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!


King David

Advent. King David. Waiting. Third in my series of Old Testament characters looking forward to the birth of Jesus though they didn't know what or who or how...


2 Samuel 23: 4-5

And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.

Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.

“If my house were not right with God,

    surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,

    arranged and secured in every part;

surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation

    and grant me my every desire.


David knew God

He knew about the Covenant


God chose him as king

He glorified God is music and Psalms

He was told his throne would reign forever

That his kingdom was God’s kingdom

David had a dream 

That my off spring would claim the world

And then

Then he saw Bathsheeba

He was without excuse

Just as Adam looked and saw that it was good

Then tasted and that it was good

David squandered the eternal

For moments of pleasure

Gained the world

But lost his very self

And then

To cover his tracks

He dug even deeper holes

And had her husband murdered

To have what he wanted

Because he could

And what for

Empty impermanent things


 Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

Do not cast me from your presence

    or take your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.


David couldn’t know 

How his redemption would work itself out

Where the House Of David goes

How God’s salvation story will unfold

But he trusts

And In the depths of this faith filled heart

He believes God 


Your mercy

Your unfailing love


Blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

    and cleanse me from my sin.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.


Bring to fruition my salvation

Create in me a clean heart.


David had fallen to temptation... adultery and murder... he looked to God for mercy... and believed the fruition of his salvation would come... Hundreds of years later Jesus was born in David's town... the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world (and therefore David)... what do we need a clean heart for today?


Abe 2

Genesis 15: 1-6

 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

    I am your shield,[a]

    your very great reward.[b]”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.



A man full of questions

Where was he going

He was just told to go

Leave all he knew

But have no idea about his destination

He just went.

There were more questions

He is told that he is going to be the father of a nation

A nation

His wife can’t have a child

But God took him out one night

To look up at the stars

Like this he said

Your descendants will be as many as these stars

Count them

What do you mean count them

Abraham had to laugh

His wife laughed a lot

But if it is true, then

Abraham guessed that one of these stars is for you

But he couldn’t even imagine you

He cannot get it

So full of questions.

Where is he going

He doesn’t know

His wife laughs

Children at her age

But something tells Abraham to keep going

And that up ahead somewhere

Some time

Some way

God will do it


He believe

And God credits that to him as righteousness

Yes, was a man full of questions

But he still believed!

Believed in the fruition of his salvation .


The apostle Paul told us that as Abraham was credited righteous because he believed, so are we. Indeed, believing in Christ, makes us the seed of Abraham. One of those stars he saw was for me.. and you. What do we need faith to believe today. Abraham had little to go on. He was believing in the not yet. Believing in what God was going to do on up the road. We have the Scriptures, the church, inspirational fellow believers and the Gospels of Jesus' life to fuel our belief. Wherever we are being led... believe!


Adam Eden

Adam is waiting 

What is he waiting for?


Look at the state of him



Alienated from the world

Alienated from his wife

Alienated from my Creator

Alienated from himself

It wasn’t always like this

Oh no, he had it all

More than any of you ever had.

More than anyone ever, ever had

A garden

THE garden

Such an inheritance


Everything that a human being could ask for

And a relationship with the One who made it

The purest human to God relationship that there ever has been

God walked with him in the garden

But along with the companion God gave him,

They got tempted to be above themselves

For the look and taste of a forbidden fruit

We thought we didn’t need God and God’s ways

We could be like God ourselves

We could make our own decisions


That was their cry.

So they reached to be more than they were

And ended up less than they were

They took their chance

For just the taste of a piece of fruit

Sweet the bite

But bitter the taste in their souls

Lied to


You won’t surely die

Lied to


For a piece of fruit





Yet, clinging to some words that they heard their maker say,


“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heal.”


Is that the first seed in the fruition of salvation.


Perhaps we see ourselves in Adam. Have we reached to be more than we are? Have we been tempted with look and taste and felt the bitter after taste in our souls? Do we need a new start? 










God as we journey towards Christmas

There is war in the Holy Land, Europe and across the world

God, as we journey towards Christmas

We watch refugees journeying from homes that are being bombed

God, as we journey towards Christmas

There are protocol tensions on our own Belfast streets

God, as we journey towards Christmas

There is still no peace in the very place of that first Christmas morning

Yet the angels sang

Peace on earth

God, "we're sick of sorrow

Sick of pain

Sick of hearing again and again

That there's gonna be peace on earth

So Jesus could you take the time

To throw a drowning man a line

Peace on earth." ***


God, this Advent, help us to see the world as you see it

With grace filled eyes

With a hopeful heart

With an imagination full of possibilities

This Christmas

As we stop outside that stable door

As we park for a day at that manger

May we not get distracted

By the tinsel and glitter of our streets

By the dressing and stuffing of our tables

By the anemic nativity plays of our churches

May we not miss the wonder of what is happening

This symbol of God's love towards us

This affirmation of how okay it is to be human

And this great truth

That He who was beyond our comprehension

Moved into the very midst of us

The holy... in the filth of animal dung

The Almighty... dependent on a young girl

The unapproachable... with shepherds at ease by His side

Emmanuel; God with us.

And God may we leave that day at the stable

May we leave that day at the manger

Inspired to be like that baby

To bring some peace on earth

In a world where words are no longer as important as experience

Where modernist objectivity is being replaced by postmodern subjectivity

May we see the secret of peace on earth

That in these days more than any other time for centuries

Actions need to speak louder than words

May Christ's birth that we remember

May Christ's life that we celebrate

May Christ's cross and resurrection that we will come to, in Lent

Empower actions that scream and shout

Across our world

Onto our streets

Into our polling stations

Deep down into our lives

May indeed the word become flesh

And live among us.



*** quoted from U2's Peace On Earth available on All That You Can't
Leave Behind


REfugee Nativity 21

Gillian Fitch, one of our Fitzroy creatives came up with a Refugee Nativity. No room at the Inn is marginalised enough but the refugee image makes a powerful visual statement as Syrian refugees risk their lives for a new life in Europe and Afghanistan refugees might soon join us too.

Jesus of course was a refugee as a baby so Gillian's image is a blending of two early stories in Jesus life. It reminded me immediately of Josh Ritter's song Gospel Of Mary. 

Ritter takes the traditional Biblical story of Jesus, Mary and Josephescaping as refugees into Egypt and gives it a modern slant. Another family of three is escaping, seeking safety. 

It would seem obvious that Ritter, an American writing to a predominantly American audience, would be setting their story among those seeking refuge in America but it fits with our own strivers for a new life too.. 

This little family sets out with hope of something better:


We prayed our prayers, we broke our bread

With others who had even less

Till finally all we had were dreams

And we hoped that they would fill us


Soon however the sinister world of the modern refugee kicks in. Duped for a place in a container, Joseph dies, eventually Mary is put in chains and in the end she and her son are separated. 

Ritter’s song is clearly in the tradition of the American protest singer. It is asking serious questions of a government that is continually going against the idea of America, particularly when it comes to immigration. Those words on the Statue of Liberty seem so sadly neglected:


"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Eventually Ritter brings it all around to the original Mary, Joseph and baby. The ancient texts of Scripture are full of migrants. From Genesis to Revelation the entire Bible is about people moving countries. So it is with Jesus. As Ritter sings:


The holy family got away

A simpler time, a simpler place

And Egypt stretched out it's great hand

To welcome them with mercy


Egypt is set up as a more merciful place than present day America. Is that a judgement itself? Even if that isn’t intended and just suggests that other generations and peoples were more welcoming than America, judgement is coming.

Ritter doesn’t hit the wall and miss with his closing verses. There are echoes of Bob Dylan’s Masters Of War:


And you who stood at your great gates

Watched us as we met our fate

Then took our pride and stole our babes

You will one day die of something


Then the last lines of damnation:


May the pain within you dwell

And may it follow you to hell

All alone in a lonely cell

Forever unforgiven


It is early 60’s Dylan at his best, his folk singing ghost haunting us with the power of truth at the dawning of the third decade of the their millennium. 

The developed world is so fantastically wealthy that we cannot dare let those who have nothing eat into our entitled decadence. The baby in that original manger is speaking out of the nativity’s prophetic poetry - we cannot serve God and money. What we do to the least of these who do for God.   

Josh Ritter has gifted us a song that is deep in the truth of the Gospel nativity. It is not a warm and sentimental take but one of reality that gets the point!


Fitzroy Cadle

photo: Fiona McNeill


I am so tired of waiting,

Aren't you,

For the world to become good

And beautiful and kind?

Let us take a knife

And cut the world in two-

And see what worms are eating

At the rind.


Stockman declares that you can now talk about Christmas. Five weeks ago I was appalled at the Christmas songs in shops in Reading. Belfast has not been any more righteous. 

I suggested on social media that this is what happens when the population stops going to church. The country doesn’t know when Advent begins. Of course I was more than half joking. Christmas songs in shops in October are all about money not a Christian festival. Check the lyrics! 

Tomorrow is when followers of Jesus across the world start talking about Christmas. It is a season called Advent. A waiting time. Time for spiritual reflection and preparation. A looking forward to the breaking in of light and good news.

So tomorrow (Nov 28,2021) Fitzroy will start that waiting. Our Advent candles will get their first lighting. 

The Langston Hughes poem at the top of this blog will be our recurring literary riff over these next weeks. It is hopeful and yet violates the darkness. 

So what are we waiting to rid ourselves of?

What were the people of God waiting on all the way throughout the Old Testament?

Who are we waiting on?

How will all we learn in that waiting impact the way we are living when the waiting is over?

First up is what we are waiting to cut out. A hungry worm at large and also a hungry worm within. 

Novelist Sue Divin and Beatle George Harrison will add to poet Langston’s commentary on our inner souls and the Scripture will search us, in the dark recesses of our souls. That is what Advent is... waiting… reflecting… cutting open… hoping… receiving… preparing. 

CLOSE ENOUGH TO WHISPER - Christmas Day Poems #3


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.