Tag Archives: Bethlehem

6 March, Lenten Reading: ordinary, decent people

Windswept Barley, Kent.

The book of Ruth is a short read, a comfort read, at least by the time you reach the happy ending. Ruth, of course, is the 30x great grandmother of Egypt, her adventures with her mother-in-law Naomi part of his family history. And she was a foreigner, not a member of the people of Israel, but still one of the people of God.

This article by Fr Richard J Clifford, is from America magazine: The Book of Ruth reminds us to take seriously the lives of ordinary people. Read them in either order, and take more seriously your own life, and those of people around you. A good Lenten exercise!

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7 January: Quest

Wide is the darkness, dark is the night,
Only a star
Shining so silverly, flingeth its light
Ever so far;
Yet by its lure are led
Men who have visioned
God’s door unlatcheted
And held ajar.

‘Restless our souls must be,’ Augustine said,
Seeking for Thee,
‘Lord, till they rest in Thee,’ uncomforted,
Athirst for Thee;
For Thou hast made us so,
And souls must questing go,
Thralled by the golden flow,
Entrancedly.

Lord, let not silver spell of that blest star
Be dimmed for me.
Constant my questing keep, faring so far,
Seeking for Thee;
Nor let pride find a flaw,
Seeing what wise men saw,
Babe in poor stable straw –
Epiphany.

Father Andrew SDC

There are many versions of Burne-Jones’s Adoration of the Magi; this one used to draw me like a magnet as a child growing up in Birmingham. The figures are more than life-size! Just like the message of the Gospel, the star is not obvious to everyone: the custodian angel directs its light so that we are drawn in to see what wise men saw; once seen, we must follow, questing, keeping the star in view, enthralled.

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23 December: The Apartment House

Modern apartment blocks in Berlin – and a section of the cruel Berlin Wall.

Severe against the pleasant arc of sky
The great stone box is cruelly displayed.
The street becomes more dreary from its shade,
And vagrant breezes touch its walls and die.
Here sullen convicts in their chains might lie,
Or slaves toil dumbly at some dreary trade.
How worse than folly is their labor made
Who cleft the rocks that this might rise on high!

On the top floor of this block someone had hung Christmas lights on Advent Eve.


 Yet, as I look, I see a woman’s face
Gleam from a window far above the street.
This is a house of homes, a sacred place,
By human passion made divinely sweet.
How all the building thrills with sudden grace
Beneath the magic of Love’s golden feet!

From “Trees and Other Poems” by Joyce Kilmer

And a cave at Bethlehem became a sacred place, By human passion made divinely sweet. May love’s feet dance in your home this Christmas.

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21 December: The night train

I was looking for more poetry (What you might call ‘free verse’!) to read on my Kindle. Since we’ve used Joyce Kilmer a couple of times, I thought I’d look at some of his writing. This poem, The Twelve-forty-five seems appropriate coming up to Christmas. There were no motor cars on the road then, so people depended on the night train to get home late. Let’s pray for all travellers this Christmas, for those who would like to travel but cannot, and for all who will be apart when they would be together if they could; for those who have died and those left behind: the stars – the angels – are watchful over them.

Will.

Upon my crimson cushioned seat,
In manufactured light and heat,
I feel unnatural and mean.
Outside the towns are cool and clean;
Curtained awhile from sound and sight
They take God’s gracious gift of night.
The stars are watchful over them.
On Clifton as on Bethlehem
The angels, leaning down the sky,
Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I —
I ride, I blasphemously ride
Through all the silent countryside.

What Love commands the train fulfills,
And beautiful upon the hills
Are these our feet of burnished steel.
Subtly and certainly I feel
That Glen Rock welcomes us to her
And silent Ridgewood seems to stir
And smile, because she knows the train
Has brought her children back again.
We carry people home — and so
God speeds us, wheresoe’er we go.

The midnight train is slow and old
But of it let this thing be told,
To its high honor be it said
It carries people home to bed.
My cottage lamp shines white and clear.
God bless the train that brought me here.


(The Twelve-forty-five, from “Trees and Other Poems” by Joyce Kilmer)

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20 December, Simon says II: In her.

She said those words, ‘Thy will be done’.

In her God’s gracious will had won.

Simon’s couplet sent me to this painting from Plowden Catholic Church in Shropshire. Mary seems to be having a moment of weariness, such as any parent will have undergone, and her Child seems anxious to comfort her.

Here they are, far from home in Egypt. Is Joseph his own boss, self employed as he had been in Nazareth, or is he out all day, at the beck and call of an employer, who might expect him to work extra at short notice? Does Mary sew or launder to help make ends meet in the big city?

At any point after she said those words, Mary’s life will have had problems. There were many more difficult years after the Holy Family returned to Galilee; if Mary thought her troubles were over, they had only just begun.

Most of her appearances in the Gospels are challenging. Even heartbreaking. She was not mentioned on the day the mob tried to throw Jesus off a cliff near Nazareth, but she must have been there. And so it went on until Good Friday.

Thy will be done: giving birth in the stable probably also meant Mary didn’t have her little home-made layette with her. All her preparations apparently wasted; no doubt some other family  benefited, but she and Joseph had to start from scratch: that gold the Wise Man brought must have come in useful!

Thy will be done: it will be, but it probably won’t be done smoothly!

More from Simon soon!

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2 December: Reminder, Carol Service tomorrow

We recently posted a notice for the Amos Trust Carol Service in Canterbury in aid of peace making in  Palestine.

This service will be tomorrow, 3 December, from 19:00 – 21:00, at St Paul’s Church, Canterbury CT1 1NH.

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off at St Paul’s in Canterbury, where we’ll be joined by Sami Awad from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem plus special guest performers.

Sami is a leading Palestinian peace activist who will be explaining why non-violence is at the heart of the Christmas message and of his family in Gaza. All proceeds will go to our 2019 Christmas appeal for our partners in Gaza and the home and peace-building work of Holy Land Trust.

Please join us.

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28 November: the Amos Trust Carol Service in Canterbury

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off in Canterbury on Tuesday, 3 December, from 19:00 – 21:00 at St Paul’s Church, CT1 1NH

 

 

About this Event

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off at St Paul’s in Canterbury, where we’ll be joined by Sami Awad from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem plus special guest performers.

Sami is a leading Palestinian peace activist who will be explaining why non-violence is at the heart of the Christmas message and of his family in Gaza. All proceeds will go to our 2019 Christmas appeal for our partners in Gaza and the home and peace-building work of Holy Land Trust.

Please join us.

The tour will be part of Ahlan Gaza, our new campaign that aims to share stories of life in the Gaza Strip. Join us and our very special guests as we turn our hearts and minds to Gaza to start the Christmas season.

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9 November: Across the Park

2nd Class Stamps x 50 (Self Adhesive Stamp Sheet) Christmas 20191st Class Stamps x 50 (Self Adhesive Stamp Sheet) Christmas 2019

It’s a short walk across the park to our sub post office at Saint Stephen’s, far preferable to the one in town, now that it has left its historic building for an upstairs counter in a stationery shop.

I came out with two books of Christmas stamps. The first week in November seems rather early for this, but they are rather lovely, and we do still post letters occasionally, so why not share something beautiful as well as the Christmas story?

We may even use these stamps well into next year; I know a nativity stamp on a letter always makes me pause before opening, whatever the time of year. I was feeling a little sheepish though, as I set out for home; it’s nowhere near Christmas yet in my mind’s eye, let alone my feelings. Not even Advent.

But then, crossing the road I nearly tripped over a lap dog, dressed in a Santa costume despite its ample fur coat. 1,000 times NO! Let the dog be a dog! Let Christmas be Christmas! Of course the animals, including the shepherds’ dog, belong in the story, the next chapter of the Creation story, and of course we should treasure and care for animals in our care, but a dog is a dog, a furry animal, not a living soft toy!

May the star and your angel lead you through Advent to Bethlehem and the manger!

patrixbourne.nativity.window.small

Of course the dog came with the shepherds to see baby Jesus!  Patrixbourne Church, Kent.

 

 

 

 

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New Year’s Day, 2018. Father Andrew at Christmas IX: Through Angel’s Eyes

angel.astonishedI think Angels are pretty scary aliens – just go back and read Sister Johanna’s posts about Zechariah’s experience! When we look Through Angel’s Eyes we may wonder who are the aliens – the Angels or us?

The winter night knows many a star,
But the Angels have found one brighter far
Than any that ever has shone before;
They float and fall through the silent snow
Like birds of God, to settle below;
To find our earth the Angels go.

A poor little planet, a poor little town,
A poor little cradle, not lined with down,
A particular absence of all renown;
Angels must be peculiar things,
Who float and fall with wheeling wings
To seek in such for the King of kings.

If we were heaven-taught we should know
That what we think high God might yet think low,
And straight to Bethlehem singing go;
For this earth of ours is still the Star
Whither the Angels flew from far,
Where the Christ-child and His Mother are.

More bright than the star that Wisdom led,
To Angels’ eyes shone the cattle-shed,
Where the little Christ once laid His head;
And ‘twixt the tapers, just the same
As when to Bethlehem once they came,
To Angels’ eyes must the altar flame.

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3 December, 1st Sunday of Advent: Star of Wonder?

venus-487x640

Last Christmas we saw one bright star in the sky -but it was far more to the West than the East – so it most certainly was not the Star of Bethlehem! 

In fact it was not even a star, but our planetary neighbour, Venus.

But there she was, a perfectly good reminder of the Babe of Bethlehem. Really though, reminding people of God is our job:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

No-one can prepare the way of the Lord without light, so let’s get on quietly with those good works that our daily lives demand, and hope that people will see through the imperfect beings that we are to the Good One whose grace sustains us. After all, Venus shines with a reflected light, not her own, and that’s exactly what is asked of her.

And let’s look up to the stars – at least when the cloud cover allows – and just wonder.

MMB.

 

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