Archive for December, 2015

Advent Calendar Door #25 – Jesus is…here

Posted: December 25, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

This blog has only scratched the surface of the one whose birth we celebrate today, but I hope you have enjoyed this journey through Advent and have come to know him a little better. I will leave you now with a final video from Dan Stevers.

Happy Christmas! I wish you a day full of blessings, however small and unexpected they may be. And may you ever seek for him, as he has sought for you.

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Advent Calendar Door #24 – Jesus is…coming

Posted: December 24, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today we have our final set of images from Si Smith’s Advent series, and they may just be my favourite.

coming

I love the honesty of this depiction of Jesus’ birth. I imagine labour covers pretty much the full range of human emotions, and here is God right in the middle of all of that.

This period of Advent has been a period of waiting. Mary and Joseph waited with no idea of what life had in store for them, and perhaps we also wait with a sense of uncertainty, but because of Christ we can peek ahead and see the hope that awaits.

And so because Jesus is coming but he is also already here, I couldn’t resist showing you the end of the story. Or rather the end of this little bit of the story, because this is really only just the beginning…

here

Advent Calendar Bonus Door – Jesus is…God

Posted: December 23, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

As a special almost-Christmas treat, here is Simon talking about why Christmas is so important.

Advent Calendar Door #23 – Jesus is…light of the world

Posted: December 23, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today we have the Christmas Day reflection from the YBA, written by Rev Mary Taylor. I know it’s a couple of days early, but hopefully that gives you some time to give it a read and take away anything you might like to use for a quiet five minutes on the day itself.

CHRISTMAS DAY – THE CHRIST CANDLE

The Journey through Advent reflects our own life journey and the journey of our world. What is our direction of travel and who or what provides us with the map?

The first words of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, James and John were Follow me.

To the weary and heavy-laden, Jesus said Come to me.

To those thirsty for real life, Jesus invited Believe in me.

And to those looking for light in the darkness, Jesus says, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

But it all began with the greatest mystery of all, which is the journey of God through human experience, all the way from growing in the womb of Mary to a murderous death. We do not need to strive to ascend to God, because God in Jesus has made the journey down to us. He walked alongside us. He is Emmanuel – God with us. And this is the reason for our Christmas celebrations.

 

TO DO:

Find a quiet 5 minutes in the Christmas celebrations. Light a candle and slowly read these words from John’s Gospel. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak directly to your heart about this mystery.

The Word Became Flesh John 1: 1-18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

 

TO THINK ABOUT:

What do we learn about God from Jesus who lived among us?

Why would I choose darkness rather than light?

Why do I often find it harder to receive grace than to receive law?

 

 

TO READ AND REFLECT ON:

That Holy Thing

by George MacDonald Fraser

 

They all were looking for a king

To slay their foes and lift them high:

Thou cam’st, a little baby thing

That made a woman cry.

 

O Son of Man, to right my lot

Naught but Thy presence can avail;

Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,

Nor on the sea Thy sail!

 

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,

But come down Thine own secret stair,

That Thou mayst answer all my need—

Yea, every bygone prayer.

 

 

 

Christmas Prayer

by Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Loving Father,

Help us remember the birth of Jesus,

that we may share in the song of angels,

the gladness of the shepherds,

and the worship of the wise men.

 

Close the door of hate

and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift

and good desires with every greeting.

 

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,

and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children,

and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds

with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven,

for Jesus’ sake,

Amen!

Advent Calendar Door #22 – Jesus is…an activist

Posted: December 22, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today’s reflection was inspired by a conversation during the ‘God is Jesus’ session, during which Jamie said that he saw Jesus as an activist, using protest and theatre to challenge the status quo.

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It might be a slightly flippant meme, but it does have a point. When Jesus was confronted with corruption in the temple, he reacted in dramatic fashion.

Perhaps the turning over of the tables was an expression of an overflow of emotion, or perhaps it was a very calculated decision to do something that would attract attention and start conversations. Ezekiel approached prophecy as performance poetry, and perhaps Jesus too had a flair for the theatrical and the artistic. He certainly knew what he was doing and what effect he was creating when he rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Either way, Jesus saw that things had gone awry and his response was not to turn away and hope someone else would deal with it, or take up his quill and write a perfectly crafted letter from Disgusted of Nazareth, but to take positive action towards change.

I’m as guilty as anyone of retreating into the safety of my own home to rant against prejudice and injustice, so please don’t think I’m speaking from higher ground here, but the truth is that we often recognise what is wrong in the world but do nothing about it, perhaps because taking on political and social systems seems too overwhelming and we don’t know what to do, or perhaps because there are too many other things knocking protest down our list of priorities.

Jesus challenges us make a stand and make it loudly and boldly. We can’t each fix all the problems of the world, and we have to pick our battles if we’re going to fight them effectively, but we are called to make our voices heard, both in prayer and in practice.

 

 

 

Advent Calendar Door #21 – Jesus is…Prince of Peace

Posted: December 21, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

We have an extra YBA reflection to get in this week, so slightly earlier than normal, here is the meditation on the fourth candle, this time by by Rev Graham Ensor.

THE 4th CANDLE OF ADVENT

The fourth Candle of Advent is the candle of peace – which reminds me of two contrasting newspaper articles I read recently, both of which will be familiar to you.

One was by Donald Trump calling for, ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on’.

The other was a posting on Facebook by Chris Herbert, a soldier who served in the British Army and lost his leg when a bomb went off next to his Land Rover in Basra, Iraq in 2007. He wrote:

Getting frustrated by some people expecting racism from me, because I got blown up. Here it is:

Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg.

A Muslim man also lost his arm that day wearing a British uniform.

A Muslim medic was in the helicopter that took me from the field

A Muslim surgeon performed the surgery that saved my life

A Muslim Nurse was part of the team that helped me when I returned to the UK

A Muslim Healthcare Assistant was part of the team that sorted out my day to day needs in rehabilitation when I was learning to walk

A Muslim taxi driver gave me a free ride the first time I went for a beer with my Dad after I came home.

A Muslim doctor offered my Dad comfort and advice in a pub, when he didn’t know how to deal with my medicines and side effects.

As I reflected on those two stories during this fourth week in Advent it made me think that one of these men was a peacemaker, the other in all essence, a peace-breaker.

To be honest I find it astounding that Donald Trump wasn’t arrested for religious hate crime. His version of creating secure borders must come close to committing this offence. It certainly seems he knows nothing at all about peace – which many of you will know comes from the Hebrew word ‘shalom’, and means much more than stillness and harmony. It also incorporates ideas of wholeness and completeness, welfare and tranquility and refers not just to the wellbeing of individuals but also entire communities.

Of course during this season of Advent we recall the heavenly host bringing a message of peace. Luke tells us that angels appeared to shepherds on a hillside, saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to [all] men on whom his favour rests;’ meaning Christmas is the time when we especially remember how God works towards our wellbeing and wholeness which is the sum total of his peace. Presumably, thereafter, we’re called to reflect that peace in the way we respond to others; and by others I don’t just mean individuals, but whole communities, as per the definition of shalom; and by peace I don’t just mean stillness and harmony but wholeness and completeness, which Christians seek to do in a variety of different ways at Christmas, with the Bless Lebanon appeal being a positive addition in 2015.

As we travel around Yorkshire it’s so encouraging to hear positive stories of generosity in our Baptist network; of how together we’re making a difference in people’s lives, transforming communities, as we reflect the God of peace. It’s also appropriate at this point to say a big thank-you for your support of our sisters and brothers fleeing to Lebanon, who we trust will find a measure of ‘peace’ through our generosity.

As Advent leads into the season of Christmas may God grant us grace and strength to be peacemakers – like Chris Herbert, who through his posting reflects the generous God we all serve.

 

PEACE

Peace between neighbours,

Peace between kindred,

Peace between lovers,

In the love of the King of life.

 

Peace between person and person,

Peace between wife and husband,

Peace between woman and children,

The peace of Christ above all peace.

 

Bless, O Christ, my face,

Let my face bless, every thing;

Bless, O Christ, mine eye,

Let mine eye, bless all it sees.

 

Carmina Gadelica

Advent Calendar Door #20 – Jesus is…small

Posted: December 20, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today’s reflection is brought to us by Mike, and came out of the ‘God is Jesus’ session that inspired this advent blog.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus into the world. It’s a time when Christians reflect on God descending from heaven into the mess and chaos of human experience. It’s a testimony to God’s love and his mercy and his grace toward us, his disobedient creations. One thing that I’ve noticed is that, throughout the Old Testament, when people encountered God they were generally afraid. Fire and thunder and an immense and overwhelming sense of presence meant that most people would bow and fall down before the might and the strength of God.

Compare this with how Jesus arrives. Quietly, almost secretly, not in some grand apartment or large palace, but a stable. Not as a prince or noble, but child of a poor family held in disgrace by their relatives. Not fear this time. Only the love of a mother for her new born baby. Only the humble adoration of shepherds, the sincere worship and prophesy of foreign mystics.

Now we know the end of the story, we know of the massive shift in human understanding of God that took place. We know of the radical and outrageous grace that stemmed from Jesus’ death. But on that night when there is a new born baby lying in a manger, a child left behind in the temple, a young man at a wedding who turns water to wine, a travelling healer and wandering preacher branded a dangerous threat by the establishment, it all centres on one man.

Jesus was a man who respected that he had limits, often pushing himself to the edge, but then taking alone time to pray and to reflect and to recharge. I know of many Christians who don’t accept their humanity. They drive themselves endlessly to serve others until they have nothing left. If Jesus could acknowledge his human limitations, what’s our excuse? Jesus wasn’t a super hero, he couldn’t or wouldn’t make all the bad stuff go away, but what he did do was always make a difference where he was. Changing lives one encounter, one conversation at a time.

The Jewish people were expecting a mighty and heroic conqueror to destroy the ruling foreign power and establish the ‘chosen people’ at the top of the hierarchy forever. What they got instead wasn’t an army. It was a single, quiet, humble and compassionate man.

One man.

Twelve friends.

A two thousand year legacy.

Jesus is small.