transformed christmas

Her wrinkled hands touched the tree
lovingly
as though she held eighty Christmases in a touch.
And then she turned to us and smiled
joyfully
and thanked us that she was here now,
celebrating with us the birth of her Lord.
Turning again to the tree, she drew from her bag
carefully
the gifts that she offered,
and bending slightly, she placed them under the tree.
No gold, no frankincense, no myrrh
were greater gifts than hers
who gave all that she had
in celebration of his birth.*

*“In Celebration of his birth” Ann Weems Kneeling in Bethlehem.

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This Christmas there will be a photo of my parents near our Christmas tree. We had hoped to be together this year, but they are instead with the Lord they loved and served for so many years. Their deaths have completely changed Christmas for me this year, as I reflect on becoming (in a very real sense) an orphan. So the table will be smaller, we will miss Mum’s homeliness in her kitchen, and Dad’s silly antics (and his monobrow!) There will be moments of pause and sadness and tears. I won’t deny that a deep sadness will accompany me this Christmas.

The four advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are important in their essence because they touch our hearts at times when we are hope-less, rest-less, sad, and without love. Their importance is raised off the pages of a book or liturgy precisely when they are most desperately needed. Christmas is one of those times.

So will that grief be the only story in my Christmas? I hope not. Because Christmas is not primarily about my happiness, nor is its purpose to fulfil my needs. Family is important at Christmas, but Christmas is not ‘about family’. While children bring delight and wonder and boundless joy, Christmas is not ‘for children’. Christmas is not only to be observed when my world is complete enough, I am worthy enough or when I feel like it.

The Christmas story urges us to take a moment to lift our gaze off ourselves. Whether we look the baby in the face with the shepherds, or follow the wise men and generously give something of value to another, or gaze in stunned wonder with Mary and Joseph at the scene of millions of people at worship … the Christmas story does not seek to deny my grief, but to touch its reality with hope, peace, joy and love.

Can I allow the Christmas story to transform my story – like the woman in Ann Weems’ poem who lovingly, joyfully and carefully participated in Christmas for others, and for One Other?

I hope that this year, The One who gave everything might meet your gaze or your grief or your doubt with hope, peace, joy and love.

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What shall I bring?

What shall I bring?

The Shepherds sought the baby in the manger.
The Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Over the years …
Artists have contributed paintings, poems, sculptures;
Families have brought their children to hear the story
and Individuals have served food to the hungry.

This year, what will I bring?

++

What shall I bring?

If I bring myself …
to this story,
to this scene,
to these characters,
sitting here quietly for 5 minutes …

How might this change me?
What questions or responses does this story invite in my heart?

++

What shall I bring?

Born in a stable, in a little town that was not his home,
Jesus came into this world homeless, in poverty,
and soon became a refugee because his birth was a threat to a leader.

What does this story, told today,
tell me about what God is prepared to do to love us?

I look at the manger scene;
I look at my hands.

What can I learn about love in this world?
What shall I bring?

Joyful Presence

Today I choose to express
Joy.
In bucketfuls.

In a shot glass or a demitasse
there is but a taste.

Joy served in a teacup is nice
and civilised
and polite.

Joy served in a mug
lasts just long enough for curiosity,
but it will only dampen the grumps
(And to be honest, it’s a bit selfish!)

But in a bucket?
There’s way too much for me to drink alone
– I’d have to share and share.
Pouring it out for others;
Looking out for those frowns and downturned mouths and turned up noses.
For Joyful presence isn’t about
Me.
Nor is it about the division of difference in
us or them.
But
us for them.

THAT’s good news for the poor
the broken-hearted
the oppressed
those who mourn.

An abundant, generous Joyful presence.

I heard it in the shopping center today: “Joy to the world”
And then I looked at the faces.
Some were smiling and content and laughing.
But too many were grumpy. Too much to do, and way too much frustration.

Written for Advent 3, 2016.  Rev Nigel Hanscamp

A Hope-Filled space

When I hope,
I’m not wishing.
For I can live without my wish.
But if I am deprived of hope,
I have nothing to live for.

Hope-full
or hope-empty?
It is not a trivial thing to have hope
or to lose it.

Hope lost or held
lost and found.
They tell us that in
war, or concentration camps
in cancer and in unemployment
hope makes the ultimate difference.
For despair is the ultimate killer.

But a hope-filled space
That is a space for a spark
or a roaring fire
or a single candle flame like this one.

You.
You have something the human race needs.
No, not your money, or your status.
It’s your hope.
Enough. hope.
Just enough.

Is that a wish?

– no. Far from it.

It is space for hope.