Thank you

(my village Christmas tree this Christmas)

As the year ends….

Thank you for….

For good friends….. children growing and developing… moments when life felt light up inside with an everlasting life…for starting to nail barre chords, beer, the everlasting arms of Love…. for living more in ‘now’….. for school assemblies…. long runs in the cold…lives well lived…standing less than 1m from the stage in a gig…for moments when scripture breathed…for holidays that seemed to go on forever…for being able to do what I do…. for conversations that connected….. hardly watching TV and not missing it…. Test cricket….lots and lots of music…acting…unexpected gifts……

..that is quite a lot to say thank you for really….

(Ok- someone manipulated that- I don’t look a lot like that…)

Some final reminders of what it is all about

2 cartoons from that really rocked my boat this month (he has a book out- I’m just waiting till the hard copy is available here).

These really made me think about the kind of stuff that came out of the Christmas readings for me this year:-

Well they blew my mind anyway.

Go check the site; you may not always agree with what he says but he’ll make you think…

Before Christmas Ends

It has not ended.

It really naffed me off a few years back when I went to a church on 27th December and the person leading said ‘Now that Christmas is over’. It is not over, dummy. Advent ended at midnight on the 24th, then there was Christmas Day ; the first day of Christmas (and no, my true love did not give me a partridge in a pear tree. I wouldn’t have wanted one; I don’t like live animals too much, dead ones sauteed or flash fried with a hint of garlic, yes. Plus: have you tried to plant pear trees in frozen ground?).

Today is therefore the 5th day of Christmas. With Christmas not being over, you still have time to listen to this (well you could listen to it at any time).

I rediscovered my vinyl copy of it just over a week ago and have been playing it and struggling not to blub copiously.

This version is not marred by someone throwing the kitchen sink at it. If anything it is understated. It is also done with instruments that the piece was written for.


I really like this posting…

(ah, just like my house on Christmas Day…)

I read this a few days ago and included it during the worship I led on Christmas Day (see source below).

‘A world-denying Jew heard the call to asceticism. He thought it a part of the commandments that he must do without good food, good wine, and the company of good women and friends in general. He took no place at their festive tables; he heard no good music and did without great art. All of this he did with an eye on the promise of paradise for the renouncer.

He died. He did indeed find himself in paradise.

But three days later, they threw him out because he understood nothing of what was going on’.

Yes I know, feasting, excess, obesity, drunkness…..yes- but all good gifts can be abused. I also know that joylessness, cynical pointing out others ‘sins’ and generally being like vinegar is hardly likely to persuade anyone that this indeed is life in all it’s fullness……

Endless, endless days

I love this time between Christmas and New Year. The days seem endless and time seems to stop. Give me long,cold walks, rich food, old films watched under a duvet and doing almost nothing.

Put this on and wind down…

…and resist the temptation to shop…

(nb: I know I have blogged on this album at least 3 times before on this blog…. but it is just so wonderful to me)

Boxing Day

Christmas is not ‘over’- it still continues until Epiphany (Jan 6th). But it feels ‘over’- the anticipation, the eating, the watching of ‘the Great Escape’, ‘It’s a wonderful life’, ‘Love Actually’ etc (delete as applicable, but I love ’em all).

I’m helping to lead worship today- small, quiet, informal and with copious bacon butties. First time I have preached on the ‘Massacre of the Infants’- the story that we never quite get to in all the Nativity stuff. I’m glad I get a chance to look at this- done badly all the Christmas Church stuff can come across as saccherine and smaltz; it makes us feel warm but is seperated from real life (which at it’s worst, church can be: a drug to make it all seem better). I like how this story with it’s suffering and no easy questions comes right in the centre of the celebration. Gives me some hope…

In the afternoon I may just pass out reading the ‘Bible’ (see picture) digesting the incredible news from Melbourne…it very much looks like the Ashes are staying in England: let earth and heaven rejoice:-

I am getting to an age when all I want for a present is single malt whisky and a Wisden…

A week of Christmas:5

No midnight service for me tonight (and I haven’t led one since 2003). This deprives me of choosing this and trying not to blub at the end of v1:-

Let earth and Heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.

He laid His glory by,
He wrapped Him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye,
The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days He here became,
And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

See in that Infant’s face
The depths of deity,
And labor while ye gaze
To sound the mystery
In vain; ye angels gaze no more,
But fall, and silently adore.

Unsearchable the love
That hath the Saviour brought;
The grace is far above
Of men or angels’ thought:
Suffice for us that God, we know,
Our God, is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh t’appear,
Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near,
And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know,
For God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love,
And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove,
And see His glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed,
And man shall all be lost in God.

Go for it Charles Wesley!

A week of Christmas:4

I don’t ‘do’ poetry much: so two poetry posts in 2 days are rare, nay unique.

The only poet I have knowingly been to see live is Stewart Henderson. I was rivetted: even though it was many years ago, it was an excellent night.I think he is acclaimed as the last of the Liverpool beat poets.

I also ‘nearly’ got him to come to my village hall with Martyn Joseph a few years back. He writes lyrics for Martyn Joseph: what’s not to like?

This is from a longer poem called ‘Don’t miss Christmas’ which is both thoughtful and laugh out loud funny. The last verse:-

‘Don’t miss Christmas-

the magic of it all

our brittle, gift-wrapped anthem

sleeps in a cattle stall

as the poor and lost and starving

weakly start to sing

it seems only desperate subjects

recognise their King.’


A week of Christmas:3

This is overquoted at Christmas (at least in blog land, if not in Middlesbrough town centre). Aside from the subject of the poem it makes me feel Christmassy in a kind of ‘a la recherche du temps perdu’ (another book I have yet to read) way. It takes me back to teenage years when Betjamin was part of my O level English Lit.
I liked Betjeman: he rhymed- which for a teenager who saw things very much in black and white meant that it had to be proper poetry. Yes he was a high anglican tory, but despite that, I’m still unreasonably fond of this:-
Christmas by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.