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.


Christmas seems to happen so quietly. God is born in an out of the way place. He's not even in an Inn. The hymn writers would call it a silent night. They would give the impression of all being calm. The soft skin of a new born baby has been laid in the softest straw. 

I have always imagined that spiritually it is anything but gentle or calm. My theological imagination has poetically sensed that that first Christmas morning was like God scrunching up a hunk of heavenly semtex in his hand and hurling his holy values at a planet that needed knocked out of step with its self serving ways of power and wealth. 

When Jesus landed on earth from heaven he hit with a jolt and knocked everything from the way it was into how it would be. God's upside down Kingdom was world changing.




This was my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2's Early Breakfast Show on December 22nd 2022... The theme was Christmas... I used one of my short thoughts of three from the Sunday before in Fitzroy... inspired by the Paul Keeble Christmas Carol Wrapped Around. 


Has the wrapping started in your house? 

When I married my wife Janice I met with the wrapping culture. Marriage is like that. Clashes of how things are always done. The Stockman’s ate boiled potatoes, the Gordon’s roasties. The Stockman didn’t wrap their Christmas gifts. The Gordon’s did. 

That means that when I walked into a room, as a child, on Christmas morning I could see everything in one big extravagant panorama of gifts. I remember as a 6 year old walking into the lounge. Wow! The blackboard and easel, the golf clubs, the rugby ball. All in one catch of the eye!

Not so much in a wrapping world. There’s not one panoramic thrill. It’s harder work. Everything is up close. Anyway I am used to it now. And so this weekend I am now looking forward to unwrapping my Tom Petty Live at the Fillmore box set and my Padraig O Tuama book Poetry Unbound, my U2 hoodie and maybe a few surprises.


Later in my life I learned that God was a wrapper. On Christmas morning I will gather with our Fitzroy congregation of Jesus followers and celebrate something else that is wrapped. We audaciously believe that God wrapped himself up in the flesh of a baby. 

The baby in the nativity story we believe is God - flesh wrapped around. The Spirit that we believe fills the universe, always moving, always at rest, has decided not to stay way out in space unable to understand or empathise with our human experience here on planet earth. We believe that God visited wrapped in human skin.

I sometimes fear that we have eroded the potency of the baby in the Christmas picture. As God in skin there is so much under this wrapping. 

As my congregation gathers round the crib on Christmas Day, as we sing carols and listen to readings of the nativity we believe that underneath the human wrapping is peace, and joy, and hope, and mercy and justice and love. I wish you all of them this Christmas. 

I guess I have learned to really like the gifts that are wrapped!


Phoebe Xmas

Unlike my young friend Talitha,  I would not say that I am a Phoebe Bridgers fan. Oh I love her guest appearances with The Killers and Marcus Mumford. I maybe need to work harder on Punisher but in the meantime I absolutely love her growing Christmas EP.

Yes, I did see growing. You see Bridgers does what The Killers did for some years. She brings an annual song out for Christmas. It’s usually a cover version and at this stage it has reached six and everyone is intoxicatingly good. Indeed this year’s is literally intoxicating, a version of The Handsome Family’s So Much Wine.

Bridgers doesn’t give us the hopeful side of Christmas. This is a collection of songs that is mainly about broken people.

So Much Wine throws a proverb into the drunkenness - : -


There's only so much wine you can drink in one life 

And it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass 


Day After Tomorrow makes a Tom Waits song into a near carol, a young person yearning for life and some relational connection asking questions about God and prayer and has a smudging of hopefulness:


I'll be 21 today

I been saving all my pay

And my plane will touch down

On the day after tomorrow


If We Make It Through December, Merle Haggard utter classic so well covered by Over the Rhine, gets another heart wrenching version. A father just laid off and unable to give Christmas to his little girl dreams of summer:


If we make it through December

Got plans to be in a warmer town come summer time

Maybe even California

If we make it through December, we'll be fine 


The we do actually get a carol. The beautiful Silent Night but in this cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s version has the radio news about war and death and all that the news feeds shouting out the carol. It reminds us, what all these songs do, that Jesus entered a very broken, lonely, violent world.

Christmas Song is McCarthy Trenching song and it is filled with even more Christmas sadness. Beautifully sad this one plays on the idea that everyone is on holiday and you can’t get anyone to fix anything, then it’s pointed to the heart. I guess those of us who believe in the baby Jesus Christmas are whispering that he indeed can do something about all of this alienation.

The EP ends with Bridgers doing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas with a deeply melancholic take on this invitation to some joy. Everything here is sad but the invitation itself.

This is Christmas with melancholy laid deep. It is a reminder that it is not all tinsel, stuffing, gifts and family for all.


Stockies XMAS 21

The Stockies wish you an Emmanuel (God With Us) Christmas... 


For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Christmas morning. I love Christmas morning. Indeed I think Janice and I are the ones who, every year,  dragged our children out of bed early. 

From my very first Christmases in 28A Maine Park, Galgorm I just remember sheer delight in the panorama of goodies laid out out before my wee tired eyes. I was an only child. There are pros and cons but one of the pros is not sharing your parents Christmas bank balance with brothers and sisters!

There was no central heating in that wee flat and I have no idea how I stayed warm until my parents got up to light the fire but my giddy little mind wasn’t thinking temperature.

It is only the photos, taken no doubt by Uncle Jimmy, that remind me of the the little red pedal car. I was far more aware of the go cart. It was Laos pedal but with a bit more poke and it wasn’t the plastic engine. There was a Sterling Moss drivers suit with it. It was a one piece overall. There was a helmet too. I looked the part!

A year or two later and my father started encouraging my sporting interests with a rugby ball and golf clubs. Those clubs were like friends for some years. I still have the Peter Allis putter. I am not sure what I was asking for in those days. My dad has no clue about The Rolling Stones but I didn’t always get what I wanted but I got what I needed. 

The best Christmas morning gift of all was one that I so wanted and did get. I was eleven years old before there was a record player in the house. I got one on Christmas morning 1972. Thinking back I wonder if I woke up my parents playing the records I had bought in advance - Elton John’s Crocodile Rock and Cat Stevens’ Can’t Keep It in. There was also an awful Top Of The Pops record, season musicians covering the hits.

My love for pop music was growing in the latter months of 1972. Watching the charts. Following Donny Osmond whose face covered my cousin Sharon’s bedroom wall. I was a 7” singles boy but music would be a constant companion in my life from that Christmas morning until now. Christmas days from then on was about music. 2021 will be no different.

Indeed maybe the best Christmas gift since then was in 1994. It is the only year that she dared buy me music as a gift. She know that it is likely that I will have anything that she attempts to buy or buy it between the time she buys it and then gives it to me!

In 1994 however she nailed it. She had been to visit friends in London and had heard about a bootleg CD of Mike Scott, of the Waterboys, live gig at Greenbelt, our favourite Festival that last August. As she walked around Camden market she heard what sounded like The Waterboys as she walked past a stall. On Christmas Eve she reached me a CD I knew nothing about; an absolute winner!

All in all though I opened my best ever Christmas gift nowhere near Christmas Day at all. The best gift of Christmas goes, most years, unnoticed. 

The baby in the straw, born of Mary, visited by strangers, soon on the run as a refugee. The baby… Jesus… Emmanuel. That baby is God’s gift to us. As in “For God so loved the world that he gave…” In a world of gods where the humans have to offer gifts to appease them, this God of the baby is the one who gives. It is an upside down idea that causes an upside down kingdom to break through.

God giving gifts. God gifts his love. He lavish with it. It is grace filled which means that his gift of love doesn’t depend on who we are, what we’ve done or what other people think about us. God’s gifts are not earned. They have nothing to do with competitiveness or comparisons. Grace is best defined as unmerited favour”.


The name of a girl

And a thought that can change the world”

(U2 - Grace)

IT WAS NOT A SILENT NIGHT... Christmas Eve Surmise

Mary gives birth

If Christianity has sanitised the Scriptures and been inoculated by a very middle class suburban comfort then Christmas has been most affected. We have reflected on those unrealistic scenes with perfumed cows and a wall papered stable with a baby who even a hymn writer has said “no crying he makes.”

The Scriptures are earthier than that and this baby came to live in earthier surrounds. In actual fact the Christmas scene itself is as earthy as it gets. Songwriter Andrew Peterson catches this earthiness and knocks over the diluted caricature of Christmas with a great song about Mary, called Labour Of Love, sung by Jill Phillips on Peterson’s Christmas record Behold The Lamb Of God.  

Peterson paints a picture of that first Christmas morning with more realistic language than some of our carols. There’s blood and filth a woman screaming in birth pain.

Iona Community hymn writer and teacher John Bell shared one year at Greenbelt that when he talked through the nativity story with tough inner city Glasgow women that they went on at some length about poor Mary having to leave her mother at this point of her life.

Peterson points that out too but through her tears we find that Mary is a loving young woman prepared to give her all for God and her son. It is Biblical, moving, insightful and inspirational but has not been edited or cleaned up for Church consumption! 


“It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labour of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labour of love.”


Awe of Christmas

I believe we have the opposite to Christmas from what Van Morrison did for Belfast streets. Van 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...


Meteorite Hurtling

ISAIAH 9: 6 & 7

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.


Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming". I have two images of that coming that describes the deeply felt impact at the core of the world when the baby hits the straw. The gentle meek bundle of baby arrives having flown across two terrains to arrive. The first is the hurtle through history. From the hint in Genesis chapter 3 this The Word has been rocketing through history to become flesh. The second is that idea that in Graham Kendrick’s “from heaven you came helpless babe. From somewhere way far out there God arrives in skin and bone like a heavenly meteorite hurtling!    

When the God of all the universe landed wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying softly on a bed of animal straw we should not be fooled by the gentleness of his arrival. In that moment the world shuddered. It was as if the God who filled the entire Universe squeezed his vastness into a tiny little piece of semtax explosive and hurtled from the far end of the Universe like a meteorite and crashed into planet earth knocking it from the way things were to a hopefulness of the new way that it could be. Here, in the nativity we see this absurd almost crazy revolution; King of the Universe in some backstreet manger; the humility of God becoming a servant of his creation; a God of justice loving and welcoming in those whom he was at enmity with; the blessedness of the poor.

The King of the day felt the tremor and sent his death squads to kill it at birth but on and on down through history this semtex thud has drawn people to turn the way things are on their heads and attempt to interrupt the status quo of the first being first with a strange concept called grace where no matter who we are or what we are done we are like the shepherds and Magi, welcomed, forgiven, redeemed, adopted, loved.

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.


Christmas Playlist 21

This is my 2021 Christmas Playlist. It is downbeat little collection with a little joy late on. The first few songs set the scene of a broken dark world. We then look at what Jesus might bring. Then the baby is born. Finally we see the subversive impact he makes.



(from Archives Vol 2)



(from If We Make It Through December)



(from Mercy Now )



(from Blood Oranges In The Snow)



(from single)



(from single)



(from A Very Blue Rock Christmas)



(from Blood Oranges In The Snow)



(from Night Divine)



(from Midwinter Graces)



(from Dark Mark Does Christmas 2020)



(from O Come All Ye Faithful)



(from Child)



(from Upon A Winter's Night)



(from Celtish Christmas Vol 2)



(from You'll Know It's Christmas)



(from 5 Holiday Favourites EP)






(from Songs For Christmas)



(from The Bells Of Dublin)



(from Christmas)



(from 5 Holiday Favourites EP)













O Come

We are two weeks into Advent 2021, these four weeks when Christians around the world use the waiting for Jesus' arrival to focus our souls. I have been blogging about honing our patience, particularly as we frustratingly suffer continued chapters of Coronavirus.

There is the eagerness for Christ's coming much like children wait for Santa's presents under the tree. I personally have been trying this year not to get Jesus born before Mary has her contractions! Jesus arrival heralds good news.

Jesus arrival heralds good news but are we ready? Are we up for it? On their U2's Songs Of Experience album they sang:

"But this freedom
It might cost you your liberty…"

Advent is from the Latin word 'coming" and when we pray for the coming of the Lord we need to be sure we have counted the cost, as Jesus suggested we should.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come O Come Emmanuel will be sung many times on Advent Sundays. We should be careful not to sing it in some feely weely warm and fuzzy Holiday Seasonal sense. This is not about chestnuts roasting or children getting excited.

This is a subversive prayer! This is a new kingdom being ushered in that will turn everything as we know it upside down and inside out. We should be careful what we wish for?

I guess it depends where you are. If you are a mother having just given birth in some refugee camp after fleeing Syria then this new world is going to be very welcome. Such a mother will yearn such justice. Or the innocent Syrian fearing the next airstrike that might wipe out his family as collateral. Such a father could really use that peace.

BUT... if you are in the pampered westerner living in decadent luxury at the cost of so many then this is a dangerous prayer. Are we ready for “the first made last and the last made first...”  Are we ready to put the refugee or the innocent Syrian first? Are we ready to serve rather than Lording it? Are we ready for when the poor and the meek take over? This rattles and shakes our materialist comforts. No wonder Herod wanted it dead!

For a most authentic slant of the subversive hope of this prayer then Willard Grant Conspiracy’s version is the one to download. Robert Fisher’s deep souled voice, that often times leads us into ballads of murder and judgement, draws every scary note from this Kingdom crashing in piece. Are we ready?!

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1: 49-55)


Happy Xmas

What a generous and thoughtful gesture. Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon have donated 50 limited edition 12" vinyl records of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) to charities and independent record shops across the UK so that those chosen can raise funds at a time of real need as a result of Coronavirus. A Christmas like generosity and grace.

These 12” acetates were hand-cut on the lathe at Abbey Road Studios by mastering engineer Alex Wharton. and use Sean Ono Lennon's Ultimate mix. Each record is stickered and numbered out of 50 and includes a machine-printed signature from Yoko.

I wish I could afford one but hope that I can't. I hope that all of the organisation benefiting will make thousands of funds from the gift.

This song is the first Christmas song I ever remember hearing on the radio. I started listening to pop radio in 1972 when I was 11 and got my first record player for Christmas. It was in the UK top 5 at that time.

In the midst of The Osmonds and glam rock it might also be the first healthy song I ever got into! The Vietnam angle passed me by as an eleven year old but I knew that there was a great declaration of love for humanity in this song.

For me though at that stage, and I guess as a result ever since, the lines that dug deep into my being were the first lines: -

“And so this is Christmas and what have we done
Another year over, a new one just begun.

In the thirty nine years since, whether hearing the song by accident on the radio or in some mall or by intention as I carefully put together the family Christmas playlist, these lines are my way into Advent. As I look forward to the light invading the earth in the birth of the baby who would change it all I use John Lennon’s line to audit my life. As another year is cast away, twelve months used up, I always ask what have I done?

What use did I make of the blessing of life? What have I done in my own life to make it into a better husband, father, friend and minister? What have I done to make my Church and my city a better place? I usually find some highlights and impressions made. I know also that some confession needs said and a seeking of a better year in the twelve months that beckon.

John and Yoko’s song wanted literally to change the world and came on the back of their Billboard campaign to rally the American people to choose to end the Vietnam War. It was part of that naive period of their lives where they thought they could imagine a world and it would happen as they cut their hair, lay in bed for a week or released pop singles.

In some ways though they were of course onto something. We as Christians believe that Jesus came to change everything but that we must make the choice that he invites us to make to follow him into the revolution; a revolution that caused the political and religious leaders of his day to want to kill him, his revolution so subverted their status quo. To be part of the subversion, that would bring all that John and Yoko dreamed of in this song, we need to want it to be so.  

What have we done... what do we want to do... Happy Christmas!