Handing over

When something gets ‘handed over’ it gives a sense of something serious has just been accomplished. A contract is signed and ‘handed over’, the cost of an item is priced and the money is ‘handed over’. A parcel previously ordered is ‘handed over’ at the doorway… yes, when something is ‘handed over’ something which matters is taking place.

In the wedding service there is a ‘handing over’ as the couple give to each other a ring. These rings are ‘handed over’. The bride and the groom say the words ‘all that I am I give to you’ when this ‘handing over’ takes place. It’s serious, it matters and it’s full of joy and grace. Often at this time there will be tears of love, as the ring is placed on the finger. This is a ‘handing over’ of life and this really does matter.

December marks the beginning of Advent where we get ourselves ready for the ‘handing over’ of divine life. In these December days, in all the shortness of daylight hours, in the chill of the breeze, the dampness and all the darkness we are invited to consider and feel the gift of life. Slow down, learn not to rush, step cautiously and begin to feel this life we hold in our flesh and bones. The vitality, the breath, the very physicality of it all is a gift, one amazing gift and it’s been handed over to us. We have people – family and friends – around us who help us to grow and appreciate – but in the end it’s down to each one of us to take responsibility for the life entrusted to us. And this matters!

It matters, because when we take it all for granted, we lose perspective and get irritated and frustrated by things that really don’t matter. When the days just roll into each other, when there is no welcome given to each new day, when one day could really be any old day, we inhabit a gracelessness which creeps up on us without us knowing.

In the darkness of the Advent season we switch on our hearts and brains to the fact so obvious yet so unnoticed – we have been given life for at least this next day – don’t take it for granted!

When the Christmas season arrives, on the night of Christmas Eve, this gift of life is acclaimed and underlined in capital letters… candles lit, carols sung, gifts unwrapped.  In the baby born to Mary,God hands himself over. The God-life is helpless, born in a manger, cradled by the working shepherds… God is ‘handed over’.

Here begins the blueprint for the way to live our lives. Dare to be the person who ‘hands themselves over’ to each new day. Yes we may have a schedule, things on the ‘to do’ list, but let’s live each day with that sense we are ready for the unexpected – be that a chance encounter, a rainbow in the sky, an interruption… Each new day is ‘handed over’ to us – it’s a gift and it has come from heaven. It matters, it’s important and it’s overflowing with a joy and grace beyond our wildest imaginings.

Many people just don’t understand it, they believe and act as though this gift of life is a ‘right’ and not a ‘gift’. For these people they will be forever entangled in the frustrations and irritations of a fragile yet utterly sophisticated thing called life, but for others, for those who recognise and allow an appreciation of the gift there will be blessing, gratitude and an energy both real and tangible.

Something really precious and important has been ‘handed over’… receive it and be forever grateful… Amen!

Seeing the detail

Christmas

Dear Friends,

Sometimes we just don’t see it first time round. It’s all a bit of a blur… too much going on… perhaps distracted… whatever the reason.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced something similar – maybe a photo from years back, or a sporting event just attended, or a conversation recently spoken – just not seeing it first time round – missing important elements,  seeing only what is prominent and not catching the most important…  I think we do this more times than we ever dare to believe. And it is important to acknowledge this process – because invariably we don’t go back for a second look because we believe and settle for our first observations. And our fist observations can be so wrong… or when not wrong so short of the full picture.

Little children know this – they love stories being read and re-read to them… familiar tales and known endings repeated over and over again yet enjoyed with even greater enthusiasm. With each re-telling the story gets fuller in many, many different ways as the characters are stretched into 3-d reality, repeated words take on sinister proportions, and shadows lengthen as the climax is told again and again… what is missed on the first viewing is caught and developed over and over again!

This year I’m approaching the season of Advent with all this very much in mind. Advent is the time of darkness where day by day the darkness is dispersed until the full radiance of Christmas dazzles and enlightens every corner from east to west, north to south. In the season of Advent the eyes of our hearts are invited, challenged even, to adjust themselves to the deep darkness so outlines can be glimpsed, provisional findings articulated, corners turned… in Advent we are asked to look and look again at what we thought was familiar, but which, if we’re honest, we don’t really know at all. Well, yes we know the names – Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem… we know the sequencing – angel Gabriel, the stable yard, the manger, the shepherds… and we know the climax – the birth of a son. And because we know these outlines, we think that is enough. And so the story is really only half-told, well, not even that!

The Christmas narrative has plenty of gaps, question marks, magic and simple humanity. It’s a story to take the breath away – if only we would let it. Little children are good at this. Us adults – less so. Jesus teaches us that to enter the Kingdom we must become like little children, so Jesus asks us to look again, and again, and then again – maybe in the all too brief spaces between all the stuff we do in this season of Advent. The looking might be the listening to a Christmas song, it might be the re-playing of a Youtube clip, it might be a re-reading of the Christmas story, the lighting of a Christingle candle… and the outlines then become filled out into something new, wonderful and utterly unexpected.

Be very blessed in this Advent and Christmas season – and don’t forget to look, especially if you think you’ve seen it enough times  already –  and there’s nothing more to see!