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Encouragement for the Journey 22 December 2013

Encouragement for the Journey

Candle Flame

Greetings Fellow Traveller, 

In conversation with adults, I often hear these words ‘Christmas is for children.’ I want to respectfully challenge this idea, and declare that Christmas was firstly an adult experience, which has now been given over to children and then hijacked by the spirit of commercialism.

A program in the early days of TV broadcasting was a police drama called Dragnet, the star of the show was a character called Sergeant Joe Friday, he had a phrase that became quite famous, ‘ All we want are the facts, ma’am.’ In time this line was edited to become ‘Just the facts, ma’am’.

If we take that approach to the gospel texts, and focus just on the text. We discover something very interesting. Apart from Mary who may well have been a teenager, all the principal characters would have been adults. I am indebted to John Bell in his book’ Ten Things they never told me about Jesus’ who writes:

Joseph is commonly presumed to be older, he seems to know about divorce procedures and also he is not around when Jesus, aged thirty, preached in his home synagogue. The shepherds would have been adult men rather than boys, if they had to keep awake at night to protect their flocks from wild animals and thieves. 

Regarding the Wise Men, Middle – Eastern cultures then as now considered wisdom to be attained not through academic degrees, but by experience, reflection and longevity. 

Let us not forget Zechariah, a retired priest and his wife Elizabeth who in their twilight years became the parents of John who became known as John the Baptist.’

I want to suggest that Christmas is for older people too. The difficulty we have is that our perception and appreciation of that first Christmas is taken from hymnology and music of Victorian England instead of the gospel text. For example, we are not told how many shepherds or wise men, but they are often portrayed as three of each.

Take a moment to reflect, pause and allow the beauty of love, which weaves it way through the stories to touch your heart, opening you to the mystery and wonder of life, and Emmanuel God with us.

Meanwhile Peace

Alf

 

December 20, 2013 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 15 December 2013

Encouragement for the Journey

Dec 2014 Cafe Church

Greetings Fellow Traveller, 

A few years ago I participated in a conversation with a group of ministers. I vividly recall one minister saying: ‘I struggle to find anything new to say about the Christmas Stories, it’s all been said before.’

I came away from that meeting, with a mix of feelings and thoughts. Since then I have reflected on how I respond to the Christmas stories. Yes, they are familiar, but, in that familiarity there can be authenticity and dare I say relevance.

Sometimes, it is very easy to dismiss a story just because it is familiar, but if we can suspend judgement for a little while, let the story reverberate within, we may feel the quiver of something fluttering, awakening us to its beauty, wonder and mystery.

Imagination and empathy enable us to enter into the world of the story. We wait to hear, this does not happen instantly, it takes time, it is our commitment to listening and paying attention to what is being said, and not being said. We don’t engage in these practices to get something new from the stories, rather, to enable the stories themselves to enrich our spiritual journey and encouraging us to compassion.

In the Advent and Christmas stories, we find ourselves being challenged to make room in our lives for another, to be reminded that some people don’t have what we have, that we can make a difference in the lives of others. It is not what we have that is important, but what we may give to enrich another.

Another important aspect of the Christmas stories which is often neglected is that they are intrinsically related to and are part of the gospel story. When we see the stories as good news, of Jesus coming to earth, they are a reminder we are not left bereft of God’s love and presence. We too can be encouraged to practice compassion every day of the year not just at Christmas. In this we are following in the footsteps of the master Jesus.

Meanwhile peace in acts of compassionate kindness

 

Alf

 

 

 

December 20, 2013 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 8 December 2013

Encouragement for the Journey

Peaceful Trees (small version)

Greetings Advent Traveller,

Storytelling is once more becoming an enjoyable aspect of our modern society. An aspect of storytelling which is often forgotten is stories may be told many times over. Each time they are told, the hearers and indeed the teller will get something new. So I thought why not re – tell my Encouragement for the Journey from this time last year.

Frederick Buechner, in his book: Whistling in the Dark writes: ‘The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.’ This quote propels me into the expectation of participating in mystery. For Advent and the familiar story of the birth of Jesus are shrouded in mystery.

If we focus on believing every aspect of the traditional Christmas story as fact, we miss something very powerful, namely, that during Advent we are being invited through metaphor and symbolism to prepare ourselves to participate in our own inner journey of becoming, namely, being ready to birth the Christ within, to engage fully with life.

Often we hear the words that human kind is on a grand search for meaning and significance, to somehow understand why we are here at this moment in history. There is another way of looking at this, through the words of Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth, were he suggests that as humans we are not searching for meaning, rather we are seeking to experience meaning, to feel being alive.

I find that helpful, for it dovetails in with Advent, reminding us that we might have knowledge of the Jesus birth stories, but the power of the stories is the experience we have that gives us the rapture of being alive, namely what happens in our physical world resonates within our innermost being. We desire congruency and authenticity on the journey of life.

In hearing the familiar Christmas stories, allow your-self a moment to reflect:

What affect are they having upon your inner world?

What new experience of Christ might be happening for you?

What is seeking to be born anew in your life?

 Meanwhile Peace and Joy on your advent Journey

Alf

 

December 20, 2013 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 1 December 2013

Encouragement for the Journey christmas-decoration-on-white-background (resized)

Greetings Fellow Traveller,

This Sunday sees the commencement of our Advent Journey. Often Advent and Christmas has been seen as just for Children, while us adults look on, with eyes filled with memories, and take delight at seeing children enjoying themselves. However, in our Christmas stories, believe it or not it was the adults who first delighted and celebrated the birth of the Christ child. So for us adults I offer you this poem I discovered this week by David A. Redding, from If I Could Pray Again (1965)

Adult Advent Announcement

 O Lord,

Let Advent begin again

In us,

Not merely in commercials;

For that first Christmas was not

Simply for children,

But for the

Wise and the strong.

It was

Crowded around that cradle,

With kings kneeling.

Speak to us

Who seek an adult seat this year.

Help us to realize,

As we fill stockings,

Christmas is mainly

For the old folks —

Bent backs

And tired eyes

Need relief and light

A little more.

No wonder

It was grown-ups

Who were the first

To notice

Such a star.

 Meanwhile Grace, Peace and Hope on your Advent Journey

Alf

 

December 20, 2013 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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