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  • An Advent Calendar of Sorts - 23rd December

    The good ship oikumene (the Christian ecumenical movememt) can be a little wobbly sometimes... a small boat on a stormy sea, beset by squalls, sometimes leaky, sometimes people jump ship... but it's still good and I remain a fan.

    This year, because of how the Sundays fall, we'll be joining two other congregations, one on Christmas Day, the other on New Year's Day.  I am happy not only that these services are happening, but because, at least to a degree, they are really being shared.  So in each of them, I've been invited to read the gospel, and in each of them I will be entrusted with some of the prayers.  This is all good, and make my heart glad.

    For much of the time I was in Dibley, by force of circumstance, our Christmas Day service was a village affair (the Anglicans had silly o'clock communion first) and it became quite integrated, with clergy and people sharing in the planning, preparation and delivery.  I'm not suggesting that is the only model, or the best or right model, but it is a model.

    So, anyway, this year on two Sundays, Baptists and Presbyterians will join together to worship the one whose birth we are recalling... and that has to be good.

    Best get those prayers written for Sunday then!!

  • An Advent Calendar of Sorts - 22nd December

    I found this RLS quote when looking online for a picture that described 'joy'.  I liked the quote better than any images I found!

    I have preached about joy, and blogged about joy, many times before: about how it is not the same as happiness, about how it is resilient and defiant without ever denying reality, about how sometimes it is uncontainable, about how sometimes it is like that tiny candle flame that defies the darkness.

    Yesterday morning came some good news that made my joy very effervescent!  A young woman in her thirties, who I got to know following her breast cancer diagnosis five years ago, gave birth to a son, her first born, conceived naturally despite chemo and hormone therapy... he really is a 'miracle baby' and from his first photo is really gorgeous.

    Today my joy is different, because another young woman in her forties who I got to know at the same time had a very different story.  With probably the best predicted prognosis of the entire group, she was left infertile and, tragically, her cancer progressed to Stage 4, a journey that ended two years ago today.  A kind, generous, funny, wise woman who never complained about her lot and whose friendship was, and is, a deep and lasting joy.

    When the news is full of tragedy, when people we love suffer and die, it can be hard to find joy... but the need to seek it is no less.

    And the mystery of joy is, that even in the darkness it sometimes bubbles up, unexpected into delightful giggles, exuberant dancing, beautiful music... or simply a quiet, inner smile.

  • An Advent Calendar of Sorts - 21st December

    I took this photo, looking out of my kitchen window, just before 8 a.m. and it is still almost pitch dark... in the last few minutes there is the slighest hint of blackness becoming velvety blue.  And in a maximum of eight hours from now it will be as dark again.

    The shortest day (in the northern hemisphere)

    The winter solstice

    The day on which our pre-Christian forebears would create a festival to honour the light and the sun, which our Christian forebears would adopt/adapt steal/supplant with a celebration of the birth of Christ, the light of the world.

    I love the feel of early morning darkness, when the world still sleeps and the air is still, when the rush of the day is yet to come and I can savour a few moments.

    Yet for many, the darkness of winter feels oppressive, even malevolent, the nights are too long and the days too short.

    When we were teenagers, my sister, who is not a fan of the dark, cold dankness that so often accompanies this time of year, oberserved that, if Christmas didn't exist, we'd need to invent it... She recognised the human need for light and warmth, hope and celebration... just as did the ancients.

    I have friends who will celebrating yule as well as, or instead of, Christmas, and that's fine by me.

    On this shortest of days - the sky is now almost mid-blue though the street lights continue to be needed - why not take a moment of stillness, recognise and name how it feels for you - and then create some brightness and lightness to lift your spirits and declare that light is stronger than darkness!


    PS for antipodean readers - happy longest day!  Hope you are enjoying lots of sunshine.