Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas: Seasonal Inspiration 4

Happy Christmas to you all...I wish you a wonderful and a wonder filled time...

As my little gift to you and whoever else may stumble across this I thought I'd put together one final collection of inspirational readings I've come across this advent season...I will begin with the following which I was recently invited to share at the Altrincham Court Leet Carol Service

"A Christmas Prayer" by Maureen Killoran

Not gold, nor myrrh, nor even frankincense
would I have for you this season,
but simple gifts, the ones that are hardest to find,
the ones that are perfect,
even for those who have everything (if such there be).

I would (if I could)
have for you the gift of courage,
the strength to face the gauntlets
only you can name,
and the firmness in your heart to know
that you (yes, you!) can be a bearer of the quiet dignity
that is the human glorified.

I would (if by my intention I could make it happen)
have for you the gift of connection,
the sense of standing on the hinge of time,
touching past and future
standing with certainty that you (yes, you!)
are the point where it all comes together.

I would (if wishing could make it so)
have for you the gift of community,
a nucleus of love and challenge,
to convince you in your soul
that you (yes, you!) are a source of light
in a world too long believing in the dark.

Not gold, nor myrrh, nor even frankincense,
would I have for you this season,
but simple gifts, the ones that are hardest to find,
the ones that are perfect,
even for those who have everything (if such there be).

The second is another prayerful peace by Howard Thurman. To find out more about this great man please click here Howard thurman

“I Place My Gifts” by Howard Thurman

I place my gifts on my altar this Christmas:
Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine.

The quiet hopes that flood the earnest cargo of my dreams
The best of all good things for those I love.

A fresh new trust for all whose faith is dim.
The love of life, a most precious gift in reach of us all:
Seeing in the acts of each day, the seeds of tomorrow.

Finding in the struggle, the strength for renewal,
Seeking in each person, the face of kinship.

I place these gifts on my altar this Christmas
Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine….

Amidst all of its whirl and activity, may this Christmas bring you To your heart’s altar; there to receive a sustaining grace; the gifts of renewal and healing, the gift of stillness, and peace …
Before you set out again to follow your star….

This piece was posted to facebook by my colleague Rev Sue Woolley. It was originally conceived by another colleague Rev Liz Birtles and was rewritten by our late colleague Rev Simon John Barlow, a much loved minister, but someone I sadly never knew personally.

"A Manger of the Heart" Inspired by Rev. Elizabeth Birtles, rewritten by Rev. Simon John Barlow

Prepare the way to welcome your inner child,
The being of love and light,
The spark of holiness that lies deep in us all.

Seek signs of hope and promise in your life
And the world around you;
The stars that point the way to the Light of God.
Make your way to the sanctuary of peace and acceptance
In the depths of your secret heart.

Prepare a manger in your heart,
Built with the wood of your life:
Your body, your home, your physical comforts.
Line it with the straw of your life:
Your friendships, your memories,
Your harvest of sweet and bitter remembrances.

Bring your life’s gifts to your inner child;
Your contentments, your thankfulness,
Your hopes, your expectations of growth.
Surround your manger with your joys,
Your loves, with those you know and have known,
With the Light of Lights.

Commit yourself to nurture your inner holiness,
To seek joy wherever it may be found;
To give and receive love every moment of life;
To keep to the paths of beauty, truth and love.

Remember that here in the manger of the heart
Is perpetual light, the comfort of true peace,
And the delight of universal serenity.
When you return to the bustle of the world,
Remember your inner holiness in all that you do,
And greet the holiness in all those you meet.

The next three pieces are all taken from "Celebrating Christmas: An Anthology" edited by Carl Seaburg

“Christmas Wants” by W. Waldemar W. Argow

What do you want for Christmas? Of a truth, the answer to precious few questions serves so completely as a clue to the mystery of the human heart. At other times of the year we may dissemble and make-believe, but at Christmas our true nature reveals itself and we act from the hidden motives that dominate our lives.

Come with me this blessed Yuletide season and let the heart confess those wishes it has ever longed for, but never dared express. Aye, what is it we truly want?

I want a few faithful friends who understand my loneliness and who make it less, not by what they say but simply by what they are.

I want a growing capacity to appreciate and respond to the uncomplaining suffering of others, knowing that they fight as hard a battle against odds as ever I do.

I want a mind unafraid to travel, though the trail is not blazed, and a heart willing to trust, even when faith seems the most unreasonable of efforts.

I want a sense of duty tempered with compassion; a conception of work as a privilege; an instinct for justice tempered with mercy; and a feeling that responsibility is my debt for the opportunity of living in a day when great ends are at stake.

I want tasks to do that have abiding value, that make my life a lot better and the world a little brighter.

I want a sense of humor, including a sense to laugh much, often at myself; the grace to forgive and the humility to be forgiven; the willingness to praise and the capacity to respond to greatness and glory.

I want a glimpse of verdant hillsides, the never-resting sea, the horizon-seeking plains and the sound of a bird lifting my spirit higher than any bird can fly.

I want a few wistful moments of quiet amidst the raucous noises and feverish fret of the day, and when twilight descends like a benediction I want a sense of an abiding and eternal reality whose other name is God.


Dear Virginia

You knew all along that there was a Santa Claus. Santa as a phantom of your delight sparkled with truth from your very first encounter with life. You were born to a community of care and concern. A place was made for you. Your needs were provided. The world welcomed you and accepted you with the certainty that all life leaves on the mark of its renewal. This acceptance, in its way, is another name for love. Santa’s other name is love too.

What you should know, what you need to know is that there is a Scrooge. Scrooge wears many masks, and in the long days of your becoming, you will find him many times. You must know who he is. Unless you know the masks of Scrooge, unless you know his meaning and can learn to greet him at a proper distance, you too can be such as he! You might become a Scrooge.

The Scrooge of fiction is a familiar character of Christmas telling. To cheer and bright greetings, he has but one reply - ‘Bah humbug!’. He keeps his accountant, Bob Cratchit, on a miserly dole. He counted out the coal lumps for the feeble heating stove. His vision of life, and its purpose followed a miserable narrow track - indeed life had no joy and grinding

toil was meat enough for any person. Neither did he spare himself.

To be sure, as his tale of Christmas unfolds, he has menacing dreams and frightening visions. He awakened a changed and reformed man. But the Scrooge that lives amongst us, still awaits the healing of visions and dreams.

I pray that you will recognise the masks of Scrooge. His is the mask of cynicism. He feeds on the sorrow of unrealised dreams and ever seeks to remind you that there is no profit in dreaming; that dreams and expectations of better things, or a better you, are foolish fantasy. Reality is hard and unrelenting.

Scrooge wears the mask called despair. The frowns of the cynic are graven more deeply. They never give way to smiles. This mask mocks you with the certainty that everything good will be worse. The motto on the portals of Dante’s Inferno is appropriated for the living: ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here’

Scrooge wears blinkers. This mask is a curtain that keeps you from looking out to the company of others on life’s journey. Blinkers that keep your purposes narrow, make all dreams private property and deny you the thrill of community achievement and the sharing in another’s joy.

Scrooge wears a mirror. This mirror is a mask that tells you that you alone are of value. Purposes end with the fulfilling of yourself. The whole world is your own reflection. The selfish solitary concern of your whole life is your own well-being.

These words about Scrooge are a warning of the perilous. You need realistic hopes and not just idle dreams. Keep your eyes open. Polish up your stars and visions, but please keep a sharp eye open for Scrooge - that he you not become.

“To Live a Life – Not Merely a Season” by John Haynes Holmes

The wonderful thing about Christmas is that it fulfils all our dreams. It suspends our indifference and selfishness and fears and hates, and makes us for an instant spiritually kin. No one must be hungry or homeless on this day, no child forlorn, no heart forsaken, no race despised, no nation outlawed.

Christmas is the demonstration that no hope is vain, that the highest vision may be made real. It is as tho a spell were cast upon us, to save us...from our cruelties and lusts and make us ministers of love. The spell is fleeting – it passes quickly! But this means not at all that it is an illusion but that, real for this one day, it may be caught by the spiritual conjuration of our hearts and made real forever.

This our task – to seize and hold and perpetuate the Christmastide! To live a life, and not merely a single day or a season, which is delivered by prejudice and pride, hostility and hate, and committed to understanding and compassion, and good will! Then there will be no more Christian and pagan, Jew and gentile, black and white, native and alien, or any division – but only the human family, one as God is one, and heirs of that promise.

The following is by Maya Angelou. The find out more please click on the following link Maya Angelou

“Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem" by Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

― Maya Angelou

The following is an extract from "Love and Death: My Journey Through The Valley Of The Shadow" by the late great Forrest Church, which he wrote as he was dying of Oesophageal cancer.

A Closing Prayer

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2007

On this night of nights,
We have more for which to be grateful than we will ever know:
More cause to bless and cherish
And bend our knee in wonder,
More call to lift our hearts on wings of praise.

For we, too, on this very night,
Illuminated by a story and a star,
Can witness a miracle:
A birth — heralding our birth,
Pregnant with promise and oh so surpassingly strange;
A life — no less magical than ours;
A death — to charge our days with purpose,
Helping us to live in such a way
That our lives, too, will prove worth dying for.

To enter the realm of enchantment,
We must first shed our self-protective cover,
Not, as we too often and so sadly do,
Take this precious life for granted,
But unwrap the present and receive the gift,
Mysterious and charged with saving grace.

So let us, on this night of nights, set aside our shopping list of grievances,
Resist the nattering of our grubby little egos,
And crack our parched lives open like a seed.

Let us pray.

Let us awaken from the soul-crushing allures
Of sophisticated resignation and cynical chic,
To savor instead the world of abundance and possibility
That awaits just beyond the self-imposed limits of our imagination.

Let us awaken to the saving gift of forgiveness,
Where we can, in a single breath, free ourselves and free another.

Let us awaken to the possibility of love,
Body, mind, and spirit,
All-saving and all-redeeming love.

Let us awaken to the blessing of acceptance,
Expressed in a simple, saving mantra:
Want what we have; do what we can; be who we are.

Rather than let wishful thinking or regret
Displace the gratitude for all that is ours, here and now,
To savor and to save.

Let us want what we have —
Praying for health, if we are blessed with health,
For friendship, if we are blessed with friends,
For family, if we are blessed with family,
For work, if we are blessed with tasks that await our doing,
And if our lives are dark, may we remember to want nothing more than the loving
Affection of those whose hearts are broken by
our pain.

Let us do what we can —
Not dream impossible dreams or climb every mountain,
But dream one possible dream and climb one splendid mountain,
That our life may be blessed with attainable meaning.

And let us be who we are —
Embrace our God-given nature and talents.
Answer the call that is ours, not another's,
Thereby enhancing our little world and the greater world we share.

That is my Christmas prayer,
Call it thoughtful wishing.
All we have to do is put our heart in it.
And there's one more bonus.
Unlike wishful thinking, thoughtful wishes always come true.

Amen. I love you. And may God bless us all.

Finally a little bit more of Howard Thurman

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the king and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among the brothers,
To make music in the heart. (Howard Thurman)

Let us go out into the world and let us carry the spirit of Christmas into all that we feel and all that we think and all that we say and all that we do.

May God go with us all.


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