Advent 3 – Stars in a dark place – Thursday 14th December – Philippians 3:7-11

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I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,v10

This is a profound statement about values, saying that a relationship with Christ is more important than anything else. In our western world, we have the freedom to worship God in the way we choose.  Paul gave up everything, family,  friendship and political freedom to follow Christ. This may seem strange to us, but persecuted Christians in the world still have this decision to make. To openly follow Christ in North Korea will mean certain death, so Christians meet in secret, and carry no symbols of their faith. As Christmas approaches,  remember the people who crept in beside Jesus at the manger, the onlookers, and the many who are never mentioned in the nativity story, yet still carried their memory of his birth with them through life, knowing that he as unique and special. This is the hope and promise many cling to today.

God Immanuel!  Your name is to be praised Amen

 

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Advent …. 1.Great Expectations

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Advent !… I love Advent … yet I have already succumbed to the rush of the Christmas , the consumerism , the general mayhem of chaos, struggling to put the Christ into Christmas.

I started Advent with conducting a quiet day for people who needed to stop, reflect and wait for the meaning of Christmas… yet look at me!.. quickly involved in Christmas activities . I ask myself .. what do I expect from Advent ? is it stillness ? is it preparation time ? .. or is to look ahead to the future … of my expectations what the Babe of Bethlehem will bring in my ministry and in my life and discipleship. Over the next few weeks…. from Advent right through to Epiphany, I shall be offering my thoughts and reflections on certain passages with ‘Great Expectations’ in mind. Advent for me is a period when I offer to God my life and heart at the cradle, and I wait in Great Expectations of how God will use me in the coming year

1 John 1 :5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 

In the darkness I have no identity

In the darkness I have no opinions

In the darkness no one can see me

In the darkness I am a shadow person

 

The Light looks frightening as it will reveal all my faults

The Light looks risky as it will show my imperfections

The Light looks warm as it creeps and disperses the shadows that surround me

The light looks strong as it permeates into every nook and cranny

 

As I wait to take the first step

from the shadow lands of my existence

to the open warmth of the light,

my soul flutters with excitement….

 

Knowing that my life never be the same

Knowing that my heart will be full of Love

Knowing that my journey will be a journey filled with Hope and Love.

Holy Spirit strengthen me to journey into the Light

Ruth Dillon

Small boy reflecting on Good Friday

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I have a had a very interesting Good Friday.The service went well , ecumenical , quiet and reflective with some music from Keith Duke from Lindesfarne; only one reflection from Mary Jesus mother, and then each person took a nail to the cross and laid it down before the candle was extinguished.

How ever the most powerful image that will remain with me, is the image of my 8 yr old grandson on the floor gazing at the cross( see picture). When I asked him if he was OK … he said yes .. I was just thinking about the pain that Jesus must have had once nails were in him …..he then told me that he liked the red cloth as it reminded him of the blood , but also of the pain the world we live in.  I said that many people live in Good Friday and Holy Saturday mode … that all people can daily see and feel is pain and terror and fear, never getting to the resurrection hope that Easter Day brings.

Even though I obtained have a first class BA honours in Contextual Theology, and Masters in Theology, this simple act and conversation with my grandson that I witnessed spoke to me much more that words can imagine.

He knew pain, from his short life and personal experience, and knew it was part of life and living …yet he sat here thinking about how Jesus had helped him.

Thank God for children , who minister and teach us !!

Good Friday God,

When we can be immersed in Liturgies and words ,

The simple act of a sitting and reflecting in a childlike way …is all it takes ..

As we gaze at the cross, let us be aware of the pain of others

As we see your arms outstretched holding the world in an embrace.

Heal our wounds by your love for us

As we hear the cries of  friends,  families and strangers  who stood  before you .

Help us move from

the pain of living …..to the hope of abundant blessing.

In Jesus name …..we  pray this today Amen

Advent ….Seeking the ‘thin places’ where earth meets heaven

The statement would be do you prefer Christmas or Easter?It’s a little like that joke, which came first the chicken or the egg.You see you cannot have Easter without Christmas, and you cannot have the meaning of Christmas without the impact of Easter.

Christmas, and more importantly Advent is about waiting to find that special place where God creeps bedside us, where he slips into the world. Advent is a time to prepare for that moment, and in the gospel of Matthew Jesus states, we should be ready and prepared for the moment.

Can you remember when Jesus came and crept in beside you ?

I can recall many instances this year where God slipped in beside me. You see advent is not so much about the arrival, but the journey we take to arrive at that, moment. It is important that we travel, spiritually, emotionally and some physically through the seasons in search of that ‘thin place’ where God is waiting.. I say thin, because we may miss it.

‘Thin places’, where earth and heaven merge even for a short time are all around if we are prepared to look.

As a nurse I remember a women who was dying , she did not welcome visitors, but she would always want a chair pulled up next to her bed. Everyone was really concerned that she deterred visitors and even refused visits. Her room was always one of peace and tranquilly, yet none of us could work out why until she told us. She said that she imagined that all her family and friends who had gone before her were sat close, very close to her, and Jesus sat there too, talking and laughing with her.

Are we prepared to look for the thin places and find God?

In Advent, many people seek a mountain top exhilaration, and excitement of the Christmas season, however you may feel it has been an uphill slog for quite a while. If you have been ill, unemployed, bereaved, disappointed and especially at Advent we remember those people who have been affected by the HIV/AIDS Virus…  yet it is in the mundane and ordinary where God shows his face, I want to recall two such incidences that I have met God in a thin place .

For me Zambia is a place where I have always felt God presence, not in the wealth, for there is little wealth, but in the poverty. I have been truly blessed to meet God in the thin place, that veil of a place between heaven and earth , the heaven showing the reality of God’s love ,and the earthly poverty of human selfishness and greed . At home I have a pot, a clay pot, similar to the clay pot recalled in Jeremiah, where God breaks a pot and then puts it back together. The pot was given to me by Maria , an elderly Zambian lady who lives in the bush. In her I see all the hope for her family, the joy of her grandchildren and the pain of living with a deadly Virus, HIV/AIDS. She has brought up her 13 grandchildren, as her children have all died of the virus. In that pot… she holds her dreams, her hopes for the world she lives in , she hold the pain, and suffering , but she also hold the love and peace of God , and she waits… she knows she waits with God.

Yet in her face, I have meet God,

her eyes crinkled with joy of motherhood,

and yet eyes that have cried so many tears,

her skin and hands rough from working the land,

are the hands that held me in warmth love and genuine affection.

As I looked at Maria, I truly felt the love of God enfold me through the pain of her living.

Secondly, on a dark August night, I undertook a 24 prayer vigil at church. As I waited patiently for the hour and minute  hand to move around , a wonderful thing happened, I felt a peace,  a tranquillity, an unhurried presence , where I rested in God’s presence.My calling a minister was affirmed that night , where as a looked a mirror to aid my prayers , I stared at my reflection and  felt God say to me  you are my daughter with whom I am pleased.

Our calling through Advent  is to stand firm to our promise and our calling as disciples… to be faithful to God and all that God asks of us.  As you stand on the brink of waiting for God to creep beside you, remember that God delights in you, and for you who wait and stay alert….. glorious things will happen .

We are always waiting for what God would want of us, and God creeps besides us in the ordinary and the mundane.God may present an opportunity, a thin and spiritual place may occur and he will see who is awake and who is sleeping !!! As we light the Advent candle each week , I pray that God will continue to lightened our journey, not just as individuals but as people who are committed to serve and to allow Jesus to serve you, through the many people who work in his name

Which statement do you prefer, Easter or Christmas, don’t forget that you cannot have one without the other, you cannot have the waiting without the result.