Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Gloom?

The following is a guest blog from my wife, who like usual, doesn’t beat around the bush. She explores some of her feelings about how we as a society celebrate Christmas.

This Christmas time I have a profound sense of gloom regarding the Message of Christmas. Particularly, the proclamation of it.

Perhaps it is because, for the first time in many years, I haven’t told a child (or several hundred children) the story of Jesus’ birth. Or it could be because I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a new home for my huge stash of nativity costumes and props. Nobody does Nativity plays with the Sunday school kids anymore.

Or maybe it was friends telling me about their church’s children’s service, or the friends and neighbours’ Christmas service- all taking place weeks, if not more than a month before the 25th of December.

Or the depressing trips to the shopping malls, where I hear lots of Carols proclaiming the Good News, but nobody’s listening. It has just become seasonal background noise.

So what will the Church of our Messiah, who was born at Christmas, be doing on Christmas morning?

Celebrating? Families will unwrapping presents, stressing about food preparation, and steeling themselves for that afternoon they must spend with relatives they don’t like. Children will be overwhelmed by gifts that will be broken or discarded by the end of the year.

Worshipping? Most churches have a service. It’s earlier, shorter, and attended by the few poor souls who don’t have pressing family commitments. Where possible, the senior pastor has given the job of delivering the message to the idiot who first asked “Are we having a service on Christmas Day?” Nobody stays for coffee afterwards, because everyone needs to be somewhere else.

Ignoring the whole thing? Yep, there are plenty of Christians who shun Christmas altogether. The anti-Christmas brigade, I call them.

In my ideal world I would have Jesus’ Church celebrate His birth on the day that history has recognised for centuries. Whether it is the exact day or not is irrelevant.

Children, in full costume, would tell the story before a packed house; choirs would sing carols; pastors preach their best sermon; the choicest and sweetest treats shared for morning tea, over which people would linger until it became lunch.

This day would be eagerly anticipated and planned for months.

And the world would know what is most special for Christians at Christmas.

 

 

 

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Another Christmas Poem From The Past – The Shepherds

The Shepherds – a narrative

It was like any other night in winter.
We were alert.
The predators are always hungry in these months.
Lamb is always on their menu.
The cold, froze our words.
We were shivering
and then
we were still shivering
but now in fear.
Out of nowhere, 
well, the sky really,
this amazing light shone.
Day, in the middle of the night!
Shivering, trembling, cowering.
Paralysed.
Nothing to hide behind –
except sheep.
Even Big Jacob was jelly!
 
The bright being declared,
“Don’t be afraid,
I’ve come to give you news
of the Christ – the Messiah.”
 
It’s a baby!
In Bethlehem! 
 
So we bolted for Bethlehem,
The sheep could look after themselves,
for a while.
This news was too good to miss!
 
We found a mum, dad and baby,
by a feed trough,
and somehow,
as the mum, Mary
showed the baby to us,
we just knew, what the angel said was true.
She held God in her hands!
And our lives, and the world,
Would never be the same
again.
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Advent Poem No. 7 (2013) The Herald

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him …

DSC_0444Luke 1:76

Zechariah cried,
“The crier has come”.
Not with a baby cry,
but the booming voice
of a herald,
a proclaimer,
… a final prophet
of the old covenant.

His John
would shout and convict,
baptise and point,
and guide to one to come
soon.

Zechariah’s child
was the path smoother,
the way maker
and light shiner.

He would
lose his head
but gain his life
as the promises
he proclaimed
came true.

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Advent Poem No. 6 (2013) Bethlehem

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.         Micah 5:2

Bethlehem,
small and undistinguished,
draws no attention to itself.

But God does.

Rachel’s tomb and
Ruth’s second marriage are
found here pointing
to a royal line.

David, his brothers
and his dad Jesse
called it home.
Little knowing
a greater home awaited.

Philistines
under Satan’s command
were fought
back at this hamlet.

Yet from you would come
the Messiah:
the hope of Israel

and the world

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Our Inner Child

When our inner child is not nurtured and nourished, our minds gradually close to new ideas, unprofitable commitments, and the surprises of the Spirit. Evangelical faith is bartered for cozy, comfortable piety. A failure of nerve and an unwillingness to risk distorts God into a Bookkeeper, and the gospel of grace is swapped for the security of religious bondage.
“Unless you become like little children …” Heaven will be filled with five-year-olds.

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Categories: Child Theology, Children, Reflections | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Advent Poem No. 5 (2013) The Mender of Broken Hearts

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted …
Isaiah 61:1

Hearts break in so many
different ways:
The parent and child snap,
The husband and wife
twisted wrench,
The gulf between friends.

But there is one far greater …

The unbridgeable
fault filled
chasm between
us and God
leaves us lost,
alone and lifeless.

“Unbridgeable”
except …
for God himself
who came to be the
cross bridge
chasm traverser.

The Bethlehem child
was born to be
the heart healer
and break mender
and life extender.

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Reprise -The Magi

Here is another Christmas poem from an earlier year.

They laughed behind their hands
when we set off.
Our camels loaded.
What will it be?
A king?
A child?
A what?
We headed westward
with anticipation
and gifts.
The omen was clear
shining in the sky –
our compass and guide.
 
All of our studies seemed
true.
But
what if we found
no child
no king?
Could we return?
Our reputations a joke!
 
But “something”
was felt by us all
as we travelled
the long miles west.
 
We found a king
in Jerusalem.
Too old,
Too mean,
Too unwise.
We vowed not
to return this way.
We stargazed on
and came
to a man, woman and child.
No pretensions.
Humble
Joyfilled
poor
but ALIVE!
 
Then we knew!
We were sure!
The child, king , messiah
was found.
We could return home
with stories
with hope
… and our reputations.
Categories: Advent, christian, Christianity, Poem, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Tsunami of Narcissism

I wonder if the Psychologists and Psychiatrists would agree with me but I believe we are engulfed in tsunami of self obsession – “narcissism”. Our blogging and Facebook posts are only the tip of the iceberg.  I find I am encountering “Hitler” and “Assad” styled self belief, in otherwise ordinary people, daily.

The symptoms include the idea that they are beyond advice and criticism. An issue is always, without fail, the other person’s problem. They will defend to the death, preferably the other person’s, their right not to be criticised. They are strident in interpreting all events and actions in relation to themselves and fail to see the perspectives of others.

If I am right, and my own narcissistic tendencies tend to suggest I am, where does self obsession come from?

I would like to suggest three reasons. You may wish to add more intelligent ideas.

  1. As I have written previously, parents are  giving children, starting at a very young age, too much choice: when they eat, what they eat, what they wear, what they do … the daily list is endless. Children are becoming wise in their own eyes.  They are attributed maturity well beyond their years. In other words, some parents are setting a treacherous groundwork.
  2. The advertising industry lives off narcissism. It is their bread and butter. We encounter the subtle and not so subtle messages to make ourselves “No.1” hourly. Their feeding of our narcissism is relentless.  Consciously or unconsciously we absorb the seductive message.
  3. Our hearts are wired to set our selves up as God. Our rebellious natures love the idea that we are the supreme being of our lives: we are the Captains of our destinies. We are ultimately only responsible to self. Incidentally, when for whatever reason this perspective is destroyed, one way out is, too often, suicide.

What is the antidote?

The solution is remarkably simple:  Essentially “Christ”.  In one fell swoop he is both the mirror that reveals the brokenness of our humanity and he also becomes our release from that brokenness and its impacts. He gives us perspective and promise.

A friend once said that we need to go to the cross, climb up and push the blood matted hair away from our Savior’s face and stare into his tortured eyes to understand the immense brokenness of our own heart, our motives, our actions, our words – our very being. The reason he was dying was for all of that and much more.  Then, no longer, can we put ourselves on a pedestal of immaculate self belief. We are awoken to an amazing and confronting awareness of the depth and seeming unwashability our own corruption.

And yet, that very awareness leads us back to the same cross so that we can say in all helplessness. “Lord, Save me! Cover my brokenness with your own pure righteousness.”

To get a glimpse of that truth is a powerful antidote to the darker side of our heart as it whispers, “It is all about me”.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Advent Poem No. 4 (2013) The Coming Light

DSC_0145The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;

Isaiah 9:2

I am the light of the world.

John 8:12

The Coming Light

Mole like
we call and crawl
though darkness.
Light, beauty, colour
unknown to our hearts
encased in blackened
cloud:
A cumulus* of sin
which blinds us
to life.

“A light is coming!
A light is coming!”
a small voice cries
across the years.
He really means,
“Life is coming!”

Mole like
we still stumble
until
the light
takes us,
gently holds us
and with the irony of
spit and dirt
opens our eyes.

* Latin for heaped

Categories: Advent, christian, Christianity, Faith, Poem, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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