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  • First Week of Advent: Tuesday

    Today it is my turn to post at the 25 Things for Advent blog and as life is busy, and as this is my rest day, I am cross-posting my words.  On this, my blog, I will then add a prayer.


    Most mornings I use the Jesuit "Pray As You Go" devotions as a way of preparing myself for the coming day.  Cutting through the temptation to rush straight into the busy-ness of good and, arguably, hopefully, Godly work, it forces me to centre myself.  And it is a gift - someone else has done the work, all I have to do is receive.

    I have a funny feeling we aren't so good at that - the receiving.  We are so conditioned that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" that we fail to bless others by allowing them to give to us.

    Put like that, our pious endeavours are shown as selfish ambition.  God so-loved the world that God gave... Can we receive?  Will we receive?

    If Advent heralds something that's topsy-turvy, maybe it is permissible to overturn a familiar scripture: "freely you have given, now freely received.."

    What will I have the grace to receive today?  A compliment?  A smile?  An offer of help?  A conversation?  A hug?


    Now here's the thing, God, you allow us to give to you

    Faltering prayers and clumsy songs

    You delight in our flawed endeavours to love one another

    You receive generously are home-made, slightly skew-whiff, ill-drawn, over-glittered, glue-sodden, child-like praises we offer you...

    Help us to receive,

    First from one another,

    Then from you

    The beautiful, hand-crafted, personalised, thoughtful, generous, gifts born of love



  • First Week of Advent: Monday

    In yesterday's sermon (not one of my finest, it has to be admitted) I noted that in the lectionary gospel reading (Luke 21: 25 - 36) Jesus used a mini-parable in which he equated the new leaves emerging on a fig tree with the inbreaking of God's Kingdom.  I mentioned that throughout scripture plant and tree metaphors are often used in such a way.  As if by confirmation, in the evening service, we had two Isaiah readings (from chapters 11 and 60) each of which used 'tree' imagery.

    This morning there is snow on the ground in Glasgow.  When we get snow the defiance of green shoots - the emerging leaves of spring bulbs - through the snow, the imagery becomes very apparent.  The signs are there.  The teeny weeny shoots are breaking through the dark earth.  New buds are forming on stark, bare trees.  The Kingdom of God is becoming... but as yet, you have to look carefully to see it, for its full bloom is not yet.

    Maybe we should take a moment today, in the garden, in the park, even at the plant on the window sill, to seek out the tiny signs of emergent growth.

    Maybe, too, we should look around us, for the other signs of God's Kingdom - glimpses of grace, mercy and love...


    It's hard, Lord God, to spot the signs of new growth

    New life

    New hope


    Hard because we have become so accustomed to looking for

    Neon signs

    Flashing Lights

    Writing on walls

    Supernatural intervention

    Religious experiences


    Open our eyes

    Open our minds

    Open to hearts

    That we might spot

    Just one green shoot

    Just one tiny bud

    And in it, glimspe more of you



  • Advent 1: Beginning at the End

    adventwreath1.gifIt has already been a demanding and busy weekend, and in roughly three hours time I lead worship for Advent 1.  To add to my (self-imposed) pressure, I have made a practice of blogging through the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent.  As my cat woke me for the third time this morning (5 a.m., 6 a.m. 7 a.m.) I groaned, rolled out of bed and half wished I was a 'normal' church member who could just dip in and out.  So there you go, that's honesty for you!  Having to come up with some words for today - why, oh why, did I say I'd do this?

    Advent Sunday is the beginning of the new liturgical (church) year.  In those churches who use liturgical colours, the green of 'ordinary time' makes way for the purple or violet of the 'penitential' season.  In may churches, Advent wreathes or rings appear, with candles coloured according to diverse scheme... purple, pink & white, red & white, white & red.  We way even begin to set up nativity scenes with Mary and the angel, as a means of building tension and anticipation.

    So there is a snese of irony that in many preaching schemes, Advent 1 focuses on the second coming, the eschaton, the end of time (other schemes may centre on 'God's people' or ''the Patriarachs') which is where we will looking today.  Scary, apocalyptic readigns that really ought to disturb rather than comfort us, not because they speak of God zapping the bad guys (I don't think they actually say that) but because they remind us of our own meld of frantic busyness and Kingdom inertia.  Anticipation is not merely 'looking forward to' rather it carries a sense of 'pre-empting' - in the here and now, as the Kingdom slips in by stealth, we are meant to be the signs of hope, of joy, of love, of grace.  Which is flipping hard work when we are racing around doing the stuff of Christmas.

    So today, I will force myself to stop, if but for a few moments, to start at the end and think backwards.  because 'end' is not just 'finish', end is also 'telos' or 'goal'.  If we are honest when we pray 'your Kingdom come', then this is the end that shapes our beginning this Advent.


    Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as is heaven...

    This is the goal, the aim towards which we live and work

    This is the fulfillment for which we wait, more of less impatiently

    This is the bewildering, mysterious, wonderful, beautiful

    Demanding, terrifying, beguiling hope that inspires us to follow you

    Lord Jesus Christ.

    Maranatha!  Come Lord Christ, and make all things new