Though we are not currently doing a verse and prayer for the day I would like to share with you some prayers or thoughts on prayer each day from Joy Huggett’s book ‘learning the language of prayer’. So today’s prayer:
Lord God, create in me such a homesickness for you that I am compelled to find a place where I can contemplate you and meet with you. Amen
My last offering was a comic poem by a former poet laureate – Talking Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah.
This one is more serious and is by someone who could never hope to reach such heights.
I have called it “2020”. I hope you enjoy it.
What a year!
It will go down in history
It spreads like wildfire;
Nothing can stop it.
God – will you help us?
Understand that I love you all.
As scientists work to provide a vaccine
Lockdowns are put in place
Looking to contain this menace.
Anxiety increases as time goes by.
Hopefully you are all well.
And will continue to be so.
People rally together
Protecting and providing for those in need.
Yes – out of adversity comes opportunity to do good.
Christmas is near;
Hope increases as the first vaccine is here;
Realistically though the message is clear –
It will take time – maybe till Easter and beyond?
Slowly but surely normality will return
Technology has helped; Skype, Whatsapp and Zoom.
Many have found these a real boon
As a means of meeting with, seeing and talking to each other.
So we go on. Wishing you all a Happy New Year.
Into the Darkest Hour
– Madeleine L’Engle
It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss –
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.
It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight –
and yet the Prince of bliss came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.
And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is:
with no room on the earth,
the stable is our heart.
“Earthed” by Jeremy Williams
Ring a bell,
call a parade,
get this on the evening news.
Let everything on earth,
and beneath the earth and above it,
and everything in the sea too,
from the oak to the octopus,
bees, bears, birds, buffalo, bacteria,
and human beings,
We have an announcement.
The waiting is over.
The gap is breached.
Tell the lame they will dance
and the blind they will see rainbows.
Tell the oppressed they will be free
and the poor they will be rich.
Tell the meek their earth is ready.
Tell darkness its days are numbered
and its minions to flee,
tell the warmongers
that peace will overtake them
and cover their battletanks in dust.
Let the wind shake the forest,
and ripple praise across the grasslands.
Let the mountaintops sparkle with joy.
Your God is for you; your God is with you,
Let all creation sing his welcome.
But whisper it,
the baby is sleeping.
I’d never seen this poem until recently, but it caught my eye with its simplicity – especially after another complicated Covid weekend.
We probably all feel desperate for good news, for signs that change is coming. A great thing to reflect on as we remember that Jesus arrived on a silent, holy night into a world divided by a cruel superpower, when rich and poor were divided, and hope was in short supply. This poem reminds us that we have good reason to rejoice and have hope. Change has come! “We have an announcement.
The waiting is over.
The gap is breached.”
But we need to pay attention, because the miracle came as a tiny baby, sleeping in His mother’s arms. Too easy to overlook…
In the busyness and chaos of this Christmas week, perhaps your plans have been changed or you’re dreading a lonely or frantically busy time. Or perhaps you’re ready and excited about Christmas! Whichever one describes you, let’s all be looking out for the little miracles which show that God is present and at work.
“Your God is for you; your God is with you,
Let all creation sing his welcome.”
This time next week, unless you are vegan or vegetarian, I guess you will all be preparing to eat your turkey dinner.
If you like a fresh turkey rather than a frozen one then you may still be yet to buy your turkey, in which case please don’t let this put you off. Sometimes though, it is nice to see the view from the other side. Enjoy!
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos’ turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don’t eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I’m on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.
Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
“I cannot wait for de chop”,
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.
I once knew a turkey called…….. Turkey
He said “Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?”,
I said “I am not too sure turkey
But it’s nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash’.
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey’ll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends ‘FOR LIFE’.
The Invitation: a Christmas poem by Mark Greene
To Mary, the invitation came, skyborne on angel’s wings,
Heaven sent and pregnant with possibilities.
For, God knows, she had reasons to say ‘no’,
Her future, til then, so serenely assured:
A home, her good name, a husband to wed.
Everything indeed for which she thought she’d been bred.
Are such so easily cast aside?
Would love, security, reputation
Be so swiftly pried
From our determined grasp?
How other people’s risks seem simpler to take,
Our own stubborn knots so much harder to break.
To us, the royal invitation also comes,
Though usually in less spectacular script,
Sans seraph, but daily clear, which way will we go?
Of course, we are free to decline,
But ‘no’, promising more for now, always leads to less,
Better, braver, wiser, surely simply to say…
Here is my choice for our Advent-themed anthology of poems and carols. It was written by Mark Greene, who is probably my favourite Christian poet. For the past 21 years, he has been Executive Director of LICC, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. In this poem, Mark describes what may have been going on in Mary’s mind as she thought about her encounter with the angel, and the invitation she received. Mark ends by inviting us all to consider how we respond to God’s invitations to us today.
This favourite poem of mine imagines the wise men “following the star” – a long and hard journey but undertaken in hope despite the doubts and questions, a journey of faith – and hope fulfilled. I find it inspiring. Rachel:
Journey of the Magi
T. S. Eliot
“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
Before Christ – BC:AD – Anno Domini (the year of the Lord) or before and after as U.A. Fanthorpe puts it in her poem. And her before and after focuses on that infinitesimal nanosecond between the two ‘when nothing happened’ and the Romans had nothing better to do than count heads, and yet is the point at which Jesus was born and everything happened to the point that the reckoning of time in the then known world changed. What an amazing moment when God came to earth and was born as a helpless baby and yet for most people at the time it was just another moment when nothing happened.
Much is being discussed on the media of whether Christmas can be celebrated this year but most people today only celebrate the social trappings that have become associated with the festival and have become traditional in a relatively short space of time: the exact opposite of Fanthorpe’s description of Jesus’ birth. What a contrast of the non-celebration of the most amazing nanosecond in history and the obscenely extravagant celebrations of nothing in most people’s lives. With the benefit of hind-sight we can celebrate that amazing moment in history, not with an overspend on excesses of food and drink and unwanted gifts, but with real rejoicing in our hearts, with joy in our voices in well-known carols as our minds remember again God’s gift of Hope, Jesus, come to save us. Let us share it with everyone we come into contact with, as and when we can!