Monday, December 24, 2007

a new star in the stable

The leaves turn gold,
the wind blows cold,
the sea clings to the shore.

In lands afar,
a new born star
is laid gently in the straw.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

advent 4: trusting ourselves

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1.18-20)

Today's readings are about Mary. But Matthew's version of events (the gospel set for this year) pushes Joseph, not Mary, to the foreground. We see Mary through the eyes of Joseph, confused and angry at his fiancé's pregnancy. The story focuses on the scandal of the young unmarried mother, and in the still taken from Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew, Mary stands alone, while the village whispers and condemns.

In Luke, it is Mary who acts. She grasps hold of the angel's promise; that her child will be of God. A poor young girl, living in occupied territory, does not have many choices about what happens to her body. But Mary recognizes this encounter with the angel as a moment of decision, and in this she is blessed.

The desperation of poverty, and the violence wrought by occupying soldiers, continue to undermine young girls' control over their bodies. Sexual violence accompanies conflict and poverty, through prostitution and other forms of rape. Many poor young girls who are made pregnant are further denied the option of a safe abortion. Like Mary, they can be isolated and vulnerable.

The angel blessed Mary by giving her a choice. May it be that every girl and woman has control over her own body.

Abortion Rights is one of several reproductive health campaign organization working in the UK.

Monday, December 17, 2007

advent 3: courage!

Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

"What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?
A reed shaken by the wind?

What then did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in soft robes?
Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.

What then did you go out to see?
A prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Matthew 11.7-9)

I'd never thought much about John being Jesus' cousin, maybe because I didn't grow up with cousins. But I imagine at their best cousins are somewhere between less-demanding siblings and more-familiar friends.

The gospels say little about Jesus' childhood, but it seems likely that John and Jesus would have played together, fought over one thing or another, and maybe, as they grew older, discussed ideas and shared their own hopes and fears.

I get the sense that John was the dare-devil of the family. The wild cousin, striding out into the desert sun, roughing it on locusts and bees' honey, and enthralling both the crowds and Jesus. John held his younger cousin to account, urging him on, keeping it real. A true trailblazer for Jesus.

In our lives, if we are lucky, there are people like John. People who believe in us. People who keep us up to the mark. People who don't let us become lazy. People who make us bold. Perhaps we are that person for someone we love too.

Read this week's readings online at

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the shopocalypse

See the excellent buy nothing christmas for more, including Jesus goes sandal shopping.

And for full-on no-shopping craziness, Rev Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping is online here and you can watch the trailer for his film, What Would Jesus Buy? right here:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

advent 2: keep hoping

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11.9)

This week's reading from Isaiah is one of my favourites, as Bruce Forsyth would say. I love clarity with which it describes another way of being together. This is the future, this is our aim. If it were not so, how could we have hope?

This Christmas card arrived today from Guatemala. My friend there has worked in El Salvador and Guatemala for many decades. She has lived through hunger and poverty, through bombs falling on the church, through army threats and violence from all sides, indescribable violence and horror. She has witnessed fragile peace and ongoing corruption. She has refused to let memories die, and has kept knocking on the door for justice.

All these years, she has remained faithful to the child-man of peace, the God of peace and the spirit of peace. And her hope gives me courage to hold onto Isaiah's vision.

If the lion and lamb can lie side by side to watch the stars high in the night sky, we must believe we too can stretch out next to the one we have been told is a threat to us, the one we should hate or destroy; and point out the stars as they glisten and shimmer.

All today's readings are available here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

advent 1: seek peace

In violent times, live at peace. This is one of the things we hear from the readings set for today in the Revised Common Lectionary, which include the following psalm, 122:
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

The psalmist promises to seek peace for the sake of loved ones, and because it is what God desires.

Beginning Advent once more, still at war, still not willing to acknowledge our wrongs, still not bold enough to make the first move to reconciliation; may we try again to say, 'Peace be within you' to all those we meet on the road and in the home this week.