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Sad to see at any time, let alone Christmas

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RnVfXFd5MU[/youtube]

In previous years, I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas with a bit of art (usually graffiti) and perhaps a poem. This year, I’m afraid my Christmas mood has been very definitely spoilt by news of a (near) riot at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem between different denominations who both have rights within the space.

This church, traditionally held to be built upon the site of the place where Jesus was born, ought to be one of the most holiest sites in the world. To some it is. To most this Christmas, it’s another testimony of Christians seeming inability to love one another. Lord, have mercy.

Christmas greetings

Banksy Crucified Jesus with shopping bags hanging from each arm.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear…”

Trans­. John M. Neale, 1851.

As has been my wont in recent years, a little graffiti artwork for Christmas Day.

Once again, Banksy cuts through all the fluff to get to the heart of the matter and reminds us all that Christmas is not about the presents and all the other modern-day paraphenalia that accompanies this time of year.

As I will say in church this morning, the heart of Christmas is the start of God’s rescue plan. God with us. Christmas is the start and the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday a finish… of sorts. At least until the heavens and the earth are finally renewed at the end of all things.

I’m sorry, Tony. You’re spot on.

BBC Nativity, Image of Mary and Joseph

This Christmas week has been given a rhythm for me by the BBC’s new production of the Nativity story. Written and produced by Tony Jordan, who has a very long list of impressive credits, he was (one might have thought) an unusual choice to do the job for the Beeb but what a job he has done.

I have really enjoyed the story as portrayed by Jordan and, particularly, how he has picked up and understood how rejected Mary and Joseph would have been for the scandal of being pregnant before the engagement had become marriage.

Plenty of people are reviewing the TV programmes and that’s fine. I don’t really want to talk about that though. What has struck me is an interview he gave to Aled Jones on Radio Two last week. What follows is Tony speaking:

“I still have a hasty distrust of organised religion. I generally do and that’s the thing that hasn’t changed at all. My faith has changed and I have changed as a person because of the nativity, Read more

Christmas wishes

Graffiti art from Banksy of the Dove of Peace wearing a bulletproof vest

“Come O Prince of Peace,
refine and purify us.
Help our leaders rule in peace
and grant your favour to us.

Come O Prince of Peace,
exult o’er us with song.
Let your peace guard your children
so that justice rules.

Come O Prince of Peace,
fill the hungry with good things.
Rescue those who are oppressed
save O Lord, save us.”

Come, O Prince of Peace (opens PDF)
© 2009, Asian Planning Group. Some rights reserved.

As the noughties are coming to a close, there are all sorts of ‘best of the decade’ lists starting to emerge. One of the things I’ll remember from the noughties was Read more

Catching up and moving forward

Illustrative image for moving forward and back

I can’t quite understand where the time goes. To not blog at all throughout April demands an apology should there be anyone out there who happens to be passing or, indeed, if anyone has me in their RSS feed of whatever kind and has wondered why the silence. I certainly know some of you have wondered because you’ve emailed me to say so.

Of course, April saw me pass through my first Easter as a clergyman and I was surprised after my first Christmas as to how busy I was. Christmas seemed, to me anyway, quite manageable. I was all set for a similar cushy number while the world assumes you’re madly busy. I was surprised. Easter was hectic.

I’ve had some time off in that mix as well, but there are no excuses and I’ve actually come to a resolution. One of the things I seem to struggle with in the whole blogging process is that when I sit down to write a post, it ends up being a mini-essay and I don’t have time regularly to write them. Therefore, each week, and most probably on Sundays, I’m going to aim to blog one of my usual ‘lengthy’ posts and then sporadically in between times, shorter, one-line even, or a few lines in the manner of an extended Facebook to cover all sorts of things that I want to mention but don’t get a chance to say more about.

As it so happens, the last few days have brought a variety of events in my own life and news stories in the wider world that have really caught my attention and I promise that in the coming days, they are going to get covered here but I’ve got to break it down into manageable chunks. In no particular order and covering a wide variety of interests, they are:

So there you go, a preview of forthcoming attractions. Watch this space and as I actually write these posts, I’ll link them back to here to prove I did do them after all!

A taste of heaven…

Photo of Heston Blumenthal

Around about this time last year, I was channel hopping with the telly remote (something I do far less than I used to) and chanced upon the famous TV Chef, Heston Blumenthal. I think the programme was called “Heston’s Perfect Christmas” or something to that effect and the premise of the programme was that Blumenthal would cook up a special Christmas meal for six star guests.

Heston being Heston, however, this was not your average Christmas meal. I remember they were served a sort of broth based on Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. A broth cube wrapped in gold leaf was dissolved before their eyes in boiling water that had been infused with Frankincense while they ate it with a spoon carved from Myrrh. My memory is a little hazy so apologies if I forget the details exactly.

The geese he cooked had been fed specially for months on a special diet which included pine, I think, somehow to give their flesh a special Christmas tree aroma and the pudding involved Reindeer milk turned into ice cream.

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We wish you a merry Christmas

Banksy painting

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9.6-7 (NRSV)

Like most of us, I am putting the computer aside for a few days and so I thought I would sign off by wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy new year (should they happen to stop by this web site).

It has been my tradition (albeit a fairly new and irregular one) to mark the major festivals on this website by drawing attention to a bit of graffiti. I don’t know how long this tradition will last (dependent as it is on interesting things that I can find) but for now it continues with this image that Banksy created this time last year.

It’s very easy to forget that there are plenty of places in the world where talk of a Prince of Peace sounds pretty empty. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has commented in recent days and Banksy captured eloquently in his painting last year, even in Israel and even in Bethlehem, there is little peace.

Yet that is our faith and our hope and it is why Christmas Day is the most amazing day. We celebrate the birth of God incarnate, the divine made flesh, the decisive action of God in human history to rescue and redeem us from the mess we continue to make of our world and our lives.

May you have a happy Christmas and a fantastic 2007 but I hope you will also join me in taking some time during the festivities to pray for peace.