Tag Archives: trouble

Christmas’ Golden Box

Once upon a time,

there was a man

who worked very hard

just to keep food

on the table

for his family.

 

This particular year

And

a few days before Christmas,

he scolded

his little five-year-old daughter.

 

Because he had found out

that she had used up

the family’s only roll

of expensive gold wrapping paper.

As money was tight,

he became even more upset

when

on Christmas Eve

he saw that the child

had used all that paper

to decorate just one shoebox

she had put under the Christmas tree.

 

He also was concerned

about where

she had got hold of the money

to buy what was in

the box.

Nevertheless, the next morning

the little girl,

filled with excitement,

brought the gift box

to her father and said,

“This is for you, Daddy!”

As he opened the box,

the father was embarrassed

by his earlier overreaction,

now regretting

how he had been angry

with her.

But when he opened the shoebox,

he found it was empty

and again his anger flared.

 

“Don’t you know, young lady,”

he said harshly,

“when you give someone a present,

there’s supposed to be

something inside the package!”

The little girl looked up at him

with sad tears

rolling from her eyes

and whispered:

“Daddy, it’s not empty.

 

I blew kisses into it

until it was all full.”

The father was crushed.

 

He fell on his knees

and put his arms

around his precious little girl.

 

He begged her to forgive him

for his unnecessary temper.

An accident

took the life of the child

only a short time later.

 

It is told that the father

then kept this little gold box

by his bed

for all the years of his life.

 

Whenever he was discouraged

or faced difficult problems,

he would open the box,

take out an imaginary kiss,

and remember the love

of this beautiful child

who had put it there.
That is both and sad

and uplifting story.

 

Yet for all of us

who have reached

a certain age,

we know life

to be both bitter and sweet.

 

But despite that

we still try

to candy coat Christmas.

 

We spend too much,

eat too much

and become couch potatoes

too much.

 

And then…

and then it’s all over.

 

That is the moment

we feel like that father

who opened

that apparently empty shoebox.

 

It’s at that moment,

we exclaim –

is that it!

 

It is that moment,

we feel a bit cheated.

 

However, that feeling

forgets that Christmas

is like that

beautifully wrapped present

the little girl

gave her father.

 

For the true content

of Christmas is invisible.

 

It is the invisible idea

that there is a Creator God

who came down to earth

not as a thunderbolt

but a baby risking human hands.

 

The idea

that he did this

for no other reason

that his concern

for each and everyone of us.

 

The idea

that we can respond

to this unseen present

by showing concern,

companionship and even love others.

 

Since who can doubt

that Christmas

does make the world

a better place.

 

For don’t we greet

total strangers

on the 25th

with a smile

and a ‘Merry Christmas’?

 

Don’t we give generously

to charities

for human beings

in trouble, far and near?

 

Don’t we revel,

if only for a day,

in a peace

that seems beyond understanding

but not out knowing?

 

And the answer are – Yes we do!

 

The Australian columnist

Clive James

once wrote

of visiting Paris

 and reading

the author Albert Camus.

For he said –

I wanted to write like that,

 in a prose that sang like poetry.

I wanted to look like him.

 I wanted to wear

 a Bogart-style trench coat

 with the collar turned up,

 have an untipped Gauloise

dangling from my lower lip,

 and die

 romantically

 in a car crash.

He then decided

quite wisely

to keep the crash

for a more propitious moment.

However, he then wrote –

when you leave Paris,

you also leave behind

 the person

you might have been.

Let us then

not leave Christmas behind.

 Let us not leave Christmas

 like a discarded empty box.

 Let us see more

than its golden wrapper.

 Let us not leave

the person Christmas

 could make us.

Instead let us

open and open again

 the gift of Christmas.

And then blow

its kisses of love

towards people

who need their presence

more than most.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah’s Promises

Jeremiah 36.1-7 (p798)

Jeremiah 31.31- 37 (p793)

 

Promises! Promises! Promises! If there is one word that can sum up this year politically it is promises. And whether they will be fulfilled remains to be seen.

 

Yet life is full of promises which are not quite all that they seem. The small print in that insurance policy. The advert which is misleading. Or, more trivially, the food that is not as tasty as the picture on its packaging suggests. So, in a way, we are quite sceptical even cynical of promises.

 

Yet in Jeremiah we hear of two promises. One which is summarised for the Israelites in the scroll that Baruch reads out in the temple.  Since, in our first lesson, God is portrayed as promising judgement upon their ruler and themselves. In fact, that is a recurrent theme throughout the Book of Jeremiah. Nevertheless, elsewhere in Jeremiah we have found a more palatable promise; the promise – I will be their God and they will be my people. A promise indeed we hear echoed in the words of the last supper – the words we repeat communion upon communion – the words that we find made flesh in our lives through the risen Christ.

 

How then do we reconcile these two apparently opposing promises? How do we find hope as well as admonishment in Jeremiah’s prophecies? How do we understand a God who judges firmly as well as covenants to be our saviour in time of trouble?

 

I am not sure if you have seen the new Netflix series called The Crown. It is based on the early years of the reign of our Queen. Whilst I suspect that it is a bit apocryphal in parts, it is nevertheless very entertaining and glossy. That isn’t surprising, as the price tag for 10 episodes, was a cool 100 million dollars.

 

In it, we see the child Princess Elizabeth being taught the elements of the constitution. Not least that the monarch’s role is only to warn, advise and guide her government. So too we can see the role of God in human affairs. This is not surprising as we can warn a child not to go near hot stoves but in the end, we cannot always prevent him or her. We can advise on friendship but not stop a relationship. We can encourage the doing of homework but not actually do it for a youngster. And so, it is with God.

 

Here then lies the apparent judgement of God. For it is more about foresight, more about a warning, more about lifesaving advice than any imposition of a sentence.

 

However, in the end, we can and do ignore this sage wisdom and go away ahead to the inevitable outcome. We can and do turn our backs on God’s foresight and travel blithely on. And so, in the end of the day, we are not really visited by God’s action rather we must live with our own.

 

Where then does this leave God’s second promise. The one about being our God and we being his people?

 

I must admit to never having read Clive Staples Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have only seen the film. Nevertheless, even in that format, its Christian message cannot be mistaken. And it is all to do with that second divine promise.

 

Since At the beginning of the book four children are playing in their uncle’s wardrobe when they discover it is a doorway to Narnia. As they enter Narnia they learn it is under the spell of a wicked witch.
The children hear rumours that Aslan, the great Lion, will soon return to the forest so they devise a plan to overthrow the witch. But Edmund then turns traitor to the cause.
The witch requests an audience with Aslan and talks to him about the deep magic from the dawn of time. She says, “You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that I have a right to a kill.”
Aslan agrees and Edmund is to be sacrificed on the Stone Table. But then something unexpected and horrible happens. Aslan offers to be sacrificed in place of Edmund. The witch is delighted to be rid of Aslan once for all. He is bound, humiliated before the Witches entourage, and killed. It appears to the children that wickedness has won the day and that all is lost.
As the children tearfully leave the scene it is dawn. They hear a great cracking, a deafening noise. They rush back and find the great table split in two and Aslan gone. Suddenly he appears before them and as they shake in fear he explains to them “that though the witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she does not know. The magical promise beyond time that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

 

Here then is the throne of the second and greatest promise from God. Since he doesn’t just stand aside wringing his hands as we make a complete mess of things. He doesn’t just stand waving a teared stain hankie as go our errant way. Instead, he has sent someone to help get back on track. He has sent someone to help change us towards making amends. He has sent us an ever-present saviour to sort out the debts we have accrued and take their price upon his own head. Simply, he has sent, sends and ever will send Jesus Christ.

 

As this year ends with all its promises threatening to turn to unwelcome omens, let us remember the opportunity always to go in a different direction. Let remember the promise of God’s wisdom to illuminate a brighter path. Let us indeed remember the Son’s promise of opening a fresher way by paying off the toll.

 

No wonder then the Witch in C S Lewis’ book banned Christmas – for then there would be but a wintery foreboding in our hearts. Mercifully, the Lion’s return is always promising.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That dog is Lucky

Mary and her husband Jim had a dog named “Lucky.” Lucky was a real character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably, someone would forget and something would come up missing.

Mary or Jim would go to Lucky’s toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky’s other favorite toys. Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.

It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer.

Continue reading That dog is Lucky

Writing the answer

He prayed on his knees. He prayed standing. He prayed sitting. But he had never heard the voice of God.

 

So he started to write down his prayers. At first no more than a few lines – big issues and real problems. He still heard nothing. Yet he wrote on, enjoying the confidence of pen and paper. Page after page, notebook after notebook were filled with the intimacies of his deepest thoughts and desires. But yet he sensed no answer.

Continue reading Writing the answer

What Hamilton’s victory teaches the Church?

It was great to see Lewis Hamilton win the British Grand Prix as Silverstone this weekend. Of course, no one doubts that his podium position was the result of talent, teamwork and courage. But there is another quality in that mix; it is persistence. Since Mercedes, a few seasons back, had all sorts of technical problems with its cars yet sheer doggedness has turned the situation around to victory.

 

Most congregations are constantly trying to innovate yet never quite succeed. Why? Maybe we don’t persist in working though the hurdles in the way of any change. Yet if the idea was right in the first place, dogged determination will defeat these difficulties and win the race.

A Tribute to the Tunisia Victims

Sometime ago I visited Our local Sikh Temple . The gentleman who showed me round made a very wise remark that  I will always remember . And it was, ‘all of the world religions are about treating other as yourself’.

 

Today as a result of recent atrocities across the globe, many media types and people in the street  are saying ‘religion’ is a bad thing. Yet that forgets the many billions  of our fellow human beings who live out their own faith in inner peace and harmony with their neighbour.

 

So as we stand here in the UK at midday in silent tribute to those who were so brutally  murdered in Tunisia, let us remember Christ commanded us to love God and our neighbour just as much as ourselves.  In fact, we need to remember these conscious acts are indivisible.