Total cheese..

…but it just might work….

Kitsch, and cheesy…. but if you look carefully, there is a yearning for something else. I still think we see this, half remembered, around this time.

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In the next few days I will be featuring a few videos that I have been looking at which form part of a new take on ’9 lessons and carols’ that (a) I couldn’t think of the audience for at present (b) I never got round to doing. This is the fourth one of those.

The Sunday after: but it’s still Christmas….

 

This morning we gather together as a group of Methodist Churches to worship (we call that a ‘circuit’). I have to say, I still don’t like doing this much on a morning: I like local church buildings being open and I don’t like the idea of a 15 miles round trip to worship.

So be it- others do and I am ‘under discipline’ as our jargon goes…

We won’t sing this carol today- in fact it does not appear in our hymn books and seems to be dying out:-

Unto us a boy is born,
King of all creation:
Came into a world forlorn,
The Lord of every nation.

Cradled in a stall was he
With sleepy cows and asses;
But the very beasts could see
That He all men surpasses.

Herod then with fear was filled:
‘A prince’, he said, ‘In Jewry!’
All little boys be killed
At Bethl’em in his fury.

Now may Mary’s Son, who came
So long ago to love us,
Lead us all with hearts aflame
Unto the joys above us.

Omega and Alpha He!
Let the organ thunder,
While our happy voices rend

The jocund air asunder.

 It is a medieval carol: no Victorian sentiment here (although there is the Medieval idea, popularised by St Francis (?) of the worshipping animals) and I love the language: ‘the jocund air asunder’.

What always strikes me, however, is verse 3: as far as I know it is the only carol that has the ‘massacre of the Innocents’ (Matthew 2:16-8) in. Whether that is a true event or not is not the point: in the midst of a story which read on the surface can lead to a saccherine sweetness is vicious, violent and undeserved suffering. That is part of the Christmas story: leaving it out, leaves out our unspoken questions and the vicious, violent and undeserved suffering that has always been part of our world.

I have seriously suggested making this Sunday, instead of an all age service of Christmas services redux, an all age service based around this story…. so far it hasn’t happened, but I watch and I wait….

In praise of chocolate before breakfast…

It is just coming to an end.

It is just coming to an end.

The last of the days in my internal Christmas calendar when it is legitimate to eat chocolate before breakfast. Those days began on Christmas Day and they end around today. They mark the time of central heating on full, Christmas lights, food, people and days when there are no plans, schedules and deadlines.

Eating chocolate before breakfast just reinforces this….

Christmas carols (cont)

I featured this last year; even preached on it. This one can also tear me up. There is something powerful about people outside faith singing back into it, yearning for it, that often comes as prophetic and harder edges than those inside.

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In the next few days I will be featuring a few videos that I have been looking at which form part of a new take on ’9 lessons and carols’ that (a) I couldn’t think of the audience for at present (b) I never got round to doing. This is the third one of those.

This should have been yesterday…

…But I guess you were doing other things.

This is a simple retelling of Christmas in a non cheesy way. It is a New Zealand film, well shot, taken around Bethlehem and using ordinary Palestinians. Good if you have faith or none.

It is one of the best investments of around 6 minutes I have ever made.

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In the next few days I will be featuring a few videos that I have been looking at which form part of a new take on ‘9 lessons and carols’ that (a) I couldn’t think of the audience for at present (b) I never got round to doing. This is the second one of those.

Christmas Eve

 

Christmas Eve: a time to meditate solemnly on the birth of the coming King. What better time then to talk about…me…

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas letters. The hate is diminishing as letters are changing- sometimes I used to read them and feel the enamel coming off my teeth: the life portrayed in the letter seemed to have nothing to do with real life, so gleaming, succesful and trouble free it was. Mostly now I love them: I like the stories and the reminders of normal life.

This then is mine…some of you may have got this already….

Years back at college someone said ‘You have to be pretty loyal to be friends with a Methodist Minister’. I guess she meant that they weren’t very good at keeping in touch: not because they didn’t want to, just because their hours are irregular and people can be tiring and etc, etc….as the Americans say ‘Do the math.’ (I do wish the Americans would add an ‘s’ to that though).

I could promise an improvement in 2013; but they would be empty words. Life is lovely and very full right now. I have just reread that and it seems to have a trace of smugness: it wasn’t meant to and I guess we all have got tired of those letters that describe a full life of success and achievement where doubt or any shade of grey (let alone 50 of them…ho ho…please stop, my sides are aching) are not known or acknowledged.

This is where we are right now:-

Matthew was 11 this August and he is now in senior school. He is at a lovely place and is starting to see the point of senior school and seems to like it, even if trying to get him to do homework is like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling. Despite being warned about it, he keeps forgetting to stop growing. He likes reading a lot and loves sport and he has an advantage over me: not only is he an obsessive statto, he can actually play. I have given up playing football with him as it is embarrassing.

Ben is 8 and has moved into year 4. He has a vast and bewildering social life and makes friends easily. Quietness and sober contemplation are not, however friends with him; he loves talking a lot. He is also developing an esoteric and catholic appreciation of music and frequently borrows my music. He is learning the keyboard and likes it. In football he has become a defender in the classic 70s mould: he would disable his own grandmother to help the team.

Both children also bowl leg spin. This makes me think I have done something right in their upbringing.

Victoria is older than 8 and 11. Teachers struggle to get permanent contracts, so after her last contract ended in July at her last school which was 30 miles away, she was fortunate enough to get a new contract at Matthew’s school. It went up to full time for a short time. This was great as it meant the chance of new work into 2013 and the school is really good, but two people working full time with no close family back up is not the way either of us want to live. Although temporarily financially rewarding, since Sept things have not been easy!

Me I continue to be a Methodist Minister. I mostly love it: lots of community involvement, lots of schools work, lots of involvement with people who wouldn’t self-describe as Christians etc etc. I seem to be less church based than many of my colleagues and I like this: I no longer think that church can be, pace ‘The Field’ (bad Kevin Costner film) ‘Build a field and they will come’. The churches I serve seem to appreciate and encourage this. I help to run Beaver Scouts, am in the local panto which is a Big Thing here, (7 performances each year. This year I am the Dame: funny costume, slightly effeminate voice and make almost no sense; as someone sagely intoned: you do that for a day job), have a Friday teatime group of mates at a local and occasionally fear I am getting a bit Royston Vaisey-ish (look it up on Wikipedia). This year I also managed to get to gigs by the Stone Roses, Africa Express, Radiohead and Martyn Joseph among others. I am still just about old enough to rock and roll.

I also blog extensively at www.diggingalot.org/diggingalot/. There was a time in the last month when I crept briefly into the top 70 Christian blogs in Britain. I have slipped out: downbeat and quirky esoterica coupled with honesty is not to everyone’s taste.

Time together is precious and rare- even in an average week. We managed, courtesy of the generosity of an exam board who I do some part time work for, to spend 3 blissful weeks in France together.

This year we have to face thinking about what we want to do post August 2014 and whether the church wants us or can afford us. The moving process of the Methodist Church has long ceased to make any rational sense to me and the thought of inflicting it on my family again fills me with horror. If there was a way I could do what I do without facing that until the children have finished education then I would take it. We have so much to be thankful for in a world of great need and it almost seems selfish to say this, but if you do pray: pray for us!

For those who we have managed to catch up with/have caught up with, it has been great. Hoping to catch up with a lot more of you in 2013!

 

Advent 4: the turning over of the powerful…

I got this yesterday from a Martyn Joseph mailing. These were some words that he had found inspiring. They are taken from a recent speech by Bono to university students in the USA. I thought they fitted well with Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55

“We’re going to win because we have dreams
We’re going to win because we are willing to stand up for our dreams
We’re going to win because we don’t understand politics,
We’re going to win because we don’t have a party political agenda
We’re going to win because we don’t play their dirty games
We’re going to win because the tears that come from our eyes actually come from our hearts
We’re going to win because the power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power”

 

Oh dear, the world should have ended yeaterday….

Photo: Awesome words from Francis Chan

These two things off fb gave me light this week. Of course like any statement, their are gaps and glitches, but I really don’t like the word ‘success’….I like the word ‘blessed’ so much more.

And I like these quotes; they are playful- and they do not exclude income generation, as some in this genre seem to do : ‘Just be more fluffy and everything will be ok.