Close up of shepherds in a nativity scene with lambs. Text over the top: Shepherd, leave your watch and field (a poem inspired by Luke 2:8-16) Faith in Grey Places

Luke 2:8–16: Shepherd, leave your flock and fold (a poem)

‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’  

Micah 5:2 (NIVUK)

Today’s reading is Luke 2:8–16, the story about the shepherds coming to visit Jesus. 

Continue reading Luke 2:8–16: Shepherd, leave your flock and fold (a poem)
Close up of a Christmas decoration where Mary holds a baby Jesus. Text over the top: The Prince of Prayer (a poem inspired by Luke 2:1–7) Faith in Grey Places

Luke 2:1–7: The Prince of Prayer (a poem)

Today’s reading is Luke 2:1,3–7. It’s  the story of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem. There, Mary gives birth and famously places Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the ‘inn.’ (My post from Christmas Eve last year has some useful notes on this word.)

Continue reading Luke 2:1–7: The Prince of Prayer (a poem)
White feathers on a large wing. Text over the top: The Weight of Wings (a poem inspired by Luke 1:26–38) Faith in Grey Places

Luke 1:26–38: The Weight of Wings (a poem)

Continuing the series of poems drawing on the scripture readings in a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Strictly speaking, the reading for today is Luke 1:26–35,38.

This is one of those passages that’s so famous, it’s hard to know what more can be said about it. 

Continue reading Luke 1:26–38: The Weight of Wings (a poem)
And after entering the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Matthew 2:11

Christmas 2020: Week 5, Day 5: Integrity

In 2019, I read Kathy Khang’s book “Raise Your Voice.” She writes as a Korean-American about having courage to speak up and bring about change for the better. 

Throughout the book, she speaks about the sensitivities involved, as well as how hard it is to gain traction with people. She writes about changing structural problems, often from a position of little power/influence. 

Her insights were a balm for me and there are fabulous one-liners. 

One of them was this: “the Old Testament prophets not only recorded history but also remind the modern church of the need for people who say things that need to be said, even when it’s uncomfortable.” (p89)

I nearly pushed this sentence out as a Facebook status, but just before I hit post, I hesitated. 

Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 5, Day 5: Integrity
"I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began." Wisdom, Proverbs 8:22

Christmas 2020: Week 4, Day 7: Calling

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Charles Wesley

These are the opening words of a prayer written by Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church denomination. It’s prayed annually, as part of a special ‘covenant’ service where Methodists renew their commitment to God.

That said, many Methodists find the prayer intimidating; they’ll even avoid attending the covenant service so that they don’t perjure themselves. It surprised me when I learned this, but… maybe it shouldn’t?

Even amongst Christians, there is so much misinformation about God. So many questions, some of them unanswerable; so many people we’ve known who’ve let us down.

Never mind that it’s a big ask to unconditionally surrender your entire life to another. It’s hard not to see such unqualified commitment as a very bad idea, full stop. 

And yet… I cannot bring myself to dilute my understanding of God. He is awesome and holy, fully deserving and trustworthy of total submission. 

So where do we land? 

Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 4, Day 7: Calling
"The Lord has called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He has named Me.” The Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 49:1

Christmas 2020: Week 4, Day 6: Princeling

I’m a feminist but… I’m still a sucker for good princess stories.

I love the idea of being special (who doesn’t?). I love royalty being bestowed upon good people who serve their kingdom. I especially love the idea of a young daughter fearlessly weighing in on matters of state, albeit seasoned with just enough decorum for what’s at stake.

Of course, not all princesses are born into royalty. But when they are, there’s so much baggage of the state. It’s hard to shed the feeling of being a prize, a treasure, a someone-born-for-someone-else. It’s easy to think of her as merely a trophy for some handsome prince who’ll later be king. 

The church does not help in all this. Borrowing from texts like Ephesians 5, 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Revelation 21, Christians often say the church is the bride of Christ – metaphorically speaking. 

But I dare say this distorts our perspective. I can understand the appeal of saying the gospel is like a fairy-tale, but some of those tales have a sickly-sweet edge. Count me in for the magic and the mystery, but I don’t want a faith draped in pretty white veils. And I don’t want to be dolled up to fit the image.

And yet… 

Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 4, Day 6: Princeling
The time came for her baby to be born. Luke 2:6

Christmas 2020: Week 4, Day 5: Unexpected

It’s Christmas Eve. And I’m not where I expected I would be nine months ago. I’m not even where I expected to be nine days ago. 

Mary must have had similar feelings of bewilderment. She had thought she .would give birth to Jesus in familiar surroundings with friends and family helping her. Instead, a Roman tax census had sent her to a distant and over-crowded town. Joseph was at her side, but so were farm animals. She put her baby in a manger instead of a cradle. 

This was not the plan. 

Luke doesn’t tell us where Mary and Joseph stayed, just that there was no room in the ‘lodging place’ (frequently translated ‘inn’). It’s like we should know what he means. He doesn’t say where the manger was; again, he assumes we know. 

Instead, he just says Mary lay Jesus in a manger. That was the bit he didn’t think we’d guess. 

Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 4, Day 5: Unexpected