O Come, Emmanuel

O Emmanuel…

God with us.

What we long for and need so badly.

And yet could anything be more shocking than the Incarnation?  The One  through whom all things were made suddenly needing to squall to be fed and changed?

We can tame this into a painting, lovely and safe, but there was nothing of safety about it then.  Nor is there now.   Do we dare consider playing with fire?  Once lit, there is no going back.  Not for the universe, not for us.  Like it or not, everything is different now: wild and purposeful, a flame appearing suddenly in that place where our eyes had been accustomed to darkness.  Will we look away or risk being set ablaze?

And when we say yes as Mary did so long ago, as we say yes as God did to us – does to us! – where will we be led?  In what stable will Christ become incarnate in our lives today? 



O come, o come, Emmanuel… Be born in us today.

Treasure to cheat for

The plough jolted, stopped. The oxen strained for a brief moment, then subsided into relaxation. At that distance, there was no making out the words the ploughman spoke, but we could make a very good guess. He heaved up his arms, flapped. He went to the front of the plough, backed up the oxen, and after some grubbing around and kneeling, scrabbling, tossed out a middle sized stone. With some difficulty he shoved and heaved it to the edge of the field and left it there. He flapped over the stone again, gave it a kick, then straightened himself, and loped back to the plough.
‘Supposing it had not been a stone.’ said Jesus, lazily, ‘suppose it had been treasure?’
‘Oooh, tricky one!’ said John.
‘Suppose it was a little box of treasure. I think – I think he would bury it again. I bet that bloke ploughing does not own the land.’
A small snort came from Matthew, ‘I bet he does not either. He is the son of my cousin’s first wife’s brother. He is a hired hand.’
‘Always a little behind hand with the world?’ asked Jesus, sympathetically.
‘If it was treasure,’ said Jesus, ‘he would bury it. Carefully. Then he would go and convince his wife to sell up. That would take a lot of time, that would. She would bend his ear something terrible. But he would not tell her it was treasure, would he? For utter terror she let something slip. She would be furious, but he would somehow convince her, or just do it, her ringing a peal in his ears. Sell up. But he is only half way there. He still has to get the land owner to sell, and not just some land, just that piece of land. My word, the worry that somebody would find the treasure before he convinced the land owner to sell. The arguments he would have with the farmer as to why that field. Why such a crazy scheme. He would never make a living from one field.
Then going back, knowing if the treasure had gone he had lost everything. Oh think of that.Imagine if he had not hidden it well enough. Then putting the plough in the same furrow, and yes, yes, the treasure. Opening the box. Seeing the riches. Knowing he was a made man. Oh think of the joy.’
Judas sat up, and took the grass stem he was sucking out of his mouth. ‘He ought to have checked to see if it could be identified first,’ he said, always so horribly correct, ‘He ought to have seen if it had somebody’s name in it. You know that is the law.’
‘He ought,’ said Jesus, ‘but I do not think he would. Oh, being that poor, and suddenly having riches offered you? Could you really do it? No, I think he would just buy the field – break the law,’ Jesus twinkled at Judas, ‘I do not think the law would be observed. Because the treasure would so, so transform his life – he would cheerfully cheat a bit to get all that… and that is what the Kingdom is like. Something you would cheerful lie, cheat and steal to get a hold of.’
Poor Judas looked aghast.

God so loved the world..

Today, the New Testament reading assigned for Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer is 1 Peter 1.3-12.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1.3)

As we draw nearer to the birth of the Christchild, we also know that the story of his birth continued as Jesus grew to be a man, died and rose again.  Through his Son, God sent the Saviour of the World.  I am mindful that in a dark and sometimes unrelenting world, God has given us so much.  His love and generosity of global proportions, as we are reminded again during this Season, is very soon to be revealed in a manger, because there was no room, no giving elsewhere.  God gave so much in self-sacrificing love; as the hymn sings ’emptied himself of all but love’.

I also like this quote from The Rt Revd Richard Inwood:

Generosity isn’t measured by how much you give; but by how much is left over when you’ve finished giving. 

Mary II – The stable

The poems,
The carols,
The centuries
Of art,
Paint Nativity
In a stable
As cosy.
The ox, the ass,
Well fed,
Unreally clean,
The straw
Luminous gold,
All of us
In rich and spotless robes.

The reality
Of manure,
Watched by
A scrawny ox,
A diminutive,
Patch-furred ass,
Prickled by rough, dusty straw,
My child was born,
Slowly, ordinarily,
As if this child,
My child,
Were not
Flesh made miracle.

Too soon after,
Yellow-toothed shepherds
Staggered in,
Hesitant, resolute,
Oblivious to the mess,
My sweaty exhaustion,
Joseph’s embarrassed confusion,
Dragging skinny sheep
For a King
Lying on a folded shirt
In a hard-grimed manger.

They babbled
Of God’s glory,

Of heavenly hosts,
Angels in thousands,
Singing past enchantment
Of the Messiah,
In a stable,
Son of God,
Here, now,
Made flesh.

I held their tale
In my heart,
With John’s leap
In Elizabeth’s womb,
With this outsider’s birth,
Its poverty,
Its inconvenience,
Knowing that this, too,
Was part
Of Gabriel’s promise,
Of my first,

Christmas Bells

This year I have been singing with Stirling University Choir again. It has been a difficult term for the choir – pieces of music that seemed, right up to the performance date, beyond us. However this did not apply to one piece we have been singing during Advent – Christmas Bells by Caroline Sparey ( https://theartofmusic.com/publications/5139.php ). The piece speaks of the healing as Christmas nears and Caroline’s setting points this beautifully. I am sorry that it has not been recorded to my knowledge but I commend the piece for performance by small choirs everywhere.

The text is based on a poem by Longfellow, possibly not a fashionable poet today, more noted for his epic poems. It was written during the American Civil War and reflects the horror of that war.

Christmas Bells

I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

The above poem can be found in:
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1893.
Stevenson, Burton Egbert , ed. The Home Book of Verse for Young Folks. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915