Archives for posts with tag: Advent

This Advent I’ve been following the #adventword practice from the Anglican Communion with daily photos and words shared on instagram

It developed into a daily haiku. Here are the pictures and words.




Musical angels make the most of their gifts. #bathabbey #proclaim


First Christingles of this year ready to give away. #adventword #give


Forgive. Sit down side by side in winter sunshine. Then turn face to face. #adventword #haiku #forgive


See. There is a crack. See. There is a crack. See. There is a crack. The door will open. You’ll be surprised by welcome. #repent #adventword #haiku


Pay attention to that which feeds the soul. It may not all be sparkly. #worship #adventword #haiku


Longing to find more time the season offers the gift of this moment. #believe #adventword #haiku


Take care, I always say, needing still to learn how to risk being loved. #care #adventword #haiku


Be ready to be surprised by life, open to gift of company. #be #adventword #haiku


The light in this place always surprises. Patterns appear from nowhere. #surprise #adventword #haiku


Why is the world so beautiful? Why not, asks the blushing evening sky. #ask #adventword #haiku


Go, go, go! Leap over the barriers and take on life in its fullness.#dare #adventword #haiku


Into the embrace of darkness a window of light holds out a hand. #shine #adventword #haiku


Wait. Into this dark season colour will come. There will be blossoming. #wait #adventword #haiku


Never fail to find joy in the ordinary. Oh star of wonder! #wonder #adventword #haiku


Make room to accept tiredness as today’s gift. Time to take time out. #accept #adventword #haiku


Listen. The children know how to tell the story so that we can hear. #listen #adventword #schoolnativity #haiku


Come. Sit. The story will begin again soon. This time is just for you. #invite #adventword #haiku


Lean into the light. Let longing flower, opening up this moment. #desire #adventword #haiku


Prepare to go in a different direction. Take a road less travelled? #prepare #adventword #haiku


The journey is long. Will it come to an end? May rest and refuge come. #hope #adventword #haiku


Find another view. What can be seen from this place? Take a good long look. #look #adventword #haiku


Experience the full picture of Advent – room for colour and space. #experience #adventword #haiku


Light, symbol, colour. Each prayerful step has its own way of revealing. #pray #adventword #haiku


Light comes in and out of this place, built of wood, stone, breath, prayers, tears and joy. #reflect #adventword #haiku


Receive the gift of this precious night, lit by the full moon, and rejoice. #receive #adventword #haiku


Hush! The child sleeps, dreaming of dazz’ling starlit skies, enfolded in love. #dazzle #adventword #haiku

Early morning BCP communion today. No sermon, though shared part of a poem by Edwin Muir.

Edwin Muir (1887 to 1959) was born on the Orkney Islands. He was a remarkable 20th century poet for whom Christianity was a central influence and inspiration. Muir was captivated by the myth of the garden of paradise, Eden, and the Orkneys represented Eden to him. Muir knew the harshness of life, allowed this knowledge and experience to enter his creativity. From his writing emerges a particular light for all who are conscious of living with the darkness.

The Annunciation

Edwin Muir

The angel and the girl are met.
Earth was the only meeting place.
For the embodied never yet
Travelled beyond the shore of space.

The eternal spirits in freedom go.
See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other’s face
Till heaven in hers and earth in his
Shine steady there. …

Outside the window footsteps fall
Into the ordinary day
And with the sun along the wall
Pursue their unreturning way.
Sound’s perpetual roundabout
Rolls its numbered octaves out
And hoarsely grinds its battered tune.

But through the endless afternoon
These neither speak nor movement make,
But stare into their deepening trance
As if their gaze would never break.

Angel in vestry of Burnham Abbey.

Angel in vestry of Burnham Abbey.

Angel of Peace Sculpture created by Transformers Youth Group with artists Gina Martin and Rhonda Fenwick, Companion S.P.B.

Angel of Peace Sculpture created by Transformers Youth Group with artists Gina Martin and Rhonda Fenwick, Companion S.P.B. at Burnham Abbey.

Here’s my on-going Advent Calendar doodling …

Advent Calendar 2014, week 3

Advent Calendar 2014, week 3

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.. from Godspell

This is the season to watch and wait, to keep awake. Stop, watch, pay attention – Something incredible is going to happen. This is the time for dreaming, for desires and longing, and into this time comes the messenger John. Today, on the third Sunday of Advent we continue to linger with this character, and remember that good news, gospel always begins with a messenger.

Proclaimer, preacher, wild man, witness, uncomfortable prophet ..

I wonder what your picture of John the Baptiser is?

In the 1972 musical Godspell, John the Baptist is one of a troupe of 10 performers who together tell the story of Jesus. Based on the gospel of Matthew the performance uses clowning, pantomime, charades, acrobatics, and vaudeville to tell the story of Christ. “The Church takes itself much too seriously. It has to learn to laugh at itself sometimes. I think if Jesus were here today, he would be moving and acting like this.” These were the words of Stephan Nathan, who acted in the initial production. Godspell is a pageant that moves from moment to moment, a production intended to celebrate good news (‘god spell’ is Old English for gospel) and weave this God’s spell of new hope, new joy, new life over its audience.

(This week I have found inspiration from Thom Shuman’s reflection, Friend of the bridegroom, in ‘Gobsmacked’

‘This room will come to order’, the Chair intoned. ‘This hearing is for the purpose of obtaining the facts concerning this person who has appeared in our midst, who seems to be causing a great deal of controversy and discomfort amongst our people. The first witness has been sworn in. Would you please identify yourself for this committee?’

‘My name is John.’

Shuffling some papers until he found the right document, the Chair continued, ‘Commonly known as John the Baptist. Mr Baptist, are you the light that has come into the world?’

‘No, sir, I am not. And please, call me John.’

‘If you are not the light, then who are you?’

‘I am simply the one who draws people from the shadows of this world, and of their lives, so they can find the Light.’

‘Well then, are you this word we have heard about, that is supposed to have been from the beginning of all time?’

‘No, I am not the Word. I am the messenger. For all those folks who have been deafened by the noise of our culture, I hope my words will lead them to the One who can silence their fears, who can speak to their concerns, who can answer their questions, who can whisper songs of joy and peace into their ears.’

‘Well, I don’t understand why you are here before this committee’ said the Chair, with a degree of impatience. ‘Just who in the world are you?’

‘Sir, have you ever been to a wedding?’

‘Of course, many, many times.’

‘Then you will remember there comes that moment in the service when the bridegroom appears at the front of the congregation, just as everything is about to begin. Well, I am the one who has stood with the bridegroom and fixed his tie into a perfect shape. I am the friend who adjusts his button-hole and brushes a stray hair from his morning suit. I am the good friend who reminds him to smile at the bride as she moves to stand by his side, so she won’t turn to him in 25 years time and ask why he didn’t smile on their wedding day. I am the one who whispers, ‘walk slowly’ as he steps out, and I go to the back of the church to dim the lights so that only he can be seen. I am the one who shushes all the latecomers so they can hear his voice. I am simply the friend of the bridegroom, thanking God for the gift of serving him, and the privilege of getting out of the way.’

Good news, gospel always begins with a messenger. The good news is always beginning somewhere in the world. May we have ears to hear, and may we step back into the shadows to enable others to hear good news, hear the word of justice, freedom and joy.

Wedding flowers outside St James the Great, Claydon.

Wedding flowers outside St James the Great, Claydon.


In the second week of Advent, I’m doodling along in my Advent Calendar. Using words, pictures, images – names of people, places and Advent themes. Huge thanks to Sybil MacBeth for this idea.

And here is my progress so far:

Advent Calendar 2014 - into week 2.

Advent Calendar 2014 – into week 2.

The Second Sunday of Advent is here … the wilderness, prepare the way .. make way … cry out!

This is the season to watch and wait, to keep awake. Who will watch and wait with us? The prophets watch and wait, then and now. Prophets are the ones who know the most important things. They cry out: Stop, watch, pay attention – Something incredible is going to happen. The prophets know which way to go. They are the ones who show us the way to go. They are not usually comfortable people to be with. Today we remember the prophet Isaiah, and my inspiration for this reflection comes from Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s latest book, ‘ Walking backwards to Christmas’, and Rachel Hackenberg’s blog ‘Comfort O my people’

Sometimes, moments of clarity come. Often they appear in times of desperation, when there seems nowhere else to go, when all defences are down and the ways of controlling life have been tried and found wanting. In the days when darkness threatened to engulf the country and enemy forces were converging, when there was nowhere to run to.. I found myself in the Temple. Looking for some peace, instead I found disturbance and great conflict within myself. The darkness and light searched me out and I did not know where to look. It was as if an ember was lit within me, a burning coal touched my tongue. Then I was full of words, and I had to speak out. ‘Here I am’ I said, ‘send me.’ Just as I am, I was made a messenger of God. It was not comfortable.

Comfort – comfort my people. Yes, I wanted to give that comfort to others, to myself. Though there was also much to cry about. Before the soothing peace must come a clarity of seeing. Recognising destruction, devastation and violence, carelessness, denying that of God in creation all around – land and people. Mountains of stumbling blocks separate us one from another – barricades, barriers, walls that we build higher and stronger.  That is why the wild places are so important. The wilderness is the place we can learn to see again. I see the horrors we continue to do to each other. I see the injustices, the calamities and the pain. I see it as a gathering, glowering darkness. After the seeing comes the confessing.The wilderness is also the place where the wild spirit of truth rides the invisible wind, breathing new life into being. After the confessing comes the movement into something new – a dismantling of barriers and barricades, a making way. Then, perhaps, can come the transformation that comes like a birth, with blood and water, with pain and joy. Stop, watch, pay attention. Something incredible is going to happen. There is a fragile sign of hope – a young woman is with child and she will bear a son, Emmanuel. How hope and peace might come as a child who needs so much, who needs to know the strength and tenderness of a mother’s embrace, I do not know. And yet, as I cry now, many will lift their voices to cry – Here, here is your God!

What is it that you need to cry out, for yourself, for others, for your God?

Cry out for broken hearts to find a way to rejoice.

Cry out for tired minds and work-worn bodies to find rest.

Cry out for battered bodies and souls to find healing.

Cry out for the hungry to be fed, for the homeless to find shelter,

for the imprisoned to be set free.

Cry out for victims and oppressors, that power may be shared wisely.

Cry out for tenderness and compassion.

Cry out even if the world around you seems to be ending.

Cry out not for false words of comfort,

Cry out for the peace that you can be part of, that you can make way for. the wilderness, prepare the way .. make way … cry out!

The Angel of the North stands tall outside Gateshead, rooted into the hillside, a reminder of past industry and a challenge to future care and compassion for land and people.

The Angel of the North stands tall outside Gateshead, rooted into the hillside, a reminder of past industry and a challenge to future care and compassion for land and people.

My favourite season of Advent has arrived – catching me as always unprepared!
On Sunday we sang the Iona chant: ‘Kindle a flame to lighten the dark and take all fear away.’ That image of fire and flame, of wood catching light, was what I was staying with – in hope.
Here’s my sermon. a spark ignites brushwood .. so may your name be known.

This is the season to watch and wait, to keep awake. Who will watch and wait with us? Imagine the people throughout the ages and now. Today I imagine the reluctant leader Moses, and have found inspiration from Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s book, ‘Walking Backwards to Christmas’.

The wind whistles and rattles across the plain. Harsh and unforgiving, it scours the land, and few things grow. You hear it and you don’t. It is here and it is gone. There is a dread chill in the air. Eventually it gets inside you, and then one day the cold earth claims you for its own. The leaves on what few plants there are, fade, dry up, and when the wind blows over them – they are gone.

It is nearly evening. It goes on, the cycle of the days. The rhythm of the seasons. And I think over my life – what have I achieved, where am I going? I knew privilege, brought up in a royal palace, and now I am an outsider. Inside me is the fire of anger. It’s a fierce anger at the way my people are treated by the Egyptians. A smouldering anger that erupts sometimes – as it did the day I killed another. Then the glowing embers of hate and fear filled me – I hated myself for what I had done, and I ran for shame and fear of being discovered.

In the land of Midian I found a new life, working on the land. Though I am still a stranger, an alien – neither Egyptian nor Hebrew. A misfit. Once more I fled, into the wilderness, to hope for another way. So here I sit, in the half-light, half-dark of a day’s ending. I have let the fire go cold. Something changed today, and now I am trying to make sense of it all.

At first, it seemed an apparition, a mirage, like the illusion of water, shimmering on the horizon of the flat plain, on the border of land and sky. Then when I came closer there it was – a blazing bush, ablaze with a thrilling intensity, but not consumed in the fire. It confounded and amazed me. For I knew all too well the fiery passions that consume. My anger and fear have almost devoured me. But this was a different kind of passion – raging and rousing, flames reaching up into the sky. It’s light and beauty drew me, lit me up. I turned aside to it, drawn like a flower to the sun. And I heard a voice, calling: ‘Moses, Moses. Come, take off your sandals, for the ground on which you stand is holy.’

Barefoot I stood before the fire, heartened by the power it gave out – a life-giving, transforming. All in a moment, I was changed. I know it sounds stupid. Can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born again? Well, perhaps. That is how it felt. The voice from the fire was God’s – I know it now, and knew it then, even as I asked who it was who spoke. I was full of excuses, and wanted to turn from the voice who spoke of deliverance from slavery and suffering, and my role in the work to be done. My excuses were burnt away like brushwood lit by a spark. Yet how dare I take on this role? In desperation as much as in hope, I wanted to be sure, to have the right words to say to those who would challenge me. The voice said: ‘Say to the people, I am has sent me.’

Now, I look to the horizon, to the setting sun, imagining my future, the sunrises and tomorrows of a lifetime, and beyond it a good land, a land of abundance and hope. Hope even for me? And beyond that time, I look and catch a glimpse of another, born out of the blazing fire of another revelation, from the depths of someone ordinary like me, who is also able to say yes to God. His presence will scatter the darkness and his light will burn for ever. He will not allow his people to be slaves, He will search out the lost. He will care for the lowly. He will be salvation. He will go down into the night. Let there be hope. a spark ignites brushwood .. so may your name be known.

Embers remaining of a November evening of storytelling around the fire, at Emerson College, Sussex.

Embers remaining of a November evening of storytelling around the fire, at Emerson College, Sussex.

On the shortest day a poem by Jane Kenyon focuses on the common occurrence of nativity plays at this time of year. Most frequently performed nowadays by children, and watched by adults – what layers of interpretation, of dark and light, can be seen in these seemingly innocent festive events?

The pines look black in the half-

light of dawn. Stillness …

At the village church last night ..

the girl dressed as Mary trembled

as she leaned over the pungent hay,

and like the mother of Christ

wondered why she had been chosen.

The wind blows Christmas lights of remembering in Claydon churchyard.

The wind blows Christmas lights of remembering in Claydon churchyard.

Larkin’s poem depicts an intriguing visit to an empty village church building. There are echoes of decline – in the fabric and the emptiness. There is also a pull, a puzzling and a wondering – something rather indefinable, that has drawn the person inside.

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on

I step inside …

.. a tense, musty, unignorable silence…

Hatless, I take off

my cycle-clips in awkward reverence,…

..though I’ve no idea

what this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,

It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,

in whose blent air all our compulsions meet,

are recognised, and robed as destinies.


Late autumn light in Mollington church.

Late autumn afternoon light in Mollington church.

Matthew Arnold’s poem explores loss of faith –  maybe a particular kind of faith with emphasis on supernatural authority and certainty. Advent is the season to listen to the tides of doubt and loss, and take us into the deep waters of human experience, which also include a longing for faithful living and loving, and for hope.

..The sea of faith

was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d;

but now I only hear

its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar ..

and we are here as on a darkling plain

swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

where ignorant armies clash by night.

You can't see it here - but on my first day on Iona, I was thrilled to bits to catch a glimpse of a seal in the blustery sea.

You can’t see it here – but on my first day on Iona (in September 2011) I was thrilled to bits to catch a glimpse of a seal in the blustery sea.