Reflection for Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent, Quinquagesima

“They were terrified.” Peter, James and John in today’s Gospel Mark 9:2-9.

“God places us in the world as his fellow workers-agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so there will be more compassion and caring, that there will be more laughter and joy, that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.” Desmond Tutu.

Although the Transfiguration is marked on August 6th, the same date as the explosion of light caused by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, today is Transfiguration Sunday as well as Quinquegessima or the Sunday before Lent. During that mountain top experience, Peter, James and John were at first terrified and then astounded by the unexpected intensity of light as Jesus was transfigured before them. By contrast, those witnessing the deadly light at Hiroshima found that it had fearful consequences for the many who were vaporised or disfigured by what had happened. The source of the light was key – Jesus was seen in his full glory but Hiroshima revealed the full devastation of what happened, although it lead to the surrender of Japan. The use of nuclear weapons marked a very different kind of transfiguration through disfiguration: ‘In one split second, the face of war changed completely.’  Imperial War Museum. 

Both before and after the Transfiguration, Jesus talks about suffering, death and resurrection, hence its link with Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday this week. Earlier, he had told his disciples that not all of them would taste death, “…until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Mark 9:1. That happened just six days later for Peter, James and John who were the only ones who witnessed this – such dazzling spiritual experiences are not for all. 

During this experience, Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah who traditionally represent the Law and the Prophets. However, both men had mountain top experiences and Moses was a prophet as well as a law giver with the Ten Commandments. His face had to be covered by a veil after his encounter on Mount Sinai because it was too bright to bear for those around him but Moses reflected God’s light whereas Jesus IS the light. Touchingly, in verse 3 Mark describes Jesus’ clothing as being, ‘dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them’ – perhaps the sharing of a reminiscence of what had happened? 

As Lent begins on Ash Wednesday this week, it’s a good time to consider the figures around or in the news who influence life today as well as those who transfigure or disfigure what unfolds. Even in the midst of the disfiguration suffered by air crew who were terribly burned during the war, the work of the surgeon Archibald McIndoe on members of the Guinea Pig Club in rebuilding bodies and souls led to the development of much of the plastic and cosmetic surgery that is available today. In the challenges being faced now, Desmond Tutu’s words still call us to engage with the hope of transfiguration as we consider the example of Jesus who, in the wilderness, overcame temptation and engaged with injustice and compassion. As we follow in his footsteps, will we see things in a new light?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for the Second Sunday before Lent, Candlemas and Creation Sunday.

Today is Creation Sunday and, with Candlemas also happening this week, three snowdrops are on the altar as nature’s candles, marking the ancient custom of making light, peace and hope visible as the beauty of creation displays the first signs of new life after winter. Actual candles are also blessed at this time as Jesus, Light of the World, is made visible in the Temple and as the generations meet through the aged and faithful Simeon and Anna, his parents and the baby, who would have been circumcised in the eighth day. Mary is coming to be purified thirty three days after this as would be expected in those days and it’s clear that, as observant Jews, the family is living by the law of Moses.

Not everyone lives by obeying the law, whether of Moses or the land where they live. I was struck recently by the words of a police officer who said of the nightly battle for law and order he and his colleagues face when darkness is a cover for criminal activity, “We shine the brightest.” This is a dark time of year with daylight hours still short, very troubling events in the world making many so gloomy and the stormy, cold weather not helping matters. It can be tempting to lose confidence and to think that there is little that can be done to improve things. That’s why the officer’s words had such an impact – he was sure he and his colleagues would overcome the criminals challenging them and that they could make a positive difference. And so they did!

As we face the challenges before us, perhaps we’re not sure that we can overcome them. There will be daily ways in which we can also make a difference – but what difference will we decide to make? February Filldyke is dark and rainy but early daffodils are already appearing, buds are developing on the magnolia and weeping willow trees here and the daylight is lengthening. There are signs of new life and growth all around – sometimes they are noticed and sometimes just overlooked.

The same is true of relationships too. The song This little light o’ mine, I’m going to let it shine is a joyful gospel song but it became well known as an anthem of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. During that struggle, many were heartened by it as, despite the circumstances, it helped to lower the awful tensions being experienced. The lyrics speak of letting the light shine – for those around us as well as ourselves:

This little light o’ mine, I’m goin’ to let it shine Everywhere I go, I’m goin’ to let it shine …

In my neighbour’s home, I’m goin’ to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.’

The light is there – it’s a question of letting it shine. At the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the USA, it was said that she would rather, “…light a candle than curse the darkness.” She championed civil rights, doing what she could and letting her light shine when others were eclipsed. In the darkness and challenges still being faced today will we let ours shine or look for what creation is showing us about new life and growth? And, as Candlemas marks the turning from Christmas to Easter and Lent beginning on 14th February, do we shine the brightest we can?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

February Services at the Shrine Church of Pennant Melangell 


 
I was struck recently by the words of a police officer who said of the nightly battle for law and order he and his colleagues face when darkness is a cover for criminal activity, “We shine the brightest.” This is a dark time of year with daylight hours still short, very troubling events in the world making many so gloomy and the stormy, cold weather not helping matters. It can be tempting to lose confidence and to think that there is little that can be done to improve things. That’s why the officer’s words had such an impact – he was sure he and his colleagues would overcome the criminals challenging them and that they could make a positive difference. And so they did! 

As we face the challenges before us, perhaps we’re not sure that we can overcome them. There will be daily ways in which we can also make a difference – but what difference will we decide to make? February Filldyke is dark and rainy but early snowdrops are already appearing, buds are developing on the magnolia and weeping willow trees here and the daylight is lengthening. There are signs of new life and growth all around – sometimes they are noticed and sometimes just overlooked.  

The same is true of relationships too. The song This little light o’ mine, I’m going to let it shine is a joyful gospel song but it became well known as an anthem of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. During that struggle, many were heartened by it as, despite the circumstances, it helped to lower the awful tensions being experienced. The lyrics speak of letting the light shine – for those around us as well as ourselves: 

This little light o’ mine, I’m goin’ to let it shine Everywhere I go, I’m goin’ to let it shine ….. 

In my neighbour’s home, I’m goin’ to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.’ 

The light is there – it’s a question of letting it shine. At the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the USA, it was said that she would rather, “…light a candle than curse the darkness.” She championed civil rights, doing what she could and letting her light shine when others were eclipsed. In the darkness and challenges facing us today, will we let ours? And, as Lent begins this month, do we shine the brightest we can? 

The following services will be held at St Melangell’s: 

Thursdays 1st, 8th, 22nd, 29th February at noon: Holy Eucharist and healing service followed by a shared lunch. 

Feb. 4th, Creation Sunday; 11th, Racial Justice Sunday, 3pm: service of reflection. 

Ash Wednesday, 14th, 10am: Ashing and Holy Eucharist. There will be no service on 15th due to this. 

18th First Sunday of Lent, 3pm: Service of reflection.  

25th Second Sunday of Lent, 3pm: Holy Eucharist. 

Monday 26th February, 10.30 in the centre: Julian Group. 

The Lent group will focus on Julian of Norwich, known as the Covid Saint because she voluntarily chose to a lifetime of prayer in isolation. Julian wrote the first surviving book by a woman in English and lived during a time of plague that had parallels with the Covid pandemic. If you would like to join the weekly discussion group looking at these and other issues, please contact admin@stmelangell.org or 01691 860408. 

With my prayers; pob bendith, 

Christine, Guardian. 

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany and Holocaust Memorial Day.

 ’Judas said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”….. He went and hanged himself.’ From Matthew 27:1-10.

You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on.

Anne Frank, in her Diary, published after her death from typhus at the age of 15 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year, marked on the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, is the Fragility of Freedom and some of what follows is testimony from those involved at the time. A purple flame is the symbol of the Holocaust Memorial Trust and so the actual words of survivors are written in purple. 

When the Nazis arrived in the Netherlands, Anne wrote in her diary:

That is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use trams; Jews were forbidden to ride in cars, even their own; Jews were required to do their shopping between 3.00 and 5.00p.m; Jews were required to frequent only Jewish-owned barbershops and beauty salons; 

Jews were forbidden to be out on the streets between 8.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m.; Jews were forbidden to go to theatres, cinemas or any other forms of entertainments; Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields; Jews were forbidden to go rowing; Jews were forbidden to take part in any athletic activity in public; Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8.00 p.m.; Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes; Jews were required to attend Jewish schools, etc. You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on. 

Life went on, despite what was happening, just as it does today for those still enduring the consequences of persecution, racism and hatred as others look on or prefer not to acknowledge what is unfolding. Genocide not only erodes the freedom of those being targeted, but also the freedom of those around them yet there are also those who are willing to do what they can to enable freedom or escape. 

However, many of those who survived the war and the camps found, like Esther Brunstein, that they were not free despite their liberation: The first few days after liberation were joyous and yet sad, confusing and bewildering. I did not know how to cope with freedom after years of painful imprisonment.

When freed, many former prisoners were alone and unable to return home, having to live in a new country, learn a different language and rebuild their health and lives whilst living with terrible memories and the loss of families and friends. Many were physically free, but not psychologically, sometimes remaining stigmatised or traumatised for the rest of their life. Others, like Judas Iscariot after betraying Jesus, committed suicide as they were unable to live with the consequences of what had happened. 

With persecutions since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Dafur, the ongoing wars between Israel and Gaza and elsewhere now mean that anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim attacks as well as other forms of prejudice and hatred are increasing once more. It may be tempting and understandable to seek revenge but as the son of a partisan who avenged his murdered family by killing Nazis after the war observed at a mass war grave in Belarus:

”The greatest revenge wasn’t killing Germans. The greatest revenge was building life.”

Joe Green, in ‘Revenge: Our dad the Nazi killer’, a BBC Storyville documentary.

In whatever we are battling to overcome, therein lies the challenge for us all.

With my prayers; pob bendith. 

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection: the Third Sunday of Epiphany & the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This is the Third Sunday of Epiphany, when the set Gospel reading is the continuing revelation of Christ’s glory, shown in his first miracle when water was turned into wine at a wedding in Cana. As it’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, today’s reflection originates from the parable of the Good Samaritan and resources offered by the persecuted churches in Burkina Faso in West Africa. These are provided by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and further details can be found on their website at ctbi.org.uk

With my prayers,

Christine, Guardian.

”Which of these…was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

From Luke 10:25-36.

The priest and Levite who walked by on the other side may have had religious reasons for not helping. The beginning of the text for the Week of Prayer tells us how the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself. The priest and the Levite in the parable would have felt justified in what they had done. Yet on many occasions, Jesus is critical of religious leadership for placing the rules of religion ahead of the obligation always to do good.

This parable of Jesus not only challenges us to do good, but also to widen our vision. We do not learn what is good and holy only from those who share our confessional or religious worldview, but often from those who are different from us. Light and love are embodied in our enemy too. The Good Samaritan is often the one we do not expect….

The Good Samaritan did what he could out of his own resources: he poured oil and wine and bandaged the man’s wounds and put him on his own animal. The Samaritan went further still by promising to pay for the man’s care. When we see the world through the Samaritan’s eyes, every situation can be an opportunity to help those in need. This is where love manifests itself. The example of the Good Samaritan motivates us to ask ourselves how to respond to our neighbour. He gave wine and oil, restoring the man and giving him hope. What can we give, so that we can be a part of God’s work of healing a broken world?…. How do we empower such courageous behaviour, recognising there is a cost?

At the end of the parable, Jesus asked the lawyer: who was the neighbour to the man who was robbed? The lawyer replied “the one who showed him mercy”. He does not say “the Samaritan” and we might imagine that the hostility between Samaritans and Jews made that answer hard to admit. We often discover our neighbours in the most unexpected people, even those whose very name or origins we find difficult to utter. In today’s world, where polarised politics often set those of different religious identities against one another, Jesus challenges us through this parable to see the importance of our vocation to transgress borders and walls of separation.

Like the lawyer, we are challenged to reflect upon how we live our lives, not merely in terms of whether we do good or not, but whether, like the priest and the Levite, we are neglecting to do mercy.

Through these words – “Go and do likewise” – Jesus sends each of us, and our churches, to live out His commandment to love. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are sent out to be “other Christs”, reaching out to a suffering humanity in compassion and mercy. Like the Good Samaritan towards the injured man, we can choose not to reject those who are different, rather cultivating a culture of proximity and goodwill – actively seeking out and moving towards opportunities to be hospitable, to welcome and to share – in our common task to bring to fruition the dream of God.

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Epiphany – what are we looking for?

Jesus answered, ”I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

From John 1:43-51.



”We shine the brightest.” Durham police officer, speaking of the nightly battle for law and order when darkness is a cover for criminal activity. 

At this season of Epiphany, revelations continue as Jesus is seen in the first chapter of John’s gospel as ‘the Lamb of God’ (v29), ‘one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (v33), ‘the Son of God’ (v34) and ‘Rabbi’ (v38). It is the third of ‘the next day’ texts where Jesus finds Philip in Galilee and tells him to “Follow me”. Philip does so, but first goes to tell Nathanael that the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote has been found. Nathanael is scornful – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – but Philip then invites him to come and see for himself. Nathanael responds and is astounded when Jesus discerns that he is an Israelite with no deceit. As Jesus tells him that he saw him under the fig tree before Philip called him, this being traditionally a place where a Rabbi would study the Torah, Nathanael then realises for himself that the Rabbi before him is, “…the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” This is an astonishing revelation, given that Nathanael was originally so scornful, and Jesus goes on to tell him that he will see far greater things, including heaven itself and the angels. 

Despite what he originally perceived, Nathanael was willing to respond to Philip’s call and then to change his mind. As he saw for himself, so Jesus looked on him and promised great things to come. All of this could happen because Philip told Nathanael the good news about Jesus and, at such a dark and challenging time today, good news is needed more than ever. Hope will triumph over despair, love will triumph over evil and the message of the Prince of Peace will eventually prevail – but meanwhile, darkness, misunderstanding and wrongdoing may seem to have the upper hand. That’s particularly pertinent as revelations continue about the great miscarriage of justice by Post Office administrators, the increasing tensions in the Middle East, the unresolved issues over refugees, the waste of money with HS2 and much more. There may seem to be little that can be done but there are many opportunities to make a positive difference in small if not great ways, although we may have to change our mindset or leave our comfort zone to see this for ourselves – like Nathanael. How this might happen is complex and diverse but the Durham police officer spoke with confidence in himself and his colleagues in bringing light into the darkness. In answering God’s call in our lives, or encouraging others to respond as did Philip, at this dark time the light and insight we can contribute with others is vital. Jesus’ question to his followers today as well as those first disciples is appropriate in light of the way ahead as 2024 unfolds and Epiphany continues: “What are you looking for?” (v38)

With my prayers; pob bendith

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus.



’In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan.’ From today’s Gospel, Mark 1:4-11.



“ A cold coming we had of it. Just the worst time of the year. For a journey and such a long journey.” T.S. Eliot, The journey of the Magi.

This week, I had to make a journey from the East Midlands back to Wales but storm Henk was causing huge problems. Many places were already flooded by the River Trent with more rain to come and so I started with a hopefulness that I would be ahead of the further downpours. However, within ten minutes of setting out, a flooded road meant that I had to take a detour through Derby and onto the A38 rather than the planned M50.  A further diversion was both simple and quick but then a notice of a road closure with no diversion set up was a surprise which threw me. My satnav kept telling me to turn around, which I couldn’t do due to the closure, and at one point, it directed me to take the M6 to Birmingham. That was the opposite direction in which I needed to travel and I began to think I would need to go back and set out again the next day when the flooding had subsided. However, a slip road onto the A5 meant that I began to travel towards Telford, although in a very circuitous way. I persevered although my journey took me over twice as long as normal – I was cold and tired but also relieved that I did get back eventually at a time when so many found themselves stranded or flooded out.

At least I knew where I was trying to get to but, in this season of Epiphany, my journey made me think of that of the Magi who travelled for much longer without being sure of where they were going. Matthew’s Gospel relates that they turned up in Jerusalem, presumably thinking that a new king would be born in the seat of power, thus alerting King Herod and leading to the massacre of the innocents. Having found their way to the Christ child, they then went back by another route. This applied to the Holy Family too, who had to flee as refugees to Egypt – did they know where they were going or have contacts there? The perseverance and willingness to change plans of those in the Biblical narratives are reminders that those characteristics are much needed today, too.

The Gospel today records the baptism of Jesus, traditionally thought to have been on 6th January, as an epiphany because of the words, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” With the descent of the dove as a visible sign of the Holy Spirit, so Jesus the adult is revealed as one of the Trinity, a revelation recorded by St John Chrysostom in the fourth century thinking of his day: “It was not when he was born that he became manifest to all, but when he was baptised.”

Whatever we may think of the Epiphany stories and their origins then, there are times in our lives when we may be clear where we’re going, sometimes confused or even lost as we seek the way ahead. The revelations these times bring to those who seek the light as well as the way ahead may be helpful as well as challenging, often in much smaller but significant ways than we may realise as we play our part in the stories unfolding around us today:

“The epiphany was simply tucked away for consideration after we were back…. Sometimes a revelation comes with a flash of heavenly light and a booming voice – and sometimes it is jotted in a sun-bleached spiral notebook.” JA Lockwood. 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for New Year.



‘When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened…. “ And they departed praising God.’ Luke 2:15-21.



’With its relentlessly recriminatory tone, it’s often more mope opera than soap opera … It’s more eggshell than bombshell.’ Review of Omie Scobie’s book Endgame.

Traditionally, Bethlehem has been a focus of the Christmas celebrations around the world but, this year, a nativity scene was erected there in rubble and surrounded by razor wire as a tribute to the children of Gaza. The town where the Light dawned two thousand years ago was mostly in darkness and, apart from church services, Christmas was effectively cancelled due to the ongoing warfare. 

It’s tempting to think that the Nativity is only about light and hope which can so easily be eclipsed but, in reality, the baby and his family quickly became refugees fleeing to Egypt as King Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two to be killed by his soldiers. The bloodshed and Massacre of the Innocents then has a fearsome link with what is happening today when so many civilians have been killed, wounded and traumatised in the terrible suffering being inflicted. Jesus lived then – but so many others did not. How can there be hope?

The baby Jesus lived but he was later put to death as an adult in the most ghastly way by soldiers also obeying orders. On Good Friday, it seemed that death had finally claimed him and darkness seemed to overcome the light when an eclipse took place as he died. Yet, on Easter Day, his resurrection brought a new beginning and fresh hope – though it was the scars and marks of his suffering that Jesus carried on his body that showed his frightened disciples that it was not a ghost but really him before them. More than two thousand years later that same love and hope can still live on – unless we choose to extinguish them. 

We, too, can carry seen and unseen scars of the suffering we’ve been through and our lives can sometimes become more mope opera than soap opera as Scobie’s book indicates. But the shepherds – people sometimes scorned in those days – had a choice whether or not to do as the angels told them. Luke tells us that they did go to find love incarnate in the unlikely setting of a manger and that they returned praising God. Did they all go or did some stay to care for their  sheep? Did meeting love in that way make a difference to their lives? We shall never know.

What is known is that many, many prayers were said for peace this Christmas the world over and 2024 will present opportunities for each of us to make that peace a reality. The angels sang of peace on earth, goodwill to all – that seemed unlikely on Good Friday and may seem unrealistic now. But one of the choices before us is to enable mope opera and soap opera to become hope opera – if we allow it to. The shepherds chose to respond to the invitation of the angels to discover love, hope and faith afresh – and, in a nutshell rather than eggshells or bombshells, will we as 2024 dawns?

With my prayers for a hopeful New Year; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Christmas reflection

Today’s reflection is the joint message from Christian leaders across Wales, followed by Bishop Gregory’s Christmas message in Welsh and English.

Despite the chaotic circumstances in so many situations, may  Christmas still bring its blessings and the New Year fresh hope.

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian. 

The Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, Mark O’Toole, and the Moderator of the Free Church Council of Wales, Simon Walkling, are issuing a joint message which acknowledges the tensions and tragedies in the world today and invites people to church to reflect and pray for peace.

The news has been full of the terrible tragedy unfolding in Gaza after the awful terrorist attack on Israel. Thousands of children killed in a war they did not choose. It seems a long way from the Christmas adverts here and the pressure to be merry. It is understandable that the church leaders in Jerusalem have invited Christians there to forego any unnecessarily festive activities and stand strong with those facing affliction. They see it as standing in support of those continuing to suffer, just as Jesus did by being born as a baby in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

Jesus was born in a land occupied by the Romans. He was born away from home because of an imperial census. There were family tensions around Mary being pregnant and Jesus was laid in a feeding trough because there was no room at the inn. Herod killed the boys in Bethlehem to get rid of the threat to his power. All these are part of Christmas, along with our joy at God’s love and the traditions which help us celebrate.

This Christmas we may be aware of tensions in families, and the difficulties of making ends meet. This year we remember the wars in the land of Jesus’ birth, Ukraine and other parts of the world. We also remember that this year was the centenary of the Wales Women’s Peace Appeal which took a petition to America about joining the League of Nations to promote ‘Law not War’. It was a message signed by around 60% of women in Wales and went from home to home and hearth to hearth, showing what the co-ordinated work of ordinary people could achieve.

We need peace in our world. We may want to be free of tension in our families. We may long for five minutes of peace for ourselves in all the Christmas preparations. Why not come to church to find space to reflect and make time to pray for peace this Christmas? We are praying for joy and hope for us all.

Bishop Gregory’s message:

“Mae’n stori hyfryd, ond…”

Mae pawb ohonom yn gyfarwydd â stori geni Iesu – y stabl, y bugeiliaid, y doethion a’r seren.   Ond pa wahaniaeth mae hi’n ei wneud heddiw?   Mae Cristnogion yn credu ei bod yn dangos ymroddiad llwyr Duw i’r ddynoliaeth ac i’r blaned neilltuol hon ymhlith miliynau. Oherwydd credwn fod y dyn, Iesu, hefyd yn Dduw a ddaeth yn un ohonom ni, a byw bywyd go iawn â’i holl bleserau a phroblemau.   Credwn i Dduw ddod atom yn faban, oherwydd ei awydd i gydsefyll â merched a dynion.

Ydi hi’n fwy na stori neis?   Rydw i’n credu ei bod, oherwydd os yw’n wir, ac rydw i’n argyhoeddedig ei bod hi, yna mae’n newid realiti yn sylfaenol.   Mae Duw wedi rhoi arwydd pendant ei fod yn dymuno i ddynoliaeth lwyddo, tyfu y tu hwnt i’n dioddefiadau, a goresgyn drygioni yn y byd hwn.   Wrth ddarllen am erchyllterau a gyflawnwyd ar Iddewon neu Balestiniaid, am y driniaeth arswydus a gaiff pobl dlawd neu ffoaduriaid, gallwn ddweud nid yn unig bod Duw yn dymuno gweld cyfiawnder yn teyrnasu, ond ei fod hefyd yn ymroi i roi’r nerth a’r dewrder i bobl i sicrhau newid.   Ar hyd y canrifoedd, mae stori’r Nadolig wedi rhoi’r ysbrydoliaeth a’r anogaeth i filoedd i sefyll dros yr hyn sy’n iawn, ac i weithredu mewn cariad.   Bydded hyn yn wir am bob un ohonom sy’n fodlon gwrando ar gân yr angylion.

“It’s a nice story, but …”

We all know the story of the birth of Jesus – the stable, the shepherds, the wise men and the star. What difference does it make today? Christians believe that it demonstrates God’s total commitment to humanity and to this one planet amongst millions, because we believe that the man, Jesus, was also God becoming one of us, living a real life with all its joys and problems.  We believe that God became a baby, so much did he wish to be in solidarity with women and men.

Is this anything more than a nice story? I believe so, for if it is true, and I for one am convinced, then it radically alters reality. God has given a decisive indication that he wants humanity to succeed, to grow beyond our sufferings, and to overcome evil in this world. When we read of atrocities inflicted on Jew or Palestinian, of horrible penalties being rained down on the poor or the refugee, we can say that God not only wants to see justice established but is committed to giving the strength and courage to people to enable change. Down through the centuries, thousands have found in the Christmas story the inspiration and encouragement to stand up for right, and to act in love. Let this be true for each of us willing to listen to the song of the angels.

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

Today’s reflection is from Christopher and Ruth, worship leaders who took the service today.  

Middle Eastern hospitality required that journeys and visits were marked by the giving or exchange of gifts. Monarchs, statesmen and religious leaders still bring and receive gifts when they meet other leaders in other countries. If you are invited to a party or to a friend’s house it is usual to bring a gift and perhaps to take one away. But if we are to accompany the Magi on their journey towards Jesus, we have to stop and wonder: what does gift giving really involve? 

Gifts are words and emotions in concrete form. They embody the idea that you have thought about the other person and your friendship, love, esteem or gratitude for them is reflected in the form of gift you offer. You might take something you have cooked round to a new neighbour, to show you recognise that they might need something while they get their kitchen up and running; you might take flowers and wine to a dinner party to thank the hosts for the effort they have taken to feed you; you might take magazines or soap or fruit to a sick person to show care for them and to embody the hope that they will get well.You may want to give food or money to the foodbank because you care for those who do not have enough.

I’ve been wondering how the Magi decided what to bring to Jesus, and also when they did their deciding. You can take the view that they turned up at Bethlehem within a week or two of the birth, if not on the day, though if so they must have started long before. I personally like the idea that the star first appeared at the time of Jesus’ conception. Or you can take the view that the star appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth, in which case they would not have made it for Epiphany only a fortnight later. Either way, did they decide independently what they would give and when to leave and then happened to meet up in Jerusalem? 

I prefer the idea that they all came from the same area and had for some time been in the habit of meeting to watch the stars, to pray and to share any insights they may have received. Clearly they were prophetic, and it may not have been the first time they had pictures or dreams. Zechariah kept having visions where an angel said to him “what do you see?”. It is common still that if someone asks for prayer the one praying can have a picture of something which seems strange but actually means a lot to the seeker.

You can imagine the scene in Caspar’s housegroup; 

(C) “Hey Melchior, did you see that new star which rose last night for the first time?”

(M) “Yes I did, and I’m sure it must have a meaning of some sort. Balthasar, you are good on old prophecies, can you think of anything?”

(B) “Yes I did read somewhere that a new star would herald the birth of a king”

(C) “ Well I first saw it over towards the West, pretty well over Judea.”

(M) Lets all pray about it and see if we have any insights to share next week”

(Next week).

(C) “I’ve been praying about that star. I had a dream about a great king full of power and gleaming like gold”

(M)” I too had a dream. I saw a man on his knees praying, and it seemed that his prayer released a sweet smell all over the world.”

(B) “I’m not quite sure, but I think this is from God. I saw a dead man, very badly injured, but surrounded by people whom he had loved and who loved him. Then I saw the same man come alive, and his love spread around the world.”

(C) “ The fact that we’ve all seen something shows this is really significant. I suggest we start out to travel and see what it is. We should take gifts, maybe each of us the gift appropriate to his vision for the destiny of this great and holy personage.”

So of course we know the rest of the story. Gold to signify kingship, incense to signify prayer and priesthood. Despite the hymn, I believe that myrrh has greater implications than just burial: it also has aspects of love. Esther was anointed with it for 6 months before being presented to King Xerxes. The Song of Solomon fairly drips with it.

So can we learn from the Magi the right principles for choosing Christmas presents? Perhaps not always just what the recipient put on their list? Perhaps, after praying for them, something to reflect God’s love for them and purpose for their life. Of course, it is not only or most importantly material gifts; any conversation, even online, can and should be an exchange of gifts. Spend less, love more!