A Poached Egg

Please ignore the title. It will prove fairly relevant hopefully. Stay with me. The photo is of me. We found it clearing out Aged Parent’s flat. I am approximately six years old and am being forced to go on Whit Walks against my will. Whit Walks. for those of a tender age or from faraway lands was – indeed probably still is – a parade of Sunday School Scholars in Manchester held very Whit Sunday. I was being forced to wear a headdress with tight elastic and I wasn’t happy. This lack of interest in putting in any effort when it comes to my looks is lasting well into my dotage. I don’t remember much about the walks. There was always an older girl with a really long train with fabric handles in it. All the younger children then took a handle and walked behind her in a parade while our mothers ran alongside shouting things like “Keep your head up!” and “For goodness sake straighten your face!” I remember it being quite competitive between the churches and I also remember really good brass bands and rain. What it had to do with the Feast Of Pentecost, I have no idea.

The expression on my face is an accurate reflection of my mood at the moment (the election, AP’s flat move, Manchester United, how rubbish the new series of The Crown has become etc. etc). Also, as part of an Advent Pause I am here to complain about The Nativity. Not the original one which is beyond reproach. I am talking about some of the modern ones.

A school in Chingford has just decided to take all references to Jesus being King out of their Nativity to prevent it being too exclusive. So “Jesus the Saviour” in one Carol has been replaced with “Jesus the Baby” and “New King born today.” has been replaced with “A baby born today”. (On top of everything else, these are rubbish lines that could be part of the theme tune to “One Born Every Minute, they are so naff). Apparently, it was all done after consultation with local church where someone needs to be re-thinking their life choices. I mean I am quite happy to spread my wings with a Nativity. I have seen them with astronauts, steel bands and once with Puff the Magic Dragon. (We all felt that teacher maybe needed to look at what Puff the Magic Dragon actually was and then ask herself if a song extolling soft drugs is quite the thing for five year olds to be singing)

But – it it what it is. And if it’s not about Jesus being King/Lord/Saviour, then it’s not a Nativity and you need to be telling another story. I saw one about flowers once – it was rubbish and a little red headed girl sustained a nasty plastic daffodil injury – but at least it was honest. You can’t pick the bits of the story that you like and ignore the rest. CS Lewis, in this famous paragraph, puts it much better than me (Obviously)

‘ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

See? Title? Got there in the end. Phew!

And, if churches aren’t prepared to stand up for this and lily-livered, half baked Christians like me are the last line of defence for the Gospel, then goodness knows where this is going to end.

Here ends A Rant in Advent. Be Blessed.

Before I go – I am not sure that I will blog this week. It’s Aged Parent’s move week as you know and there is a lot going on. I may or may not emerge intact. She is excited though and I leave you with our exchange about how up for it she is. I tell you no secrets – there were five people in the room.

Me HOH has been up to the flat and the decorating is great and the carpets are all cleaned. It looks fab.

AP Oooh. Don’t get me all excited. I have lots of wind in my belly and I don’t know what might happen.

Have a good week.

More of the same…

Hello all. Just calling in with a couple of recommendations etc. It’s all a bit busy this end what with the move and everything. HOH, myself and various people who Aged Parent calls friends (sometimes) are rallying to try and avert almost certain disaster in the moving department. AP has decided that her contribution will be to sit on her favourite chair and dispense orders to her loyal packers. (Think Yul Brynner as Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments and you’ll have the idea). All AP’s friends are gentle souls and they get on with it. I, however, am not going to take lying down an instruction that the entire contents of a six foot tall storage cupboard should just be loaded wholesale into the van.

“Well, if you don’t, I’ll have nothing to wear. I can’t find any trousers as it is.”

Hmm. Cast your mind back a couple of weeks and see if you can remember why you now only possess one pair of pink cord loon pants that two of you can fit in. (This I think but do not say.) Anyway, we continue and we make progress and that is enough.

Did you see the Glenda Jackson performance in “Elizabeth is Missing” ? I’ll be honest, I thought the throwback story was a bit silly but I suppose you have to hang the tale on something. Some of the dementia scenes were so accurate, they were upsetting, which is, of course, what dementia is. Jackson was extraordinary I thought and if any other actors are hoping to win a BAFTA next time, it is probably best to give it up now and move on. It’s for the best.

We have managed two trips to the pictures which makes me happy. There are a lot of very meaningful and deep movies out there at the moment – many of them on Netflix and I will be there for them. However, there are times in a person’s life when what they need is Jumanji 2! Hurrah. Cinema full of kids. Bag of Maltsesers. Laughed like a drain. No regrets. No apologies.

We were slightly more dignified at Knives Out. This is highly recommended. An Agatha Christie pastiche – a clever, very starry, whodunit, lots of twists and turns, a great performance from Daniel Craig which makes a pleasant change from him mugging miserably through the latest Bond. It’s not everywhere but if you see it, it’s definitely worth a trip.

And finally – a book. Miracles and Other Unreasonable Things by Sarah Bessey – the author of Jesus Feminist and a woman going through a Christian crisis. She struggles with her faith community, the things she’s always believed and the black and white certainties of the prosperity gospel she had been brought up in. (By the way, by prosperity gospel, I don’t mean people shouting I’M RICH BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS! I mean having a formula for answered prayer, miracles, etc. which does include I’M RICH etc etc sometimes). On top of that she is involved in a car accident which almost kills her and is very difficult to come back from. She documents her time after the accident – including an eventful visit to meet the Pope – and the way her one to one relationship with God progresses. This is not a simple “I was there and now I am here and all is well” type of story. She writes about her feelings and the way she sees God. I’ll be honest – there were times when I had no idea what she was talking about but there were also times when I found it very moving.

Right then, I’m off to peek round the corner of the election results and see what we will be dealing with. I felt that however I voted that I would be letting people down, such was the quality of the candidates before us. But, vote we must and then pray that all will indeed be well.

Pause in Advent 2

It is the week of the General Election in the UK and I am possibly be a little negative. (Really? You cry?) Just a small set of thoughts about Advent interrupted as it is by the General Election. Please note that this is not a “Don’t Vote” tirade. You must vote. The Democratic Election of our Representatives is essential. Just..who? Also, when I say General Election, I’m not sure if it is that at all really because surely that implies sane and sensible choices that we have to make about the brightest and the best of us who are seeking to lead the country.

The Prime Minister – Boris Johnson

The prime minister also said the availability of social housing acts as an “enticement” for young women to have children, and used this position as an argument for cutting benefits in order to leave women in “destitution on a Victorian scale” – to act as a deterrent to unmarried women having children.

Luciana Berger – ex Labour Party MP

Of the six people convicted in court of offences against her, four were from the political right and two from the left. Four of them received prison sentences, and more cases may follow. She recounts the various incidents with a calmness that is almost jarring given what she is describing: images of her head being Photoshopped onto rats and pornographic photos, letters signed by self-declared supporters of her former party leader and delivered to her office by hand, warning that she would be raped, stabbed and covered in acid.

Andrew Garcarz – Brexit Party Candidate

Islam is the problem, and until we destroy them, the world will never be a safe place’.

Jo Swinson – Liberal Democrat Leader – Voting Record

Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the “bedroom tax”)

Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices

Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability

Also in this election campaign – a thirteen year old boy is arrested for stabbing a woman to death. A man is identified making monkey chant noises at a black footballer in the Manchester Derby and a man stabs to death two people who are working to rehabilitate him back into society in a terrorist attack.

It’s hard to concentrate on Christmas – Goodwill to all men, presents, cards. joy etc. But, the whole idea was always that Jesus was to be born into such a world as this. This week I saw someone on Instagram talking about how we tackle the world’s ills in a “Post Christian World.” Nincompoop! First of all try telling Christians in Latin America, China and Africa that this is a post Christian world – all the millions of them. And I believe that the baby, in the stable, was the beginning of the rescue plan. We obviously cannot do this on our own.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel

Cold

Gosh it’s cold isn’t it? Is anyone else cold? A bit of Plymouth history follows. (I will be taking no questions on the accuracy of the following though). Plymouth, when it was rebuilt after being absolutely pasted in the Second World War, was built after a plan by Professor Patrick Abercrombie. The idea was to link the North and South of the city with a “Grand Boulevard” with other roads criss-crossing it at right angles. The results of this were threefold.

(1) A grand vision based on Lutyens’ vision for New Delhi was realised.

(2) The criss-crossing of roads mean that I still get a bit lost on a regular basis because I can never quite figure out where the entrance to Tesco is and

(3) The fact that the “Grand Boulevard” links to the seafront means that when the wind blows in off the sea it races through what is a highly effective wind tunnel taking on hurricane like properties as it does so, pinning members of the public against buildings with consummate ease as they shout to each other through wind blasted faces “Cold isn’t it?” We are used to it. Life is meant to be a challenge. Pearls and oysters and all that.

Anyway, we left the house last week to visit Illuminate (As in “Jubilate!” CLAP. “Everybody”! For those who remember that). It was an exhibition of light sculptures which were amazing, even if the one above was a bit like a bad migraine I had once.

We have a moving date for AP everybody! It’s December the 20th everyone! Because moving someone on December 20th is something everyone wants to do! Hurrah! HOH and I continue to force the packing issue despite AP waving her hand airily at a treasure trove of ornamental owls and assuring us that “The Removal Men will take care of those.” I think not actually. Last night I went through her DVDs with her – splitting them into give away and keep. Before you dismiss that as a twee little thing to do – I ended up with five black bin bags to give away and three to keep. She passed judgement on each one individually as well – keep or throw because I didn’t want to overstep the mark and she still phoned me at work next day saying it was an emergency. When I answered she asked.

“Did you see the Jesus of Nazareth DVD anywhere last night because I don’t remember seeing it?”

Hold steady everyone.

Ready or Not

A Pause in Advent December 2019

Spend any amount of time with anyone at the moment and sooner or later you will hear the phrase “I can’t believe it’s December already”, swiftly followed by “And I’ve done nothing about Christmas yet.” (Actually, thinking about it, that may just be my own internal monologue, playing desperately in my head. Apologies).

But December it is and, I think, if we give it due consideration, we will agree that it was always coming. It was a sure thing.

I was reading Matthew 1 this week. I don’t usually go to Matthew for my Nativity fix. I am a big fan of stables/donkeys/shepherds etc etc and Matthew is a bit short on that. However, what I noticed for the first time is the way that life was going on as normal until God broke in.

Now you could say that, if people had been paying attention and counting their way through David’s family tree, they may have noticed that it counted 14 generations to David, then 14 generations to the Babylonian exile and now it was 13 generations FROM the Babylonian exile. Was something going to happen in this 14th generation? Was there a sign there? Don’t ask Mary and Joseph and most of their peer group. They were too busy trying to earn enough to put food on the table, trying to not upset religious leaders and trying not to die horrible deaths at the hands of the Romans. In a land far, far away beardy, science types were studying stars and the universe and the like and they were closer to spotting stuff but Mary – she was pregnant and life had set itself on a course she had never predicted and also unpredicted was that God was breaking in.

Fortunately for all concerned Mary and Joseph may not have expected what was happening but a part of them was ready. Mary was a smart kind of girl – in touch enough with God and the possibility of miracles to be ale to take this on. And Joseph, when he found out about a pregnancy that he had nothing to do with, (The Message calls him “Chagrined but noble”), was the kind of bloke who chose to listen to weird but strangely vivid dreams telling him to stick by Mary.

So Love began its work and regardless of our circumstances He is working still and possibly the breakthrough or the break-in that we need may, unexpectedly, be almost here.

So, in the words of the great Elton John ask yourself “Are you ready? Are you ready for Love?”

This is part of A Pause in Advent and over the next few Sundays people will thinking about the coming of Christmas and er..Pausing in er..Advent. Please pop over to Ang at Tracing Rainbows (Mega blogger and all round good egg) to read some more.