Advent 7

Hmmm. I think Thursdays in Advent will be throwback ones. Especially dark gloomy windy rainy Thursdays. It has not been the best day around here. And yet. Wonder exists. So I rather grumpily post this from the past and cling tight to some kind of hope in this world. Emmanuel is here. I suppose I should listen a bit to the me from 6 years ago.

“O Holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in,

Be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas Angels,

The great glad tidings tell,

O come to us, Abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel.”

Emmanuel is the word that is most likely to send shivers up my spine. I can’t help but grin like an idiot when belting out the last verse of this carol. It’s all I long for deep down inside. That I could hang out with God, that he would abide with me. It’s a wonder that will not be drowned out by my cynisim, doubt, pessimism or whatever black thoughts I throw at it. Emmanuel and my heart sings, Emmanuel and I drink it in. Emmanuel and I am home again.

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Advent 6

(From a grumpy tired place. But I am forcing myself to recall the wonder. Rather than just crawl under the duvet at the end of this day).

On a gloomy December day. Barely any light around. I write of light in the dark, of hope that is deeper than the pain of this world. I read these words. I long for them to revive my soul. I pray that they would revive the souls of those in our church on Sunday morning when I shall be speaking about them and more.

For those walking in darkness there is a great light.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation

    and increased their joy;

they rejoice before you

    as people rejoice at the harvest,

as warriors rejoice

    when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,

    you have shattered

the yoke that burdens them,

    the bar across their shoulders,

    the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle

    and every garment rolled in blood

will be destined for burning,

    will be fuel for the fire.

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.

(Isaiah 9)

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Advent 5

Walking out of the door after a less than harmonious getting ready for school time. Asking. Asking for the wonder. Praying with the boys as they hurtle down the hill. Asking. Asking for help.

Reading with others of a God who does not let go, who answers prayers, who shapes the life of ordinary people. A God who wove together Ruth and Naomi and a man called Boaz to produce good in their lives and to produce the One who it’s all about many years later. Snapshots of the hope that it is never the end of the story.

Sitting in a room spilling out random thoughts to a half stranger who helps me notice and draw strands together and be aware that hope is in this place right now. The tangled tendrils of my mind making connections, seeing change, being aware of where there needs to be more. Starting with believing I have value, I am worth taking care of, then living freely from that core. Treasuring the wonder that I really can know these things because I have been wonderfully made. I am a masterpiece, a poem, a work of art. Oh to soar in love from that place of security.

Singing loud in the car on the way home, no one around to hear my shouting tuneless voice of wonder.

Tea with a friend. Laughing together. Sharing the weirdness of 3 year olds. The 3 year old dancing over to school to get the eldest. The rare blissful cooking together moment at the end of his day. Spilling out his day to me, unpressurised and full of interest. Us noticing prayers have been answered. He made it through what started out as a tough day. He is in a good space tonight. Cuddles. Kisses. Joy.

Walking around our block, shouting Christmas at the lights breaking joy into the darkness.

Exhaustedly stumbling to the end of the day. Through the snappy weary get to beds and to the story time cuddles and sleep noises.

The house is calm again. The heating hums in the background. I breathe. Wonder is all around, twisted through the impatience and ugly to make the dark beautiful and full of light.

Wonder is all around. And you?

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Advent 4

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This wasn’t the view on my run but it’s the only photo I have of what the sun was doing on my run…

Today the wonder hit me as I drove down the road, pondering friends who were going through tough times, wishing I could do more to help. The wonder came in the realisation that I had Someone who I could lift them up to. Someone who knows what it’s like down here. Someone who came and lived and promised to come back.  Whatever the mysteries of how prayer works the crazy reality is that there is Someone who cares deeply about my friends and who has everlasting arms of love, grace and redemption to wrap around them in this broken life we live. Advent draws me deep into the reality of that wondrous story. And fact or fiction, I’m with Puddleglum from The Silver Chair part of the Chronicles of Narnia…

“But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

Also. Running again for the first time in a week, back over the downs, watching the sunlight tear holes in the clouds and cast spotlights of bright on the grass below. Insane wonder is all around.

And you?

 

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Advent 3

Each Sunday of Advent I’ve decided I’ll post a hymn or song that embodies what this season is all about. We sang this one at church this morning and I love the way it expresses why we are longing for Jesus to return. We long for Jesus because we know that in him we find rest, consolation, freedom from fears, freedom from sin, deliverance, hope and joy.

Just from hanging out with my two boys this afternoon in their tired Sunday afternoon grumps, and mine to be fair, I can see how much we need these things that Jesus brings. Chats with friends bring more awareness of needs for these to be realities. A mere glance at the news headlines brings fresh waves of longings for this world to be made new and for us to engage in bringing hope now. We need, I need, the reality of Jesus breaking into our lives and causes us to wake up to the needs of the people around us.

Sermon over.

The wonder today was found in small boys happily playing pirates this morning. It was found in feeling like I belonged in our church, in awareness that friendships are forming and we are known.  It was found in soup and bread and the ease of an old friendship. It was found in Christmas lights on the drive home from the garden centre.

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This snowman doesn’t seem all that keen on Christmas coming… 

 

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Advent 2

Today.

There is wonder all over the place.

Wonder in the sacrifice as I wave the weary man and grumpy boys goodbye.

Wonder in the tall grey green trees against the dark sky.

Wonder in the writing, the thinking, the wry gaze at the unescapable reality of the Maker.

Wonder in the music in my ears. Pounding along with my feet to my friends flat.

Wonder in being reunited.

Wonder at sharing our lives again.

Wonder in conversations extended, finished, expanded on without small voices telling me to ‘stop talking’.

Wonder at soup, bread, cheese.

Wonder in the thoughtful gifts.

Wonder in raising up our cries, hopes and fears to the One who cares.

An extraordinary day littered wide with wonder. The sky darkens on the train home. Lights start to turn on. Suburbs roll on and on as we head towards the coast. Afternoon turns to evening. The world revolves.

I find myself waiting.

Waiting to scoop small people in my arms, waiting to give the tired man a break, waiting to deal with whatever small person meltdowns may ensue before bedtime. Waiting for sleep and the watches of the night.

Wonder and waiting.

How has your day been?

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Advent 1

It’s Advent. A time of year I love and adore. (See blog archives for considerable evidence of this..) Advent pushes all my buttons. The waiting theme, the light in the dark, the anticipation of joy to come and the acknowledgement that all is not as it should be.

Christmas needs to be tempered with Advent. Christmas sparkles and longings for the perfect day need this season of realism. Of waiting for Jesus. Of looking around and remembering that even the best of this world is a mere shadow of all that will come.

Advent is so realistic. In the face of shiny media promising wonderful family filled times it is refreshing to have a season acknowledging that for most of us Christmas will not be that joyfully simple.

Christmas can be jarring, it is no respecter of grief or painful slow roads. Christmas as presented by garden centres and tv adverts doesn’t allow for frugal living or financial constraint. It promises much if you will only find the money or debt to fully dive into the madness.

Advent acknowledges the pain of life, the broken road we often walk down, the reality that we are waiting for something so much better. It is good to ache for a better world. We were made for one. We are waiting for one.

Advent reminds us that it is ok to sit by the side of the road in a broken heap and hear the angels sing again of wonders and joy to come. Jesus did come. He will come again. We live in-between. We live in the waiting.

I think Advent also reminds us that we have choices as to what our waiting will look like. We wake up each morning, we interact with the reality of the day, we love, we serve, we live and breathe, we go to sleep and in the simple ordinary of that a bigger story goes on behind the scenes. We are waiting but life goes on in that waiting. It’s a whole weird tension to live with.

At church on Sunday we looked at Psalms of wonder, which seemed a perfect set up for advent. We were encouraged to see the wonder all around us, to sit and notice, to be drawn away from our regrets of the past, to not dwell in worries about the future but to sit with the wonder in the now. To taste the presence of God in this moment we have right now.

I’m going to try and do that this Advent time. I want to find the wonder in the waiting. To end the year in wonder seems like a Good Thing. It’s been an insane year of exhaustion and brokenness but it has also contained much wonder. I want to choose the wonder through the tears of life this month. Not in some weird denial of pain but in the knowledge that there is a deeper reality that brings hope in the pain, in the waiting there can be joy and I want to find it.

So that’s what you can expect from these parts this year. I haven’t done a everyday Advent blog since having small children. But let’s see how it goes. I would love to hear your stories of wonder. Not so we compete in who has the best lives but so we can share the wonder out. Some days I imagine the wonder will purely be in the morning cup of coffee. It will still be there though. Saying it aloud might just help with joy along this broken weary road of life.

Come with me. Let’s see if we can hear the angels sing this advent time.

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