Love Life Live Advent – 22nd December – Say Sorry

Today’s action: What do you need to say sorry for, or to let go of before Christmas? Give it to God.

Christmas is a time when we sing of ‘Peace on earth’ but can often experience the opposite – busyness, worry about money, and visits from relatives can all create tension and make tempers run high, just at a time when we most desire peace of heart and mind.

If there’s someone you really need to say sorry to, think about how best to do it.  Sometimes a handwritten letter goes a long way, sometimes a face to face apology is what’s needed.  Giving a gift, especially something home-made that needed some time and effort, can be a powerfully helpful part making peace with someone.

Often, though, it’s just a general sense that time has left us a bit worn and scuffed, or simply need to make peace with ourselves about the past year.  It can help to do something (as well as think it) to let go of any regrets.  Why not try one of these ideas?

  • On a cold day, you can breathe onto a window pane, and then write in the condensation. Try writing something down that you want to leave behind, then as you give your thoughts to God, wipe it off and spend a moment finding something beautiful in what you can see out of the window.
  • Write down your regret on a small piece of paper and (very carefully) burn it in a candle flame as you offer your thoughts to God. Spend a moment enjoying the warmth and light of the candle flame.
  • Take an object that looks as if it doesn’t have much left to offer (a dead twig, a small screwed up ball of paper etc, a dried up leaf), and give it a new lease of life by spraying it gold – attach a loop of thread to it and hang it on your tree – as you do so, offer yourself to God with all your faults and failings as well as all your gifts, and ask him to do something wonderful with you this year.
  • Hold a shiny Christmas tree bauble in your hand, so that you can see your face reflected in it. Think about what you see – the things about yourself that make you happy, and the things you’d like to change. As you look at your own reflection, ask God to help you see yourself as he sees you.

Love Life Live Advent – 20th December – look at a candle flame

advent calendar candleMy daughter was baptised on 31st October (to be fair, it was a Sunday that year, and we were celebrating All Saints) so every year her lovely godparents give her (and us) something to do during Advent. Often it is one of those lovely candles that you light every evening, burning about a quarter of an inch of it while you eat your dinner. I am particularly impressed that they managed to post the candle to us and that it arrived in one piece, having traveled several thousand miles to do so!

It’s a lovely tradition, and we’ve done rather better with it this year than last; because I am not working in the evenings, we have eaten a lot more meals together as a family, and we’ve shared this beautiful candle flame every night.  It’s generated some lovely questions from the children about what all the ‘name of Jesus’ actually mean.  Some they know well (Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace) while some are less familiar (Lion of Judah). There is always plea, ‘Can I strike the match to light it this time?’ and a firm, parental, ‘no’; there is also a brief, generally good-natured tussle about who will get to blow it out.

But mostly we love the flame. We love how it reminds us that it’s Advent, and that it’s special. We love how lighting a candle makes our dinners feel special, even if we’re eating mash and beans. We even bought it a candle stick from the thrift store, so that the light from the flame could be reflected by the shiny brass.

And we love how when we blow it out, the smoke twists and swirls to fill the room, and yet just stops short of setting the alarm off.

A candle means all these things.  Enjoy one today – and every day until the Light of Christ comes into the world.

Love Life Live Advent – 15th December – poems & pictures

We had a little time left over after we finished our Jesse Tree at children’s chapel on Sunday morning, so we got ahead and did some work on the task of drawing some pictures for the Christmas story for today’s task. christmas pictures
There were quite a lot of angels (because we’d just made the angel bauble for our Jesse Tree) but also the odd other item from the tree – Noah and his rainbow are there, as is a heart/flower combination representing Mary, and a wonderfully complex set of heart symbols for different ideas about God from one of our six year olds!

2013-03-08 00.29.35I was too busy picking up pens and pairs of scissors to draw a picture at children’s chapel, so here’s one I made earlier. It’s acrylic paint on canvas, and if you squint a little it’s the Holy Family. Mostly the colours are about the love that exists between the three figures, and that seems to me to be at the heart of Christmas.

For completeness’ sake, here is a poem that I wrote for Christmas last year – it’s really a sermon I wrote (which was based on the lovely Christmas collect that talks about heaven touching earth) then condensed into a sonnet!

Prophetic visions since the world began
(so far before salvation’s human birth)
would speak of God’s tremendous loving plan
for heav’n to touch the long-estrangèd earth.
Those ancient words at last began to be
in flesh and skin and bone and blood unfurled
In maiden womb and half-made family –
so heaven stooped to touch a fallen world.
Amongst the stable beasts behind the inn,
the baby’s eyes saw first a loving mother;
even though their world was full of sin,
yet heav’n touched earth for each in one another.
Now we cry for peace, goodwill to men,
and for God’s heaven to touch his earth again.

Love Life Live Advent – 9th December – give a free gift

Today’s action is possibly the most quandary-inducing of the whole four weeks’ worth. We are to give a Christmas gift to someone who will not be expecting it, and who will not be giving one to us. Ah, free grace and generosity are fraught with such dilemmas of social ettiquette! What if our gift induces a flurry of last minute reciprocation? Or guilt at failing to reciprocate? Would an anonymous gift solve the problem or intensify it, as generosity goes unthanked, or is mistakenly thought to be more than it is – a simple act of kindness?

Unless I am the only person in the world who worries about such things, then this action could be hugely important, not so much in the act of giving but in the act of receiving. For it may well be more blessed to give than to receive, but it is often far harder to receive gracefully than to give gracefully: This action could teach us how to receive that which we have not earned. And there it is: a little glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.