christmas then... most of the world getting on with its usual stuff and something occurring largely unnoticed that was different.  Not that my odd Advent is significant on a global scale, just it makes me think about the events of whenever it was a couple of thousand years back.

  • A Prayer

    In an uncharacteristically quiet Christmas week (partly because it lands on the weekend) and with two services still almost totally unprepared due to limited inspiration, I find not a lot to say today, so instead of me, how about a prayer from someone else?


    Lord of all time

    Bless this season

    Come amongst us

    In all we do.

    Help us to prepare

    For your coming,

    Not merely to skuttle

    To and fro,

    In a frenzy

    Of cooking and shopping,

    Parties and glitter,

    Worthless waste

    Of precious time

    Given by you.

    Lesley K Steel, in Shine on Star of Bethlehem, pub Canterbury, third ed. 2004, p. 68

  • A Candle in the Darkness

    On Sunday evening we used a legitimate variant of the refrain of this song as the response for our intercessions (if anyone has a copy of 'Let's Praise' we used the chorus of No 91 'It was raining down in Memphis', also by Garth Hewitt).  It is another example of thoughtful contemporary hymn-writing for Christmas...

    Light a candle in the darkness
    Light a candle in the night
    Let the love of Jesus light us
    Light a candle in the night

    Like a flicker in the darkness
    Comes a mother’s desperate cry
    And a baby’s voice in answer
    Brings the coming of the light

    He didn’t come in wealth and grandeur
    He didn’t stand with men of power
    He had no status to commend him
    He was homeless he was poor

    But he came to heal the wounded
    And he came to heal the scars
    Of a world that’s bruised and broken
    Where the image has been marred

    And we see him in the hungry
    And the homeless refugee
    In the sick and dying children
    His arms reach out to you and me

    And I feel his breath upon me
    And he whispers “Follow me”
    And he grants his fire within me
    Says let it shine for all to see

    Garth Hewitt © 1985 Chain of Love Music