ADVENT REFLECTIONS

CLOSE ENOUGH TO WHISPER - Christmas Day Poems #3

Whisper

The Eternal focused on a moment
The Voice becomes a listener
The Word becoming flesh and bone
Close enough to whisper

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.


HEAVENLY METEORITE HURTLING - Christmas Day Poem #1

Meteorite

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.


BUT GOD… (COVID CHRISTMAS VERSES)

Stockies Christmas 20

 

Love soars across galaxies and constellations

Down through the selfishness of generations

Mary bursts with grace’s holy gestations

To rip the veil of the law’s damnations

Emmanuel 

 

Anxious with the fear of viral persistence

Frustrated with the hell of isolation’s insistence

We hang by the frayed thread of worn out resistance

But God arrives smashing every distance

Emmanuel!

 

 

Happy Christmas


A SONG A DAY IN ADVENT - THE SERIES

Christmas Time

We are almost three weeks into our Song A Day In Advent and we have had some amazing songs.

More than ever in Coronavirus Year we wanted to scatter some goodness. Every day we have attempted to send out a song that brings us into the Christmas event, sprinkling joy and peace and love and maybe a nugget of the prophetic from this most seismic event in history.

The series has been defined by variety and quality. We have had the real life artists like Brian Houston and Yvonne Lyon who have been kind enough to make guest appearances alongside teenagers like Talitha Bowman and Eleanor Black, the latter singing her very own original song. 

There have been other original songs across the Fitzroy Collective and some solid covers dropping depth charge thoughts into our day.

We are not finished yet. This week sees some amazing songs and performances, from amazing carols to original songs and more guest appearances that I am so thankful for.

Take a glance across the songs on Soul FM (that’s Fitzroy Music). Take your time on them. Take the goodness from them. 

And… keep watching…

WATCH HERE IN SOUL FM


CHRISTMAS - THE AWE AND WONDER

Awe of Christmas

I believe we have the opposite to Christmas from what Van Morrison did for Belfast streets. Morrison has taken very ordinary places and given them awe and wonder; holiness almost. On the other hand with Christmas, we have so over familiarised ourselves with it that we have taken something full of holiness, awe and wonder and made it very ordinary. Here is a Reflection to help us rekindle the awe...

Lord forgive us when we are matter of fact about Your unbelievable birth
Help us to see it as it is
The one who is above us
Becoming lower than all of us
So that none of us would be in awe of approaching a baby in straw
Help us to see that this baby is Your gift to us
The extent of Your love for us
Help us to believe that we are loved...

Lord forgive us when we explain and memorise Your indescribable birth
Help us to see it as it is
The word becoming flesh to live for awhile among us
Your actions being louder than the words of prophets or patriarchs or psalmists
You becoming one of us in order to reach us with Your love
Help us to see this baby as an example for us
That we too would act louder than we speak
And reach out to others with Your love...

Lord forgive us when we reduce Your spectacular birth to the ordinary
Help us to see it as it is
The birth of a whole new world
A birth whose circumstances would be lived out and taught in the rest of Your ministry
A little inkling of Your upside down and radical kingdom
Help us to see this new world order
That we might seek treasure in heaven rather than on earth
That we might long to be poor, meek and peacemakers
So that Your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven...

Max Lucado in his book God Came Near writes this of Christ’s birth...

“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.”

I wrote this for a Queens University Carol Service some years ago...

Almighty God
We approach you and worship you as
The Omnipresent
Omniscient
Omnipotent God
And yet as we draw near you this Christmas season
We cannot help but be provoked by something
Out of kilter, amiss and askew
Instead of a throne in heaven
We are aware of a manger of straw
Instead of robed religious dignitaries
We are aware of cattle, sheep and shepherds
Straight from the fields
Instead of theology graduates in gowns
We are aware of mystical eastern star gazers.
And even more bizarre and disturbing
We are aware of the people of God
Who should know better
Who know enough to search the Holy Scriptures
To find the truth of such events
Using their knowledge
Not to approach you in worship
But to flood the streets of David’s city
With the blood of innocent children and babies
And sending the long awaited and yearned for Messiah
Fleeing his life to Egypt as a refugee
God as we approach you this Christmas
We approach a God who emptied himself
Who gave up his safety and comfort
Who made himself nothing
And left himself vulnerable
God as we approach such wonder
Such a mystery
Such an upside down view of the world
Force us to ask ourselves
Why
Give us a snippet of history’s greatest refrain
The greatest news to be sung to humanity
That God loved us and demonstrated his love for us in this
That while we were still sinners
He was born and lived and died for us
So God as we approach you tonight
We are acutely aware of a God who gave up everything
For us
And if we listen closely we can hear you whisper to us
From the straw of the manger
From the refugee road to Egypt
From the seashore of no reputation
From the mountain of the sermon
From the journey to Calvary
From a cross of wood
Follow me... follow me... follow me...
As the Father sent me so I am sending you
You are the light of the world
The salt of the earth
God as we approach you this Christmas
Give us the courage, the bravery
To follow you…
To give our lives
To be servants of others…

To carry each other...
God we thank you for the wonder of the poetry and art and transforming power of Christmas
That inspired these readings and carols and thoughts...
Make these words flesh in us...
In this baby name
AMEN!


WHEN I WAS PUSHED OFF SANTA'S NAUGHTY LIST... AND WHY I PREFER JESUS!

Santa List

(my Thought For The Day on December 18, 2020...)

 

It was the Sunday before Christmas. I was about 7 years old. It was the afternoon. We had been up to Ballymena Cemetery to visit my Granda Kernohan’s grave.

I must have been a naughty boy… nothing new there… but Granny was angry. When we returned to her house she wrote a note to Santa to tell him what a bad little boy Steve had been. I watched it go up the chimney and she told me that she saw Santa with it, sailing over the Town Hall. My Christmas was done. I am pretty sure it didn’t calm me down.

I’ve always had an issue with Santa, checking whether we have been naughty and nice, ever since.

It is the way of the world. The good and well behaved. The passers of society’s tests. They are in. The naughty are off everybody’s lists.

If we take ourselves out of the Santa Christmas for a moment and get our heads into the Jesus Christmas instead, there is a whole other kind of attitude going on.

When Jesus was born, he threw the Santa naughty or nice test out of the reindeer flying sky and gave us another way to see each other.

In this nativity scene we see the most unlikely getting on Jesus’s list. I mean Mary and Jospeh to start with. Jesus was God coming to earth. He is known in hymns as King Of Kings and Lord Of Lords. He could set a few tests. Instead he arrives in humility, born of an ordinary teenage girl and is laid down in animal straw.

And around him shepherds and eastern stargazers. These weren’t the religiously qualified or the Israel’s high society. Indeed the PhD’s and royalty tried to kill him. It was the dirty shepherds and foreign mystics who got invited in. 

They aren’t invited by some behavioural code or societal qualification. No… Santa is very much about how good you are… My 7 year old self suffered from that… Jesus is all about grace… unmerited favour… loved as you are… as my 17 year old self discovered and my 59 year old self will still treasure on Christmas Day. I prefer Jesus to Santa every single day!


THE ANGELS SING A PRIORITY OF GOD'S

Peace on a Bobble

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

(Matt 2:13-14)

 

It is a few years since I first heard my favourite band Over The Rhine sing Another Christmas... 

 

“I hope that we can still believe

The Christ child holds a gift for us

Are we able to receive

Peace on earth this Christmas”

 

Immediately I heard it. Something went off deep within me.

“Peace on earth this Christmas”, struck a chord as loud as any Jimmy Page strum and as spiritually powerful as an Old Testament prophet or actually a New Testament angel on the night God came to earth! 

“Peace, Steve, Peace” is what my soul kept repeating. It is not about justice or vengeance, it is not about proving who was right or wrong. It is not about us and them and us winning. The point of this mission that God had in coming to earth was peace.

Peace is one of the Bible’s big themes. Shalom. The well being of the world. It is a holistic word like the Greek word for salvation which means wholeness. As Jeremiah put it to those in exile, “Also, seek the the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it propers, you too will prosper.”

The Zondervan NIV Commentary Bible defines this word peace, as the angels sing it, in three ways; personal peace, material peace and political peace. It could be marvellously paraphrased as changing lives, transforming communities and building hope. 

Whatever way we describe it, it should be the priority of the followers of the baby. Interrupting the war with the grace of peace; reconcile... build schools… dig water wells… share the Good News of the Gospel.


THE HOLY OF HOLIES - SHEPHERDS AND MYSTICAL STAR GAZERS

Holy of Holies

The Holy Of Holies

Where God lives

No one dares go

Only the High Priest

And only once a year

Carrying the blood of bull and goat

And aroma of sacred incense.

To find yourself in the presence of God

When you fear even using his name

The Holy Of Holies

No one dares go.

 

Until this morning

When

Look

Dirty shepherds

Straight from the fields

With lambs on their shoulders

Not even sacrificed

And stargazing magicians

From foreign places

Without Scripture

Or Abraham’s ancestral line

Gentiles!

 

Yes, this morning

Nobodies

And strangers

Enter the holy of holies

And meet God

In the flesh

As a baby.

 

It is as if the curtain in the temple 

Was torn asunder

By grace

Not works

By love

Not law

By a baby born.

 

For some time I have believed that all that that Jesus would live out and teach in his life are crammed into the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke. That you should store up treasure in heaven, no earth. That the first will be last and the last first. That you should love your enemy. That the meek will inherit the earth. It is all here.

And in those scenes that many of us set up in cribs at the front of our church buildings lies the greatest of all Gospel truth. Through this baby any ordinary man or woman can now enter into the presence of God and have a relationship with God.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The shepherds and wise men standing around the manger is a prophetic picture of what would happen later in this baby’s life. On a Good Friday thirty three years later the baby breathing his first breaths today then breathes his last breath… “at that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51).

This changes everything. It changes everything in our own lives. It gives the spiritual resources to transform communities and to build hope that has a form foundation on the events of time and space by the interruption of God transcendent grace.