Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

December 16, 2014

When God comes near

I came across this painting in the Chapel of one of the local nursing homes. As I saw it from a distance, at first I thought the foreground was the rolling waves of a tumultuous sea at night. I felt drawn in to the scene and as I got closer I saw the snowy landscape and that what I had originally thought to be the moon, was of course a star, and not just any old star, but The Star of Christmas.  The star is small and right on the edge of the picture but nevertheless it casts significant light on the mid and far distance, even if the way immediately in front of us (as we look at the scene) is still in darkness.

There is much here to meditate upon (whoever decided to hang this painting in the chapel knew what they were up to). In this season of Advent we are reminded that God comes near, very near and yet He is hidden also. We are called to seek Him and to find Him in unexpected places and in the lives of unexpected people. This is the season where darkness gives way to Light, where sin gives way to the Saviour and where death is overcomes by New Birth. Come O come Emmanuel, God is with us!

We have been greatly enjoying the Advent series of videos produced by 24-7 Prayer called “When God comes near” (the inspiration for the title of this blog post). Here is the link, they really are well worth watching.

December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas


Photo: Sculpture by Seamus Murphy in the Crawford Gallery, Cork: “Virgin of the twilight” (1941)

Yes I know that this isn’t really a Christmas picture, the Lord Jesus is a bit too grown up!  But it was the closest I could find to a “real meaning of Christmas” picture that I had taken in the past few months.  I love the tender expression on Mary’s face and the resolute expression on the Lord’s face, as if, even at this age he knows what lies ahead…

To all of you reading this, a very Happy Christmas and may you know even more of God’s plan and purpose for your life in the coming year.

(NOTE APRIL 2013 – for some reason this got deleted – so reinstating it now)

December 23, 2011

The Rose I have in mind … Happy Christmas!

Christmas Rose

As I was trying to take a photo of some roses that we have in a vase, with the Christmas tree lights in the background, somewhere in the back of my mind I was trying to remember the symbolism of the Rose with Christ at Christmas.  Later I did a search online and although not quite what I was looking for it’s close enough (I think) to what I had in mind.  It’s a beautiful 16th Century Carol, translated from the German “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”, which means “A rose has sprung up” and was translated as “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

A very Merry Christmas to you – may it be a time of joy, peace, laughter and happiness.  God be with you and all those whom you love.

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Saviour,
When halfspent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

Link here.

December 15, 2011

Saint Nicholas

Santa in Spiller's Lane, Clonakilty

“Santa”, at Spiller’s Lane, Clonakilty

It is hard to imagine Christmas without this jolly looking fellow as an important part of it.  Some well-meaning people, I know, get a bit hot under the collar and think that he gets in the way of what Christmas is really about.  Of course, I have some sympathy with that view, because he seems to be at the heart of all the consumerism that so noisily and brashly competes with the Christ-mas, the celebration of the Story of Christ’s Birth.  Do a little digging though and you unearth not something that is evil and godless but rather someone who was a man after God’s own heart, Nikolaos of Myra, a fourth century Bishop in what is now part of modern day Turkey.

There is naturally a lot of legend and folklore surrounding this man of God, but it’s clear to see that over time the figure of Saint Nicholas, with the Dutch name of Sinterklaas became ‘Santa Claus’, or ‘Santa’ for short.

Perhaps the best known story attributed to Saint Nicholas (from a Wikipedia article) that links him to the modern day version of Santa is the one about a poor man who had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and could therefore have ended up as prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him, going to his house under the cover of night and throwing three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man’s house.

In another version of the story, the purses are thrown in on three consecutive nights.  Nicholas learns that on the third night the poor man plans to intercept him (to see who the mystery giver is) and so he drops the third bag down the chimney instead; a variant holds that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

Sound familiar?  Let’s not be too hard on Santa but try instead to rescue him a bit from all the plastic and mayhem, and think of him instead as a godly man who loved to give, especially to those who were in great need – and then with God’s help, let us try to do the same.

Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:8b

December 8, 2011

Window to another world

Window on another world...

I drive past this local piece of artwork very often, but the other day I was walking and so had the opportunity to have a good look at it.  I love the concept; here you have an old dark and damp stone wall, all fairly bleak really, but then a window, to a place where the Sun is shining, the sky is blue and the boats are just waiting for you to take them out on the water.  It’s a chance to escape to another time and place where things are better than here (even if it’s only in your imagination and only for a brief moment).

There are many people who would just love to escape right now; to escape from financial hardship, pressures and stresses that are unique to each individual and others that are ubiquitous to us all.  Thank God that there is hope and that there is a way out, and what better time to be reminded of this than in the Christmas season when we celebrate that God in Jesus came to us because He cares for us far beyond even our wildest dreams.

The whole ‘door to another world’ theme reminded me of a verse from the last book in the Bible, ‘Revelation’:

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
(Revelation 4:1 ESV)

December 24, 2010

“God bless Us, Every One!”

Christmas is many things to many people.  Homes all over the world will be full of laughter and joy as presents are opened and wonderful food consumed in the presence of loved ones.  Children and wise adults will soak up the magic of it all and even if only for a time will allow themselves to be transported in time and space to a place where all is well with the world, where people do look out for and look after one another.  Even if only briefly, hearts will be full of hope, whether they know it or not, a hope that reflects that Great Hope which came into the world.

Not all homes and families will be full of laughter and happiness.  Bereavement and grief are never more keenly felt than at this time of year.  The vacant chair at the table will never have seemed so empty, the echoes of laughter and happiness of bygone years never so vividly played out in bittersweet memory.  Perhaps more than for several generations on this Island, countless homes will be under the stress of uncertainty at what the New Year will bring.  How will we be able to afford to keep living in our home?  Will I still have a job in a few weeks or months time?  Will the children mind having presents that are much less than what they really wanted?

In the intensity of the celebration it seems that highs are higher and lows lower, hopes greater and fears magnified, but no matter how much the secular push against celebrating Christmas persists, it cannot take away something that has been there for generations and will adamantly remain until the end of time, namely hope.

There are many Scrooges today who would say ‘Bah!  Humbug’ and would seek to diminish and undermine in any way they can this most wonderful of Christian celebrations.  I am reminded of what Scrooge’s Nephew says to his uncle near the beginning of Charles Dickens’ great story, ‘A Christmas Carol’:

‘But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good and will do me good; and I say, God bless it.’

God bless it indeed.  Never have we been blessed more; Jesus Christ came into the world on a rescue mission so daring and so wonderful that it brings joy and peace to even the most troubled heart that to that Christ says “Yes Lord, be born in my heart this day.”

A very merry Christmas to you all and “God bless Us, Every One!”

December 27, 2009

Christmas Sunrise

Nikon D70s, f4.5, 1/30 sec, ISO 220, 105mm equivalent (click to enlarge)

It was icy. Very icy. So I left with plenty of time to travel from the Rectory to Kilmalooda church for the 9.00 am service on Christmas morning – in second gear. When I got there it was still fairly dark. I parked the car without managing to slide into the wall and got out (without managing to slip on a frozen puddle). It’s a quiet area at any time, but there was a very special hush this Christmas morning. I appreciated the moment of stillness to gather my thoughts about the busyness of the day ahead. Then I noticed a special steak of light in the East as the sun gingerly poked its head above the horizon. The day had begun.

December 31, 2008

Back in the land of the living…

Panasonic LX1, 1/320 sec, f4, ISO 80, 52mm equivalent, (Click to Enlarge)

Did I miss something?! Two days before Christmas Day was a terrible time to be flattened by the ‘flu! Somehow I got through all the services standing upright – though I doubt anyone noticed any difference ;-)

The above photo was taken three days ago from Great Island looking across to Passage West…

A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all.


December 20, 2008

Christmas Juxtaposition

Panasonic FZ50, 1/6sec, f2.8, ISO 200, 0EV, 35mm (35mm equivalent), (Click to Enlarge)

Here we have the tension of Christmas: The Virgin and Child in the foreground and the Virgin Megastore in the background. Two competing voices: one is the timeless truth of the awesome humility of the incarnation, the other is the brash, hollow and fleeting thing that persistently tries to rob us of what Christmas is about…

I took this picture in 1996, the Virgin Megastore has been re-branded since.