To receive the promises of Advent, we need to make room

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my lifestyle gave to me: twelve days of shopping, eleven Christmas parties, ten children’s concerts, nine knotted stomachs, eight toxic in-laws, seven toddlers’ tantrums, six spousal quarrels, five road trips, four splitting headaches, three sick kids, many bouts of tears, and a present under the tree. Continue reading “To receive the promises of Advent, we need to make room”

A bracing antidote to Christmas chaos

The prophet John provides a bracing antidote to Christmas consumer chaos. (Listen.)

It’s the second week of Advent, a time of preparation, and many of us are indeed preparing. We’re negotiating with families over who gets Christmas lunch, and who gets only Boxing Day. We’re arguing over whether to buy presents for everyone, or just the kids, or no one. We’re wondering if we can do handmade or recycled gifts, knowing we’ve left it too late, and that an avalanche of plastic is heading our way. We’re ordering hams and Christmas puddings; we’re decorating the house; we’re making lists and checking them twice. We’re juggling end-of-year events, and wading through Santa songs and pre-Christmas sales. Continue reading “A bracing antidote to Christmas chaos”

Crushed by capitalism? Consider the ravens

Weighed down by capitalism’s incessant demands? Consider the ravens and discover a renewed way of life. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, there was a village. The people in the village had a life that was simple, and good. They hunted; they tended their fish traps; they grew yams. They wove baskets, and stitched and decorated fur cloaks. They walked to the coast and feasted on shellfish; they walked to the grassy plains, lit controlled fires, and waited for the big game to come hopping in. Most people worked about four hours a day; beyond that, they hung out. They kicked a footy around; they considered the ravens and other creatures; they told stories; they pondered the landscape; they traded songs with visitors from other villages and other towns. Continue reading “Crushed by capitalism? Consider the ravens”

Returning to the Source of Life

The first followers of Jesus read their Bibles differently. Based on their experiences, they read their Bibles with new eyes and connected with the stories of their faith in new ways. Over the last week, as I was reading the parable of the prodigal son again, I found myself doing the same thing: connecting with the story in a different way, and putting myself into the story in a different way. Continue reading “Returning to the Source of Life”

Satisfying the Hunger Within

Listen here.

What are you hungry for? What are you craving? Food? Friendship? The dulling of the pain? An end to loneliness? The lighting up of the darkness? The warm embrace of love? To be hungry is to be human. To feed ourselves is to be human. And we live in a ravenous age. We are all barraged daily with advertising for things which promise to sate our hunger, to quench our thirst, to satisfy our desires, to heal the pain, to end the craving, to fill the emptiness within. Continue reading “Satisfying the Hunger Within”

Overweight, overwrought, and overwhelmed by stuff.

Last year, I wrote about bi-cultural Christmas: that idea that there are two Christmas cultures. The first, seen all around us already, is a cultural event; the second is Christian, and happens only after the waiting time of Advent. Many Christian commentators suggest that, if we are not to be joyless Scrooges, we need to find ways to participate in both. But I struggle with this. Continue reading “Overweight, overwrought, and overwhelmed by stuff.”

Love, joy and conflict at Christmas

St Andrew’s Fairfield had a donkey at its service last Sunday; Hillsong will have camels. The Christmas story is certainly very picturesque: animals, angels, shepherds, wise men, and, in the middle of the crowd, a baby. It’s easy to forget that this baby’s mother was a young girl, whose response to pregnancy out of wedlock was to praise the God who overthrows the powerful and sends the rich away empty. It’s easy to forget that the first people to worship at his cradle were shepherds: impoverished social outcasts and not the right sort of people at all; and the second lot were religious outsiders, foreigners who practiced the abominations of numerology and reading the stars. It’s easy to forget that the baby grew up in occupied territories, sought asylum in Egypt, and returned to a new town after being warned not to go home. It’s easy to forget that the prophecies surrounding his birth triggered the slaughter of many other young boys; and that his preaching and ministry were violently opposed right up until the cross. Continue reading “Love, joy and conflict at Christmas”

Possessions, possession, and the kingdom of God

We just all heard a great story from Jesus, in which a rich man hoards a heap of stuff and congratulates himself on it. But did you hear what God said to the rich man? “You nincompoop! On this night all your things are possessing your soul! You don’t own them; they own you. And all this stuff you have piled up, whose is it, anyway?” Someone like me needs to hear these words again and again, because I love stuff. I love old plates and pretty bowls and my grandmother’s piano. I love vintage chairs and crochet rugs; and I like to own lots of them. And so tonight’s words made me wonder, am I an idiot, too? Continue reading “Possessions, possession, and the kingdom of God”

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