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.
I’m not technically up to putting sound recordings on here, but here are some of the things I’ve seen over the last few weeks, and had the presence of mind to snap with my phone.
My 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.
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.
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!
I 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.
I made my fat balls quite a while ago, and was still wondering whether I could find anything profound to say about them in today’s blog post, when I was distracted by a loud squawking from the front garden. When I looked out I was treated to the sight of three crows fighting what I’ve since found out was probably a red-tailed hawk, for custody of a long-dead opossum. The birds were being fed but somehow this lacked the poetic warm feeling I had been hoping for. And the opossum was really stinky.
The fight over the opossum corpse had also scared all the regular garden birds away, so for today’s blog post there are some birds that we see on the school run. They are very ordinary urban sparrows, and they like to gather together on the telegraph wires. We see them every day, and we really really like them, because they’re ordinary, and small, and because we think the poor things must stick around for the long, cold Ohio winters (otherwise they would have left by now). Also, sparrows are very biblical (see Matthew 10.29). So, here’s a not very good poetic tribute to them, but a little sonnet is the best I could do – sorry birds, you deserve better!
If two are worth a penny – no great cost –
then this great crowd is worth at least a quid;
I’d pay far more to know that I’d not lost
such life, by winter’s frost and cold outbid.
They thickly fur the wires overhead
like iron filings on a magnet’s pole,
Grey-brown against the sky looks black instead
and all the parts blur dark within the whole.
This testament to fragile nature’s strength
in numbers: cold alone, together warm,
as all along the endless cable’s length
they huddle, side by side, before the storm.
A noise – a whir of wings – and then, as one,
the whole great flock lifts skywards, and is gone.