The Three Faces of Christ by Trevor Dennis

I started writing my sermon for Midnight Mass around this poem before I went off an a tangent which developed into the current sermon (previous post). But I thought it was too good not to post.

The Three Faces of Christ by Trevor Dennis

What you must first understand about the face
of Jesus
is that it is so small.
He has no hair yet.
His milk teeth are not yet shining beneath his gums.
His lungs are well developed,
as Mary and Joseph and the animals have already
discovered.
But he has no language beyond his crying.
He, the Word of God,
cannot say ‘Mamma’.
He, the Son of God,
cannot call him ‘Abba’,
let alone argue with rabbis and priests in the
Temple
the finer things of heaven.
He is the Love of God,
and yet he cannot smile
(though sometimes, when he gets the wind,
his face crumples up as though he can).
His face cannot focus,

and yet, and yet,
if you kneel beside his manger
(you will be far too high above him if you stand),
if you kneel so that your face is close to his,
then you will find yourself
looking level-eyed into the face of God

A second feature of his face to have imprinted
on your soul,
the laughter lines that play about his eyes.
Some keep their Christ pickled in piety,
or paint him stern as a schoolmaster,
in Dickens,
on a bad day,
unbending, uncompromising, unforgiving,
Why then is he such good company?
Why does he tell such stories?
Why does he teach the lame
not just to walk but dance the tango?
Why does he turn water into wine,
and speak of living life to the full?
Why does he bend so low,
this ‘unbending’ man,
that he can wash disciples’ feet?
Why will he always compromise,
if that means touching someone in their need?
Why is forgiveness his Alpha and Omega,
his beginning (his middle) and his end?
Why does he fill his own tomb with such merriment
that we can only call it ‘resurrection’?
See, his whole face dances with the laughter lines of God!

The third marking of his face you cannot miss.
I mean the pain,
the bewilderment,
the sorrow,
the sheer anguish of it.
Such is the expression we have left him with,
now we have strung him up on that heavy cross beam
he has lugged along these narrow streets to Golgotha.
He will die with it.
His hair is hidden behind black thorns.
His teeth are gone,
knocked out in the beating the soldiers have given him.
His lungs rasp for breath and soon will lose the fight.
We have robbed him of his language, too,
left him just a few last words
with which to hurl his loneliness at heaven.
He cannot smile,
for we have wiped all smiling off his face.
His eyes can hardly see for pain,

And yet, and yet,
if you stand yourself beneath his cross
(oh do not kneel, or bend your head, but raise your eyes and see!),
if you stand on very tip-toe,
then you will find,
to your great sorrow,
but his small comfort,
that you can reach
to soothe the very face of God.

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Midnight Mass 2012

What words can I say on this most holy of nights?

What words could I possibly use to express how glorious and yet how lowly this night is.

In the church we have had four Sundays of watching and waiting, four Sundays of preparation for this night.

And there is something in the air. I always get a shiver when I think of the thousands upon thousands of people who will gather on this cold and damp night, who will come together to celebrate. You know something special has happened when people gather into church this late at night.

For some of you this will be extremely late, and you will have made a special effort to remain awake to be here. For others this might not be late at all, but you have still ventured out, at a time when most will be resting.

But we are all here, to share, to celebrate, to rejoice in the climax of this season.

I do not need to tell the story again, we have heard it so many times, in so many ways this year, we know about the angels, we know about the shepherds, we know about the wise man.

We are here, to share, to celebrate and to rejoice that a baby has been born. A baby has been born in a strange land, in a stable surrounded by animals, and hay. A baby has been born, screaming and crying, testing out his new lungs.

A baby has been born tonight, who is the saviour of the world.

A baby whom time predicted, whom prophets spoke of, whom we have been waiting for, God has come to earth.

The word has become flesh and dwells among us.

What can I say on this most holy of nights?

I can declare that Jesus, the Christ is born.

I can shout out that God is among us.

And we can celebrate, because everything that has taken place this night, has been done out of love.

With the glitter, and the sparkle of Christmas, with the fairs and the fetes, the trees and the cards and the decorations, and the buying of presents, the wrapping and unwrapping, the food and parties, they plays and performances by our kids, the concerts, the get together with old friends, and distant family members.

It is easy to get distracted. Distracted from the message of love which is sent to earth this night.

I said earlier that there is something in the air on this night. It’s a freedom from these expectations, and the business of the season which we all know so well. It’s the hope of a better future filled with love.

There is one carol which I have come to adore during this advent. I didn’t know about it until this year. And don’t worry I’m not going to sing it. But I would like to read you the words. It is a popular Arabic carol which talks about the meaning of Christmas.

“On the Eve of Christmas Hatred will vanish

On the Eve of Christmas The earth will flourish

On the Eve of Christmas War will be gone

On the Eve of Christmas Love will be born

When we offer a glass of water to a thirsty person

it is Christmas

When we clothe a naked person with a gown of love

it is Christmas

When we wipe the tears from weeping eyes

it is Christmas

When the spirit of revenge dies in me

it is Christmas

When in my heart I no longer want to stay apart

it is Christmas

When I am buried in the being of God

it is Christmas

The hope of Christmas, is the hope of love.

God gave us a gift in Jesus, he sent his son to show us the way. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, it is love.

What can I say on this most holy of nights?

The love of God has been born to us, let us love one another.

I printed copies of this carol, and you might want to re look at it tomorrow, after the presents and food and celebration with family and ask yourself what you could do to bring the hope and love the author of this carol speaks about further into your lives and this world.

But for now, What can we say on this most holy of nights?

Jesus is born, Alleluia!!!!

A story for Advent 3

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-8

Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice.

We only have 9 days until Christmas. Our shops and Christmas fairs are doing good business, our Carol services are in good voice, and the children in our schools are getting more and more excited for the holiday. We have a lot to rejoice in.

Take a little time and count the occasions that, good news, calls to rejoice and be happy and joyful are used in today’s readings. Today marks a change in our focus during advent, the third Sunday of advent is known as Gaudete, which means rejoice. Amid the patient waiting and quiet watching, there is now an impending sense of joy. And the church is very keen that we should rejoice today. We have a lot to rejoice in.

Except we know that this is not the case for everyone. For some people, they will look around them and see nothing to rejoice at.

Our Bishop this week published his Christmas message for this year, and in it he reminds us, that although this season is filled with joy for many, for others it’s a different story, since I began speaking (and I quote) “Someone has just lost a job, another business has hit trouble and someone’s debt has just got that much worse. Personal debt in the UK stands at a staggering £1.421 trillion. In short for some people this period is full of reasons to be fearful and for some the only festive note leads to a period of oblivion providing a kind of escape from it all.”

Bishop Andrew also casts our minds back to the images we saw of the flooding in St Asaph, and asks how many families there are able to rejoice with their livelihoods and homes being ruined for such a long time?

The gathered angels singing “Glory to God in the highest” to the shepherds which our Bishop refers to, and these references to rejoicing and joyful ness in our readings today, do not offer much comfort to those families.

Nor does it offer much to the families of the children and adults killed in Newtown this past Friday. They have a long and weary path to walk before joy can become a possibility again.

And everyday there will be people, whose stories do not make the news, but whose lives are lived in the shadows of their hurt and sorrow.

The angels song, the truth that they brought was not an invitation to escape anything. Theirs was a message that God had come. God had come to this place, this place of crisis, anxiety and trouble, this place of hurt, confusion and pain. And those who see in Jesus’ birth something of the way God loves the world, can also see that life can be different. The world can be seen with new eyes and the needs of others take on new urgency.

St Paul is right in what he says.
Despite the darkness of the world, and the plans of Christmas changed so terribly, we can rejoice.

I want to tell you a story, it’s one I first heard a few years ago when I was living in Bangor. It may sound like a story of disappointment and let down, but I ask that you listen especially hard to its ending, because beyond the darkness, the light shines.

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: ” I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it’s way to the ocean. ” I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world! The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.

Years, passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. “Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.

The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It’s perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. ” I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a manger for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay. The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and shaped into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in the wood yard
“What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. ” All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the manger. “I wish I could make a cradle for him.” Her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. ” This manger is beautiful.” She said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveller and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveller fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon the wind got up and a terrible storm arose. The little tree shuddered, battered by huge waves. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely to harbour in this weather. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew she was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. Her sadness turned to joy….a joy for all people.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Beyond the darkness, there is light, and it shines. We await this advent for the light to be born to us again. With a rejoicing patience we wait for the son of God to be born. Rejoice, Gaudete!

Camino Adventures – Madrid

I’ve abandoned my blog for too long! My apologies.

‘Tis the season for much busyness and my diary is looking rather scary atm, not sure when I’m going to get to sleep, let alone write. But I thought I would take this opportunity to look through some of the half finished, or barely started writings.

So all being well, I am back with you now!

At the end of October I went on holiday, quite literally a holy-day, I went on pilgrimage. It has been following me for several years, and pops up every few months, but this year it has been more prominent, El Camino, the Way of St James.

I decided that I would walk it during college when I made a vow to StJames, and the decision to walk it this year was decided during my ordination retreat which was lead by Ven Chris Potter, Archdeacon of St Asaph, he spoke about journeys and used his experience on the Camino to illustrate his points.

I was meant to have 3 weeks off work, but this had to be cut to two weeks due to time tabling which was a shame, I had planned to walk from Lugo, but changed this to Sarria which is the last point you can start walking and still receive the Compostela at the end.

I flew into Madrid on the 30th October, and stayed overnight. My plan was to tour Madrid on the 31st and get a overnight train to Sarria. However even my sightseeing had to be cut short when my passport was stolen between the airport and my hotel!!!! I was taking the metro to my hotel and someone must have seen me move my passport from my pocket to an area in my bag, because they cut my bag to get it!!!! I don’t need to repeat some of the words that came out of my mouth that moment, but starting my holiday in a Spanish police station was not the best start!

The British Embassy in Madrid is quite a nice looking building, it is within a modern tower, and this is where I spend the morning of my 26th birthday! I had to get there first thing to sort out getting a new passport before I could go any further because I would need to fly from Santiago to Barcelona. So, 8.30 in the morning I was at the embassy with my rucksack going through their metal detectors. I had to leave my penknife under the mat at the front door because ‘weapons’ were not allowed in the building, it made me giggle when I also found a fork under the mat, how did that person earthier lunch???

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Three hours later, I had a new ‘Emergency Passport’ it was white and gold and cost 125€. I decided to walk into the centre just to get over the cost before I found lunch. I actually found ice cream before I found lunch, and that really was nice.

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I wasn’t taken away with Madrid. The cathedral was nice, and some of the little churches I saw. I visited the Church of Santiago to get a replacement credential for the one I lost before I flew out. The priest there was nice, although he spoke very little English we manages to communicate.

I did the bus tours, but still, wasn’t breath taking. I wouldn’t rush back to Madrid.

After an afternoon of sightseeing, I made my way to the train station (didn’t want to miss that!) By this time of the day I’d had enough of Madrid and was quite happy to go. I stocked up on supplies for the train journey, meat, crisps, water, sweets. Was very disappointed when I discovered I had been put in a carriage with 20 15-16 year old school girls. It was an 8 hour journey, and they talked, and talked, and talked and talked and talked, all night long. I was very grateful that I had taken my iPad, so at least I could watch a few films, listen to music and drown them out a little.

It was just gone 6 in the morning when I arrived in Sarria. I found a cafe, got my first stamp and prepared myself, sleep deprived, for my first days walk.

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