So- Happy New Year to you all. I hope your celebrations tonight are suitably exuberant, whilst still sufficiently mindful of the potential damage to your liver…
Our house is filling up with old friends and their kids, up here for Hogmanay. To those who could not make it- you will be missed.
Many of us use the turning of the year as a period of reflection- over what the old year has been, and what the new one might become.
Time enough for resolutions (and then no time at all- which was the point of my last post!) perhaps we would be better to spend time just reflecting, and meditating.
And if I might suggest a theme for such ponderings, I wonder if you might find these questions helpful- which I have mentioned before– the stuff of ‘soul friendship’…
How goes it with your soul?
What is draining you lately?
What is recharging you lately?
How have you felt God speaking to you?
How have you been able to see and serve Christ in the elderly, the poor, the young, the needy, or the rejected?
What has been a spiritual high point? Low point?
What challenges are you facing in the coming days?
And in all these things, in these days, may the peace of God be with you.
The arty-Christian group I am part of- Aoradh, have still to decide whether we will be going to the next years festival as contributors. We have not even been asked yet! But our discussions had already concluded that most of us would like to go again, but only if in doing so, we did not waste too much of our energy on preparing something for a festival that is a long way from where we are- because Dunoon is our home, not Cheltenham.
We had thought that it might be good to think of a theme for this whole year- including potential involvement at the festival- and try to play with a stream of ideas. Not sure where this will go…
One suggestion (which arose from our take on ‘the art of looking sideways’) was to think about how we relate to one another- in our wider community. So, in this sense, the issue is how we look sideways at others as we journey forwards.
Readers of this blog will know that this is a recurrent theme for me- the issues of community, and relationship, and how we followers of Jesus might learn to live out the call to be collectives who are made distinctive by our love for one another.
But, in doing a little digging, I think that the Greenbelt theme actually comes from this book
The author, the late great graphic designer, Alan Fletcher, can be seen below promoting his book. Perhaps it might have been better to just show his images. You decide-
Despite this rather inscrutable promo, I ordered a copy. It is a mess of images and ideas that summarise our post modern fractured and disconnected (but beautiful) world.
And even though the spin that we in Aoradh took on the bare words seems to head in a different direction, I think that the issue of how we humans recollect- that is how we again learn to realise the communal and shared part of us- the ‘me’ that we discover only when becoming ‘we’- this is a vital issue for our times.
It continues to seem to me that our post modern disconnection has thrown us into a situation where everything is fast and fluid. We have a million ways to communicate, and a constant immersion in transience. What we have not yet found, but hopefully are still in the process of discovering, is how we might celebrate the depth and variety of each other again, within communal gatherings.
Our workplaces no longer facilitate this.
Our meeting places are increasingly on-line, and lack flesh on flesh contact.
Our clubs and churches are empty, or emptying.
What is the role for the followers of Jesus in this changing culture?
Tomorrow I return to work for a few days. It is that rather difficult period within social work between Christmas and New Year, and I will be the only manager covering all sorts of things beyond my usual mental health remit. It may be quiet. It may be manic.
Always a shock to system.
To this list (for rather too much of the time) add ‘Social work management’!
In order to cheer myself up, I went searching for other peoples feelings about work, and discovered this TED lecture…
Hmmm- at this point, I think castrating lambs with your teeth has it’s attraction…
But then again, what I do has value. I do my best to make a difference, and to be graceful and respectful to those who work with/for me (and sometimes I even manage to do this!)
And because I work, I have a house and other resources that enable me to serve the Kingdom, and to give my kids a start in life that I did not have.
So I will go in tomorrow, reluctantly perhaps, but with a smile.
I usually find myself more or less in agreement with Rowan Williams these days. He has a way of saying important thing but, delivered in his dry academic oratory style, I wonder if enough people actually take the trouble to listen? Despite the fact that I have not been part of the CofE for about 25 years, in many ways, I still see him as a spiritual leader for whom I have the utmost respect.
My mate Simon pointed at this Christmas sermon, as the theme of relationship and community is likely to be a central one for me this coming year.
This year the Archbish started with a fairly standard Christmas theme-
God has always been communicating with humanity, in any number of ways; but what we need from God is more than just information. The climax of the story is the sending of a Son: when all has been said and done on the level of information what still needs to be made clear to us is that the point of it all is relationship.
He then goes on to speak about the dependent nature of this relationship-
So the important thing is not that everyone gets to stand on their own two feet and turns into a reliable ‘independent’ consumer and contributor to the GNP. What we expect from each other in a generous and grown-up society is much more to do with all of us learning how to ask from each other, how to receive from each other, how to depend on the generosity of those who love us and stand alongside us. And that again means a particular care for those who need us most, who need us to secure their place and guarantee that there is nourishment and stability for them. As we learn how to be gratefully dependent, we learn how to attend to and respond to the dependence of others. Perhaps by God’s grace we shall learn in this way how to create a society in which real dependence is celebrated and safeguarded, not regarded with embarrassment or abused by the powerful and greedy.
God has spoken through a Son. He has called us all to become children at the cradle of the Son, the Word made flesh, so that we may grow into a glory that even the angels wonder at. To all who accept him he gives power and authority to become children of God, learning and growing into endless life and joy.
So, another Christmas season comes and goes. We have had a lovely time, I hope you have too. Those moments of delight on the kids faces…
We have had Michaela’s Mum and Step-Father here this Christmas, which has been great as Robert has not been well. They had an epic journey up from Derbyshire- a 5 hour train journey became a 10 hour one, with cancelled trains and all sorts of problems because of the snow.
I’m going to take a few days break from blogging. If I can. No-one reads blogs at Christmas anyway- we have far better things to do!
Like most of us, I have been busy- cleaning shovelling snow and grit, and wrapping.
We were out carol singing yesterday, and I really enjoyed it- it has become a Christmas tradition that is increasingly important to me- we take out trumpets and trombones and pianos that most of us only play once a year, and we visit some old folks homes and sing…
It is such a blessing to give- and so may you find much blessing…
And to all of you who read this blog, may this Christmas be wonderful.