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  • A Celtic Advent - Day 13

    After a few days that haven't inspired me that much, today it's the story of the Magi and some 'new learning' for me.

    Seemingly, according to the Talmud, the term 'Magi' was used for Zoroastrioanists, a faith/worldview I know little about and about which good old wikipedia is quite helpful (here).  It seems that the ancient Celtic Christians used the same term for Druids (here).  The idea, then, that God somehow draws those of other faiths, other cultures, other worldviews to the Christ - and that they then return by 'another way' to the places from which they came.

    There is nothing to suggest that the Magi became proselyte Jews, and Christianity hadn't yet been invented.  They simply returned home, bypassing Herod, and somehow changed by their encounter.  People of other faiths sometimes tell me they are attrcted by Jesus, if not be his followers.

    Many Christian traditions, at least in western Europe, owe their origins to Celtic, Druidic and Germanic practices, whether it's Christmas trees, yule logs, bonfires or candles. Whether this is syncretism or enculturation is probably a moot point.  But, in symbol at least, wise people of all faiths, and probably of none, are drawn into the wonder of the God-child.

    Today's prayer:

    I thank you that you are an unlimited God, a God who is not bound by the limitations of human understanding.  You are a God who loves and works in all life, whether or not they acknowledge you and who you are. May I be willing to see and hear you, knowing your voice, wherever it comes from and whomever you choose to speak through. Amen. 

  • Forty Days of Photos - Day 12

    High road or low road? Park or pavement?  Which would you choose?

    This small park lies very close to my home.  It's a park I walked round during times of post surgery recovery, and, longer ago, when 'chemo-flop' meant my daily walk was a few minutes round the block.  It is a park where, not long after I moved to Glasgow, a young woman was murdered.  It is a park where children play, dogs are exercised and  people take short (or long) cuts en route to other places.

    The Advent journeys we walk are always our own, there is no 'one size fits all.'  Even if we all chose the same path, our experiences of it would be informed by our own stories.

    I quite like walking through this park - so long as it is light.  Once it is dark it feels menacing, probably (relatively recent) because I know part of its history.  Maybe Advent is a bit like that too - even if metaphorically.  Even the familiar route can feel very different if life is 'light' or 'dark' in feel.

    However Advent feels for you this year, I hope that your journey is more light than dark, and that you arrive safely at its end in just a month's time.

  • A Celtic Advent - Day 12

    Today's reflection is on the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and asks what (or if) we believe about a divine plan for our lives. Are we, like Simeon and Anna, patiently waiting for God to reveal something to us, to make sense of our lives, or something else?

    I have to admit to being a bit ambivalent here.  Does God have a plan for my life?  In general terms, yes, I am sure that's so - a plan that I discover my identity, fulfill my potential, play my part in the in-breaking of the Kingdom.  But in terms of specifics, do this thing on that day, then no, I don't think so. I believe in free will, which means that God will allow me to make my own choices.  I also believe that God works with me in all things, sometimes having to find new ways to get me back on track when I wander off in a way that's not helpful or healthy.  Quite how that might work, I don't know how to explain.

    So, anyway, here is the prayer for today from the book...

    Great and loving God, thank you for the care you place on my life from the moment my existence began. Thank you for the care that you give me as my life unfolds day by day.  May I know your presence with me as I walk this path, and may I know your word spoken into my life by others to help me along this path.  Amen.

  • Forty Days of Photos - Day 11

    This morning I was up early to attend a service led by Christian Aid Scotland and broadcast by Radio 4. It was thoughtful and thought provoking. On the way I snapped a few photos. Some, like this one, have street lights masquerading as the moon.


    Advent starts in the dark, when the streets are quiet, and the signs of hope may be few.


    If you have access to Radio 4 on iPlayer or the BBC sounds app or some such, do listen to the service, you will be glad you did.

  • A Celtic Advent - Day 11

    A confession - I am not so sure about reading the 'Christmas story' more than a month before the event.  But that's where the book takes us and so today we meet the shepherds and angels on the hills, and a parallel with St Cuthbert who had a similar vision, which prompted him to begin a monastic life.

    Shepherds as outsiders, a role that meant they were always on the edge, so that others might be at the very heart of Temple worship - afterall someone had to ensure the supply of sacrificial sheep/lambs.  A wise minister I knew once referred to ministers as 'intentiontal outsiders', as those who are voluntarily on the edge of the commnuity of which they may seem to be at the heart.

    Today is the feast of Christ the King, the one Sunday I almost always take off (I preached it every year as a student and have done guest preaches on it a few times).  It is my 'intentional apartness' before the liturgical Advent season begins.  I wonder if, today, as I sit on my metaphorcial hillside (which includes attending a couple of services) I may encounter, unexpectedly, something of the glory of God.


    The prayer we are offered for today:


    Holy, good Shepherd, as you watch over your flock, of which I am a part, I trust that you know what is best for me, and I commit to getting to know your voice better and following you wherever you lead me.  Amen.