Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Barely A Woman

Here are some words in song, poetry and prose that we hope will help you have a truly happy Christmas!

Catherine Writes

You were barely a woman
you were barely a woman,
you were barely a woman
yet you trusted in God

Frightened and lonely,
at the news you just heard,
what would it look like
unmarried with child?
Death sentence hanging,
the need to confirm,
that Gods truth was speaking
and not just your own.

you were barely a woman
you were barely a woman
you were barely a woman
yet you trusted in God

At Elizabeth’s house
the babies leapt
spirit and son
reunited again.
The news confirmed,
relief that its true
yet scared at the future
God's got planned for you

you were barely a woman
you were barely a woman
you were barely a woman
yet you trusted in God

Journeying back
to your husband to be
he might want to stone you
or run and flee.
The shame on the family,
the load that you bear.
Who will believe
that Gods son is in there?

David Writes (From “Mary’s Diary”)

How Can I Explain? [audio:http://marysdiary.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/How-Can-I-Explain.mp3|titles=How Can I Explain]

Extract 15: It's awful. At first it was lovely - everyone pleased to see me again, lots of hugs - the wonderful sense of being part of family. But in my heart I kept wondering if they would share my joy at what God had done. Eventually I got some time with Joseph. Everyone thought we were catching up and planning for the wedding. The wedding that isn't going to happen now. At first he thought it was some kind of  story. Then when he realised I was serious, when he looked at me and knew, then he was angry. 'An angel, sure he was an angel'. But it wasn't his anger that broke my heart. It was his disappointment, the thought that I'd betrayed him. I had no words - what could I say that I hadn't already said? I couldn't bear his pain. What a fool to think that others would share my joy. All they see is the shame, all they assume is the worst. And why not? Wouldn't I? Tears aren't enough to express how I feel. 12 weeks from joy to devastation. Where are your promises now God? He's a good man, maybe the best of men. Even in his despair he wanted to spare me. He'll visit my Father tomorrow and agree the terms of the divorce. He said he'll do it quietly - I'll have to leave Nazareth of course - it won't be safe to be here branded as a harlot.

All generations will call me blessed? Right now my name is a curse.

Extract 16: Joseph arrived at the house early, I didn't see his face, couldn't bear to look. I heard my mother open the door. 'Good morning Ann', his voice sounded calmer than I expected. I waited, dreading what was next, the conversation with my Father, the shouting, the shame. But the storm never came. 'Can I see Mary' he asked. We walked together, I fearing some onslaught, some accusation, something even worse than was already waiting. But he turned and looked me in the eye and said quietly. 'I saw him Mary - I saw Gabriel last night. He told me that I should have trusted you, that it is all true, that you are carrying God's son. He asked me to be his earthly father. To be your husband. I almost fell, the relief flooded through me - whatever happened now, I had my Joseph, my kind, strong Joseph to be by my side.

Extract 19: We argued about it - the first time in 5 months of marriage. In the end I won, I'm going to go with him to Bethlehem -  we're going to go with him. I know it seems crazy,  weeks of traveling when I am almost due. But being pregnant with God's son is crazy anyway, and God gave me my strong, kind Joseph for a reason - and it wasn't to leave me at the mercy of these people I once knew so well.

Extract 20: Tonight is the first night that I've been able to write anything. Joseph thinks we should make Bethlehem before dark. He seems nervous - we know news of my 'condition' will have reached his family - we don't know how they will react when we arrive on their doorstep. But even if they are ashamed of us, who could turn away their son and his wife when she so needs a normal bed?

Back to Catherine:

You were barely a woman
you were barely a woman,
you were barely a woman
yet you trusted in God

Your time comes
in no comfortable room.
Not even a stable
with hay on the floor.
But there in the square
in the centre of town
your shame is public
as they stare and frown

I find the Christmas scenes around me, nice, comforting. Great I think, lovely stable, a place of great peace, no turmoil, pretty, quaint. Jesus should be in this place I think... the son of God arriving - nice welcomes from everyone around (shepherds, kings, wise men etc), even if it had to be a stable because all the inns were filled up for Christmas......

But.... it wasn't a stable. This was Joseph's home town... yet none of his family welcomed him in, not as we nicely put it that the rooms were full....but because no one would have them in their house.... they had been rejected by their own family, effectively cut off from them.

This was not a 'nice place' Jesus was born into. But a place of hostility, unwelcome, rejection, pain, shame. The Prince of Peace arrives in the heart of battle. Not the still waters.. Jesus comes into the place of battle, the reality of the world. To parents rejected and shunned, to public shame, to a place of danger, to a place away from the Father.

This is the good news!  Because of this, I know that Jesus is willing to come into my darkest moments,  my struggles... this is where he comes in... Not in comfort, but to a place of difficulty..into the battle.

And finally:

Donkey’s hooves; the ceaseless rhythm of the night,
echoes of another rhythm deep inside.
Pain gripping, the infinite constrained to a womb.
No room.

 Girl crying, men laughing.
Pain drowning all but fear.
Doors slamming, people staring.
Oh God, anywhere but here.

God crying, people mocking,
naked in the street.
Pain engulfing, strength failing.
Shepherds come to greet.

Baby crying, mother laughing,
Joy of heaven come down!
Then crowd shouting, Pilate washing,
Thorns make a crown.

Barbed whip tearing, nails piercing,
Heart bleeding for her son.
God weeping, silence reigning, darkness falling.
What have we done?

The battle didn’t end with his birth in humiliating squalor. The battle didn’t end with the scorn of the religious elite. The battle didn’t end with the betrayal of a friend or desertion of those he had come to save. The battle didn’t end in the agony of Gethsemane or the unspeakable pain of the cross. The battle didn’t even end with the victorious risen Christ.

It ends when we share his humility, engage in the battle and welcome him fully and unreservedly into our lives.

Indeed, happy Christ mass.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

There was this wierd guy...

I spent a few days in York this week with friends from the YWAM team. Strange journey there - set off from Luton at 8:10 to get the 9:30 train from Stevenage. Missed it. That's Google Maps for you. Just as we were getting close, the road it said we should take just wasn't there. Maybe it was a prophetic road, a visionary road, a metaphysical road. Whatever. It wasn't there, doesn't yet exist, except perhaps in cyber-space... There's probably a blog in there somewhere, a little sermonette... Here's the entirely useless map in case you want to try it, or write a blog around it... (the bit after it crosses London Road is actually a farm track with a no-through road sign...)

View Larger Map

Anyway, that's not what I want to write about, the more interesting journey was the one home. Full train, all reserved seats, lady in her forties sits next to me and begins a conversation. 'Good' I thought, being an extrovert, this will make the journey much more pleasant. 'Are you going to Kings Cross' she asked by way of an opening gambit. 'No, I'm getting off at Stevenage' I replied (mainly because it was true...) 'Oh, I'm going to Luton' she said.

Now, at this point the story changes and if you find yourself cringing at 'The Office' or similar, you might want to skip to the final paragraph.

Most of you will know we're involved in c2b, a 'Beacon Group', a kind of church-plant, with my fellow-blogger and her family and a bunch of other friends. It's become normal for us to live in a more extended family way than is perhaps usual. We've got used to it, it's become normal  - we have appropriate boundaries, but we share a lot of life together; meals, food, child-care, highs and lows, laughter, tears, prayer, lifts....

So out of this normality, as soon as I heard 'Luton' I naturally said 'Actually, that's where I'm going, a friend is giving me a lift from Stevenage...'. At which point, I should have seen the panic in her eyes, but I'm really not that observant.... I did notice then that the she didn't actually respond to the question but after a nervous non-commital laugh, changed the subject and then went silent.

That was when my phone rang. It was someone else from c2b. We chatted very normally about stuff - and stuff of course includes God and prayer.... Being a man, I don't multi-task very well, so I put down the book another friend had lent me - face up and therefore showing the title 'Secret Scars - one woman's story of overcoming self-harm.  (It's a great book - click it for the Amazon link).

Listening to half the conversation and seeing the book must have completed her half-formed view of me. A glance would have shown me this poor woman looking up and down the carriage, seeing if there was anywhere else to sit...

But I didn't glance, instead my mind was focussed on the fact that I would be in Luton an hour or more before her. The offer was free, no strings, no cost (well except for sharing the back seat with Joshua aka 'Mike the Knight'. So I tried again. 'I've talked to my friend, she's very happy to give you a lift, you'll be there an hour earlier with none of the hasssle!' For the first time I saw the panic, the cogs whirring. 'Mid-life crisis male, at best a religous nutter, offering me a lift to who knows where with an unknown conspirator. It's Luton, a hotbed of terrorism and who knows what else. Even if it's ok, will they expect petrol money, how would I approach that....' Fear and stereotypes combining to make the offer of help a complete non-starter.

So in true British fashion we talked about the inconsequential, until absurdly, I got off the train at Stevenage, arriving in Luton as she was alighting at Kings Cross. Sad that its come to this. That an ordinary offer of help, a simple act of kindness should be viewed with such dread.

Yet that's what Jesus faced. The free gift of life, viewed with suspicion, rejected because it didn't fit the stereotype, spurned because of fear.

But why am I saying 'faced'? Still faces.

How many times do we take the long route round because we didn't have the faith to accept the lift. Not from a slightly dodgy middle-aged guy, but from the Father of lights.... The Children of Israel, 40 years in the desert instead of an 11 day walk, 400 years in Egypt instead of 3...

When I had set off for York, Google map in hand, I had felt the nudge from the Holy Spirit 'go via Hitchin, I know it looks longer, but go via Hitchin.'  I didn't accept the help.

I missed the train.