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December 2015



Dawes Fav Bands

They say that if Jackson Browne was thirty five years younger he would be the lead singer of Dawes. These Californian brothers have collaborated with the Killers and Mumford & Sons and chief writing brother Taylor was part of The New Basement Tapes in last year’s Stocki Top 10! This was the Dawes record that finally moved from, “yes it is fine”  to “now I know what you’re talking about. Tasty guitar licks, clever poetics and some cool contemporary social observation.



Bill Fay Sender

Not quite as brilliant as his previous outing that was my album of the year in 2012 yet still filled with meditation on the spiritual while brushing floors. There is spiritual solace in the midst of war madness. There is balm for every soul’s scar. 

to read my full review of Who Is The Sender click here



Yvonne Held

As a pastor I have always sensed the power of songs to help the bereaved through the grieving process. Yvonne Lyon took the idea further and gave ten people dealing with loss the opportunity to exercise their grief in creating these songs with her. It’s a unique set up that became part of her Masters in Music and was sold for charity. It brings the very best out in Lyon. Graeme Duffin has produced it with an intrigue and experimentation that takes Lyon's classic songwriting style into another sphere. 



Waterboys MB

Mike Scott in top guitar swagger, much more Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street than The Dubliners Drinkin’ And Courtin’ this time around. Long Strange Golden Road could have made this top 10 in its own ten minutes of rock strut but Beautiful Now and November Tale are two other stand outs that should make any Waterboys' live set for years to come. 



Guy Garvey


I like Elbow but at times they are too careful in their over indulgence. I prefer a wee bit of looseness of space to set things free. As if listening to me frontman Guy Garvey releases this solo record with all the space and spontaneity that I was looking for. Yes, if you like Elbow you will find the familiar but there is so much more going on. As always the lyrics are clever with strange images and great couplets. There are lots of spiritual references too. Maybe best of all is a collaboration with Jolie Holland, Electricity, that has so much space we find ourselves in torchlight jazz. 




These guys came outta Nashville right at me early this year. Like a Nashvillian Brian Houston all passion and hooks and soul soaked songs. 

to read my full review of Medicine click here



Ritter Sermon

I had lost Josh Ritter for a record or two but this one is an intoxicating mix of literacy and shifting rhythms and grooves. Trina Shoemaker’s production keeps it constantly fresh, always throwing musical shades and shifts. Lyrically Ritter is right on it with subtle humour and wry commentary on mid west America. Henrietta, Indiana and Ready To Get Down particularly tickled my laughter and spirituality. 



Isbell Something...

This man won Record of the Year in 2013 and this one is nearly as good. Song of the working man trying to get by and sorting out in song the priorities of a life. Every chorus catchy… every word memorable…



Joy Venus

This is way to popped up for my usual tastes but it was just so saturated in heart and soul that I got totally hooked in its honesty and vulnerability. The back story of a band breaking up just as you have it made, a marriage in turmoil, a father’s death and a new born son… make that into song… and boy she did!

to read my full review of Venus click here



Didn't He ramble

I have loved this man’s work for 25 years and just when you think he cannot get better he gets better by a quantum leap. These songs are just instantly classic. Channeling Dylan, Morrison, Springsteen and Cohen through his buskers DNA. Her Mercy, McCormick’s Wall, Grace Beneath The Pines, Winning Streak… and I haven’t even got to Lonely Deserter. Surely, he can’t get any better than this? Don’t be surprised!

to read my full review of Didn't He Ramble click here







The secret of world mission is right there in the centre of the nativity story. How can we reach the world with God’s good news? How can we teach people about the amazing grace of the Gospel? How can we bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? I have read lots of books for answers. I have been to many Conferences? I have even spoken about mission at many Conferences! Yet, the simplicity of world mission is so profound that we often drive right through Christmas and miss it.

In the straw of our fouled fallen failings

In the straw of our dim dumb distracting dreams

In the straw of our wasted wily wealth

In the straw of our shame stained self indulgence

In the straw


In the straw

God’s definitive interruption

Heaven’s eternal song of hope

Earth’s last word on redemption

Grace’s love gift lavishly laid

In the straw.

In the straw. There it is. God’s way of reaching us. We are back to that key verse from John’s prologue “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

There were so many times in Onialeku, Uganda last summer when my wife Janice would say to me and the rest of our team, “it is enough to just show up.” It is hard to believe that from a distance. 

There are still many people who think it would be better if we just sent the money to East Africa. They think that all the plane fares and hotel costs could be better spent by the locals. They are wrong and my wife is right. 

When you show up in their manger of straw the effect it has is spiritually profound and the Gospel goes deep. I remember talking with Bishop Isaac under the mango tree at Onialeku school. I asked him straight, would he have preferred the money? No, was immediate and unequivocal response.

I received an email from Bishop Isaac’s colleague Pastor David this autumn revealing the impact our team had made - “To the children its like angels visited them, to see a white man play with the children Reverend that meant a lot to us and children, for some children its really the first time for having a chance to play with white people.” 

Presence. The Gospel becoming flesh. Close enough to whisper. This is the model that Jesus gives us in this Christmas scene. Sermons have their place but there is nothing like presence and relationship. It is in presence that the glory and grace and truth of Jesus are most fully revealed.

PRAYER: Lord, may we make ourselves a presence in the straw of the world. May we never stand at a distance and shout what we believe. May we like you and dwell among people, bringing your love and grace in flesh and blood ways. 


STOCKI'S FAVOURITE ALBUMS of 2015 - #20 - 11


RLJ The Other Side Of Desire

I have been faithfully loving the kooky Rickie Lee Jones voice since I was in 6th Form. After a few covers records, which I thoroughly enjoyed, this was a return to her songwriting and a good one at that. Inspired by her new adopted home of New Orleans we could be back in 1980 and Chuckie could be in love all over again. 



If Colin Meloy’s songs can be a little over bookish then he has gotten more and more accessible album after album. This one got more repeated plays than any other. 


Mumford & Sons Wilder Mind

Mumford & Sons are not used to being outside my top 5. Wilder Mind didn’t miss out because of lack of mandolin. I just wasn’t sure about Marcus sharing the lyrical duties. Less theological to start with and not too authentic hearing a happily married man singing songs of heartbreak! 

click here for my full review of Wilder Mind


Brandon Flowers Desired

I have a soft spot for The Killers and though this isn’t as deep as Flowers solo debut it still had its time on my car stereo. You need a wee bit of pop between The Decemberists and Gretchen Peters!

for my full review of The Desired Effect click here


Gretchen Blackbirds

It did help this album to have the joy to hear it in Fitzroy when Peters did a great gig in October. Surely this is her strongest collection of songs. Dark for sure, you can hear Johnny Cash recording Blackbirds and in a year of songs about death The Cure For The Pain stands out. Three co-writes with Glenarm’s Ben Glover! 

for my review of Gretchen Peters Live In Fitzroy click here



Twenty year after Cover Girl, Colvin who has always been nifty with someone else's songs, gathers a wonderful selection and performs them as only she can. Springsteen, Simon and even Graham Nash among others and a wee guest vocal David Crosby. 

for my full review of Uncovered click here


Sujfan C & L

Sufjan doesn’t do easy or wee collections of a few possible singles, so here is a record about his mum whose addictions, divorce from his dad and death have left their mark. Stripped of all the production that Sufjan revels in it is a moving album if just a little obtuse to make my top 5. 


MJ Sanctuary

I was listening to Sanctuary for the first time in the days just after the Paris shootings. As the police did their CSI investigations I allowed this record to do the same to the fall out in my soul. There are three big Joseph songs on this record that helped me untangle… Are You Ready, When Will We Find and best of all I Search For You. 

for my review of Martyn Joseph live in Belfast click here


Duke Special Look Out Machines

Duke used to rehearse in our Chaplaincy space at Derryvolgie Hall and my, then two year old, daughter called him Mr Funny Head! On the outside for sure, but inside that head of Mr Special is pretty eccentric too. Look Out Machines saw him collaborate with interesting writers including Gary Clark, Boo Hewerdine and Iain Archer. When he was rehearsing back then he couldn’t have dreamed… A meticulously formed and fascinating addition to a growing catalogue of wonder!



Thirty years after I left him behind Mark Knopfler grabbed my attention again with this album sprawling with styles and guitar genius as well as fascinating takes made song. 

for my full review of Tracker click here


MPJ Cold Answer

There were some amazing EPs released this year and so it suggested to me that we needed a special Top 5 Section… 


Matthew Perryman Jones is that maybe lesser known artist who consistently ends up in my records of the year. His next full length is due next year so check back in December 2016 to see where it lands in my top albums. In the meantime here are seven slices of absolute beauty.

Cold Answer landed the very same day as Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free and is almost a perfect companion piece. These are vulnerable weary songs confessing to failure in love and life. 

Take Can’t Get It Right written along with Kevin Costner’s daughter Lily who harmonises sumptuously and featured on the TV series Nashville:

I'm counting up the lines on the highway, like I'm counting my regrets

I'm wrestling the angels and the devils in my head

I left you without warning, no note beside the bed

I pray you can forgive me

I hope you can forget

Or the title track:

There's a room in everyone

Where a cold answer can be found

And if a word can knock down a wall

Then this house is just a box on the ground

It is this cold room that Matthew is plundering. As my favourite band Over The Rhine sang once “A beautiful piece of heartache.”



When Chris Wilson first opened his mouth and let his pipes blast into the Fitzroy air my face broke out in the widest of smiles. WOW! I remember thinking, if this guy has the songs and could get into a studio with Stephen McCartney then there could be some serious music cracked. Everything went according to that very fleeting plan in my head and hear is a powerful EP of voice and songwriting depth. McCartney brings his genius and Belfast has an Indianan refugee to be proud of.

for my full length review of the Fragile EP click here



In December 14th Gary Lightbody did an acoustic gig in Bangor Abbey. As well as a nice wee fundraiser for charity it gave Lightbody the opportunity to sing a selection of new songs for his father and mother. His dad had not been well and missed the first outing of these five songs, written for a festival in memory of Seamus Heaney called On Home Ground. Lightbody took Heaney’s themes of Ireland, family and nature and used that wordy gift of his to carve some beautiful songs. 

One year later and the perhaps now traditional Belfast Christmas acoustic gig came with the EP available to those leaving the gig. What they lack in production these songs more than make it up for in their personal depth. 

I Think of Home is perhaps the pick of the wonderful bunch. The loss of his Granny, so special that she her own song The Church as well, resonates with anyone who mourns loved ones:

It’s sure been harder since she left us

And none of us have been the same

But the light she left is endless

And I still see her every day 

And his thoughts on the beloved fragmented island:

The punched out teeth of Irish history

Mistakes were made let’s leave it there

There one’s thing we can all agree on

There’s beauty north, south, east and west.

On this fascinating suite of songs Lightbody gets closer to the marrow of love and place than he has ever gotten before and maybe ever will again. A beautiful wee rarity.

for my review of Gary Lightbody in Bangor Abbey 2014 click here

for my review of Gary Lightbody at The Waterfront Hall 2015 click here


Recorded with T-Bone Burnett in the same sessions as her album Tomorrow Is My Turn featured in my Top 30 Albums of the year, Factory Girl was released for Record Store Day back in November. I actually prefer it to the album. Maybe that is the Irish in me as Mouth Music is pure Diddle-de-dee and Factory Song is a traditional Irish song too. The latter has additional verses in memory of the 1100 killed in Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013. I also love the original Moonshiner’s Daughter and Randy Newman’s Underneath a Harlem Moon might be best of all. 

If these song had been on the album it might have been up there in the Top 5 of the year. 


Aghagallon’s Ciaran Lavery has been making waves with his Ryan Adams-esque songwriting for some time. This year’s EP with electronic whizz from Derry Ryan Vail creates the most beautifully warm ambience of sound. It loses nothing from Lavery’s songwriting prowess but adds the subtlest of intrigue in Vail’s soundscapes. Then the spoken word poetry takes the whole thing to another art space. All gathered around the theme of the sea. I listen and feel that I am in a boat alone under the stars somewhere between Ballycastle and the Mull of Kintyre on a warm summer night gazing up at the stars and surmising the meaning of it all. 

How thrilling that in counties Antrim and Derry we have such musical ability blending their flavours and blurring the musical genres. 


Actions Speak Louder

The word became flesh

Not satisfied with Old Testament books

The word became flesh

Not satisfied with Prophets, Patriarchs and Psalmists

The word became flesh 

Not satisfied with Temple Worship

The word became flesh...

...And lived for a while among us

Not satisfied at being in a high and holy place

...And lived for a while among us

Not satisfied at being in the Holy of Holies

...And lived for a while among us

Not satisfied at shouting from a distance 

John 1 : 1, 2 & 14

“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning...

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

There are so many lessons to be learned from the great truth that “the Word became flesh.” The first is that God’s most eloquent means of communication was not to shout from a far away heavenly place or even through words written in the 39 books of the Old Testament. God knew that the best way to speak was in the flesh. Actions speak louder than words was what was happening here. It remains the best way to communicate truth as the apostle James realised too.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:22-27)

In a book called Amusing Ourselves To Death about the influence of an image dominated age Neil Postman concluded with powerful insight that if you were taught mainly by words on a linear page then the objective side of your brain was the main filter for information. In the last 50 years with the omnipresence of television, and all that followed, this generation filters information through the subjective side. That impacts all efforts to communicate truth. For this generation objective truth needs to be proven experientially. Telling this world that God loves them will only become a strong reality for them when those telling them they are loved actually love them!

This seemingly recent phenomenon is not so new after all. Those words that we have been thinking about for a few days in these Advent Reflections shows that for God it is not a new idea at all. When the Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood it was about people finding the truth in an experiential way. God trump cards post modern existentialism. God is relational and experiential.

Again... actions speak louder than words. That’s how God has always done it!

PRAYER: Lord may the words we believe about you never become more important than the actions they call for. Maybe we always be more about actions than words.

STOCKI'S FAVOURITE ALBUMS of 2015 - #30 - 21

Another Day...


I am a fan of the ex Buffalo Springfield man who became a Church pastor, one of the few in my profession to be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame. Albums are few and far between these days and the autobiographical song of those early Buffalo Springfield Days We Were The Dreamers is wonderful! my review here…


Boo is an English songwriting treasure This year he released an album of songs he lost and found again. To think these songs were discarded. A quality collection of Hewerdine songwriting magic. 


One of my all time favourite songwriters is back in form. 


click here for my review of Hudson Taylors


click here for my review of Another Day, Another Time


Coughlan’s smoky jazz blues voice wraps itself around some brand new songs with long time collaborator Erick Visser. Thoughtful lyrics and oh that voice.


I’d forgotten about the songwriting genius of Dar Williams. She has this ability to find the most ridiculous angles to life and make them into very original songs. This is her strongest connection in quite some time


Well Hold Back The River has been everywhere this year and garnered my pal and its co writer Iain Archer a Grammy nomination. There is great variety on this debut album that could send young Bay on a few more interesting directions than most of his peers are suggesting. On that the whole family likes which is always a good thing!


Classical voice does traditional songs with T-Bone Burnett sending the arrangements in a plethora of directions. Giddens featured in Another Day, Another Time which is #26 in this collection and check my EPs of the year too. She’s everywhere.


click here for my review of Shadows In The Night


Nail on blackboard

Do you know that sound… that grating sound…. a nail scratched down an old black board. It is repellent. It jars deep within. You hate it!

Have you ever thought of Christmas as this? It is how Herod thought of Christmas. Why did he kill all those babies?

When I was a child I used to confuse Herod and Pharaoh. In some ways there was no need. Add Caesar and you have the three main protagonists against God. From beginning to end the Bible is a battle of Kingdoms. God Kingdom verses The Empire. 

The theologian Walter Brueggemann wrote a piece called 19 Theses. here are a few: -  

1. Everybody lives by a script—whether implicit or explicit.

2. We get scripted through the process of nurture, formation and socialization, and it happens without our knowing it.

3. The dominant script in our society is one of technological therapeutic military consumerism.

4. That script enacted through advertising, propaganda and ideology, especially in the liturgies of television, promises to keep us safe and happy.

5. That script has failed. The script of technological therapeutic military consumerism cannot make us safe or happy.

9. The alternative script is rooted in Scripture and is enacted through the tradition of the church. The Bible and the Church offer of a counter-metanarrative to the script of technological therapeutic military consumerism.

10. The counter-script has as its most distinctive feature its key character, the God of the Bible—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Christmas script clashed with Herod’s script. The clash is so obvious in the story. One King Of the Jews, in a palace, in power and with the might of an army ready to wipe out any threat to the Empire, that he is in cahoots with. Another King Of The Jews born unnoticed in a backend of nowhere hamlet with no room for him but an animal’s manger. Herod saw what was coming. Herod knew that this was going to cost him his comfort. That he would be thrown from his throne and under a radically different Lordship.

And us? What is the script we have been nurtured by? Jesus birth is a “counter-metanarrative”. Yet, do we hear the repellent sound of the clash. Did the Holiday season of greed and excess influence your Advent Season or the other way around? Which script is winning?

The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a subversive poem about the clash with Caesar. All the names he uses for Jesus were used about Caesar. As the dominant script of the Empire is beaming down on the followers of Jesus, Paul helps them reimagine another script. 

Colossians 1: 15 -20 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

In the car coming back from another shopping run my daughter Jasmine asked me the meaning of it. “All this stuff Daddy. What is it for? It will be thrown out? We can’t take it to heaven? Why should I get anything for Christmas?”

It is teenage angst? It is actually, I believe, a trip to Onialeku in Uganda last summer and the two beloved sponsor children that are her screen savers on her phone? It is the script of Jesus clashing against the script of Herod. It is a world changer.

PRAYER: Lord make us alert to the script of Empire around us. Help us to be sensitive to your counter-metanarrative that changes everything. May we hear that repellent sound of the clash of Kingdoms and follow the humble baby not the earthly power.


God as a baby

This tiny

This confused

This useless

This first breath colour of blue

God was.


This unaware

This immobile

This dependent

This delicate, frail and fragile

God was.

I pondered and pencilled down these words just after my second daughter Jasmine was born. The birth of a baby is a miraculous place to be. To hold a new born baby and look at the fragility, but be aware of her robustness to survive, is almost a scared experience.

To consider that the God who created the world became that tiny… incredible! BUT wait… not only that tiny, but born without midwives, and laid in germ infested straw before dashing away as a refugee, to escape death squads intent on killing him. Goodness me!

Max Lucado put it so powerfully in his book God Came Near :

“The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the Universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent on the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The Creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. God came near.”

The Eternal focused on a moment

The Voice becomes a listener

The Word becoming flesh and bone

Close enough to whisper

The beyond the world's comprehension

Moves right into the midst of her

Heaven stoops to touch the earth 

Close enough to whisper

Close enough to touch her

Close enough to kiss her

Close enough to be broken

Close enough to whisper

For God so loved the world

He emptied Himself to visit her

Came down to walk beside her

Close enough to whisper

The Eternal focused on a moment

The Voice becomes a listener

The Word becoming flesh and bone

Close enough to whisper.

Paul puts this theologically in what was probably and early Church hymn in Philippians 2: 5 - 8: -

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:


Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;


rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.


And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

Theologians call this Kenosis; an emptying, to sacrifice yourself. It is the humility of he who was first in the Universe, to become last in order that we who were last would become heirs of God and joint heirs with the baby (Matthew 20 : 27; Romans 8:17).

And if we listen carefully to the Christmas story we hear the baby calling us to follow him… to make ourselves vulnerable and give up our lives for others. That baby packs quite a challenge!

PRAYER: Lord help us see your sacrifice for us and by the power of your Holy Spirit help us to humbly give ourselves for your Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. 


Kill Baby

(The second part on my 12 Days of Christmas series for Fields Of Life…)

MATTHEW 2 - 2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:


“A voice is heard in Ramah,

    weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

    and refusing to be comforted,

    because they are no more.”

Does the Herod episode disturb you. It disturbs me. Why was Herod disturbed with the news of the Messiah’s birth? This is the long awaited one, fulfilment of all those prophecies. These stargazers have arrived from the east to herald it in. Instead of celebration, Herod is spooked and Matthew says, “all of Jerusalem with him.” 

Herod gathered all the religious leaders and they opened the Scripture to find the meaning of all these nativity stories. They looked into Micah’s prophecy and there it was, 

“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.”

When the Magi don’t return, as Herod had asked them to, the dam of his anger bursts. Like some Game Of Thrones scene you can see him check the scroll again, then swipe the table clean, cups and bowls smashing and splintering and the sacred papyrus rip, like the veil in the temple later would. He summoned his troops who thunder out of Jerusalem to go and kill all the babies under two in the Bethlehem area. 

It is a challenge for those of us who have the truth, who look it up, lick our fingers and turn the pages of the Holy word. Herod’s problem was not that he didn’t have the truth. Herod had too much truth. He knew that this baby was going to change everything. It was going to demand changes personally, materially and politically and he wasn’t up for the truth to have its way.

What of us? Are there places in our lives where we have the truth but refuse to welcome it into our lives. No, we don’t kill Jesus but do we kill his revolution? John Stott said that the greatest evangelical heresy of the Twentieth Century was our lack of social justice. I remember it being labelled a “social gospel” like it was the heresy. Was that a misunderstanding of the Scriptures or just that the cost of getting involved in God’s Kingdom coming and his will being done on earth would impinge too much on our comfortable lives?

Prayer: Lord show me where I am reading your word, seeing the truth but killing your revolution? Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139: 22-23)


Packing Christmas Away

(Fields Of Life invited me to write 12 Reflections for their supporters in the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec 25-Jan 5)... I am blogging them the day after...)

LUKE 2: 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Children's nativity plays are over

The food has all been eaten

The presents have all been opened

The toys have all been discarded

The cards and the tinsel have been packed away

And the tree is back in the attic

The carols are off the hymn sheets for another year

They think it's all over

It has only just begun.


Now the shepherds are back in the fields

The wise men are on their way home, the long way

The star has left the Bethlehem sky dimmer

The angels have left it quieter

The mother is recovering from the pain of birth

The baby is safe in his daddy's arms

And there is even a room in the Inn

They think it is all over

It has only just begun.


It would be wrong if we packed away the nativity stories and shoved them back in the attic for another year. I believe that these stories of Christ’s incarnation are jam packed with theological challenge and inspiration. 

It was not over for Mary and Joseph. It had just begun. Indeed had had just begun for us all. 

I often consider that Christmas is when God scooped up all his love in his hand and hurled it towards earth. Like semtex packed ball of grace is hit earth, gently as a baby in straw… but the whole earth shuddered with the impact. Nothing would ever be the same again… in the life of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, star gazers…in my life… in your life… in Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan, Rwanda, Congo…

Heavenly meteorite hurtling

Unseen but deeply felt

If never fully realised

By those who’ve never knelt

The tremors they ripple across all time

The poets at last can find their rhyme

Heavenly meteorite hurtling.


Heavenly meteorite hurtling

As usual but all amiss

History  stripped of how it was

To how from now on it is

The radical revolution all a shudder

Old way surrendering to this new other

Heavenly meteorite hurtling


Heavenly meteorite hurtling

Unnoticed but all askew

Thrones thrown out of kilter

The meek inherit what’s new

The repercussions spin out forever

Imaginers threading peace back together

Heavenly meteorite hurtling.

Prayer: Lord help me not pack away the inspiration of Jesus birth. Help me like Mary, to treasure these Scriptures and ponder them in my heart. Help me to live them with meaning and purpose. Amen