December 25th – God with us

I wonder if anyone will read this on Christmas Day?

Maybe on a new tablet or laptop?

Or maybe not. 

But if you are reading this, whatever day it is, then firstly Happy Christmas, and secondly, may God bless you and those you love today and always.

Message me if it’s Christmas day.  I’d love to know if you’ve been here!

December 24th – Time to Pause

We’re nearly there.  The journey through these 24 days of advent is nearly done.  On this Holy Night we remember that Jesus was born.

Now let’s not get hung up on dates.  Shepherds wouldn’t have been in the fields in December.  It’s too cold even in Jerusalem (where they can have snow on snow!!!)

Chances are Jesus was born in the spring not the winter,. so why December 25th.

In fact it wasn’t until 336AD that Emperor Constantine decided that the date for the celebration of the Mass of the Nativity of Christ (or as it became known the Christ Mass) should be 25th December.

The Christian Church had long history of camping its festivals and buildings on old pagan dates and places.  Many Christian Churches are on ancient pagan sites.  Many Christian festivals camp on ancient pagan dates.  

The name Easter comes not from the Bible but from the festival of Eostre – a fertility goddess, which the Church erased with the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That one was easy because of the overlapping dates.

The pagan winter festivals centred around 25th December which whilst it isn’t the shortest day is the day when you can measure that the days are getting noticeably longer (by about a minute).

By placing the Christ Mass slap bang on top of these pagan festivals Constantine achieved his goal.  Christmas became the celebration, not the old pagan rituals.

Alas, we appear to have a whole heap of new Consumerist rituals attempting the same trick with Christmas!  But, less Humbug methinks.

Today is a day to pause.  To take time, before the great festivities of the morrow, to remember the truth, that whatever the date was, at a particular point of history, in a backwater town, in an occupied nation, to parents destined to be refugees, God became one of us – he “moved into the Neighbourhood”.

Take time to pause today in wonder.

December 23rd – No room

No room.

No room for a peasant girl pregnant outside of marriage.

No room for an older man with a young wife.

No room for a child born in the midst of political turmoil.

No room for anything vaguely religious in the midst of the celebration of Christmas?

Or maybe….


Maybe we can chose to make room in our lives for this Child who came to put everything right.

Maybe we can find space amongst the presents and the turkey and the chocolate for a manger, for a King, for a Saviour.

Is there room for this Jesus in your heart? 

December 22nd – Bethlehem

So after Shepherds and Wise Men the camera pans back to the little town of Bethlehem.  Almost insignificant in size and location, yet the gaze of the whole Universe is drawn to this tiny little town, in a backwater nation, on a  small blue planet, orbiting a rather ordinary star, in the outskirts of a rather small Galaxy.

Here!  It happened here! 

December 21st – Presents!!!


It’s what Christmas is all about! (Well almost!)

You can tell a lot about someone from the presents they ask for and you can tell a lot about someone from the presents others give to them.

Now the gifts Jesus were given by the visiting Wise Men from foreign lands weren’t asked for.  But they are VERY significant.

Gold – in those days Gold was very rare.  Much rarer than it is now and its still pretty rare.  Gold was a gift given only to royalty – to Kings.  The Wise Men came looking for “the child to be born King of the Jews”.  Jesus was marked as a King even before his birth.

Frankincense – In many Catholic and Anglo Catholic Churches today the worshippers use Incense as a visual sign of their prayers and worship.  Incense has been used for hundreds, even thousands of years as part of Worship.  Again, Frankincense was very expensive – it would be a very costly gift and a very strange one to give to a child.  Frankincense was only used by Priests as part of worship or offered to God himself.  So this gift of incense is either a gift to a Priest or to God himself – in Jesus case – maybe both?

Myrrh – This is a baby gift in VERY poor taste.  Imagine turning up to a Baby Shower with a little coffin, or a prepaid funeral plan.  You wouldn’t be very popular would you.  But that’s just what a gift of Myrrh would be like.  It is another expensive oil used to prepare bodies for burial.  It is probably one of the “spices” the women brought to Jesus’ tomb to anmnoint him with when they discovered he had risen from the dead.  Death and suffering go hand in hand with Myrrh.  What a peculiar gift to give to a baby.

Presents!  But presents that tell us a huge amount about this child.  Gold for a King, Frankincense for God, and Myrrh for one who was to die to save the whole world.

December 20th – Follow the Star

This year the national Church of England Christmas campaign uses these words as a hash tag.


The Wise men saw a sign and followed it.  They saw something special happening and said “We need to be a part of that!” 

It’s so easy in our world to be a bystander. To sit on the sidelines and watch whilst others explore or play or grow or challenge.

It’s not enough just to see the signs.  We have to do something about it.

The Wise Men could have avoided a long, difficult and dangerous journey if they’d just stayed in the East and waited for news to reach them.  The Shepherds wouldn’t have faced the sack for leaving the sheep to the attacks of wolves and lions and bears (yes they were all around in Israel in those days) if they’d decided to wait until later.

It’s not enough in our day to see things happening and not act.  To see injustice and shrug? Or to see people living life to the full and deciding to sit on the sidelines.

It’s not time to look to the stars. 

It’s time to follow!


December 19th – Foreigners

The Jewish nation prided itself on its status as God’s chosen people.

Even Samaria – Part of the old Jewish Kingdoms was considered “foreign” because the people there had married outside of the Jewish race.

The Shepherds who were visited by the Angels were smelly, but at least they were Jewish!  Jesus was the Jewish Messiah – the one sent to the Jews.  That was what God had promised.

So why have we got foreign astrologers turning up to try and find him?

Foreigners!  illegals!  Outsiders!

But just take a moment and think.  Who was this New Born King revealed to?

The lowest of the low and foreign dignitaries.

Perhaps this child was to be far more than just the Jewish Messiah.  Perhaps the hints in the writing of the Prophets from hundreds of years before might just be true,.  That this child wouldn’t just save Israel…

But that he would be the Saviour of the World!

December 18th – Getting the band back together

One of my favourite films is The Blues Brothers – two ex-cons on a “Mission from God” to save their local orphanage.  As part of their quest they have to get the old band back together – and great hilarity ensures.

Now their band was just 6 people.  Imagine the fuss and palaver of gathering a “great company of the Heavenly host” and keeping them quiet until the Angel of the Lord had given the Shepherds the instructions they needed to hear.

 I have visions of angels nearly bursting trying to stay silent, hands over mouths, barely concealed giggling, the odd flash of wing!

And finally the choir master whispers 1,2,3,4…

And heaven’s melody is heard on earth to herald the arrival of the King of Kings.

Worth waiting for! And worth all the palaver of getting the band back together!

December 17th – Slough?!

Last year my wife Jacquie had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land.  She was surprised by how close Bethlehem and Jerusalem were.  Just 6 miles!  that’s all.

And in Jesus’ day Bethlehem would have been a tiny satellite village of the much larger Jerusalem.  And we all know how classy some of those places are – Watford, Croydon, Slough!!!!

Now a King would be born in Jerusalem wouldn’t he?  Right at the heart of the action.  Not out in the sticks, with smelly people.  What sort of a king comes from Slough?

December 16th – A bit of a shock

Sheep are not the most interesting of creatures.  They spend most of their lives either eating or sleeping or catching one of the many diseases that ails them!  They aren’t pretty – except on greetings cards or posters of Psalm 23.  They smell – the smell is from Lanolin – a natural oil that coats their fleece. It stinks!

So – you’re sat there, a smelly outcast, watching boring animals do boring things for the billionth hour in a row.  Bored, Bored, Bored, Bored, BORED!!!!!!

And then BOOM!

The Angel of the Lord appears and the world changes forever.

You’d be a bit scared too wouldn’t you?


By the way – can I take this opportunity to wish Rev Jacquie Gardner, my long suffering and wonderful wife and companion on the journey a very Happy 23rd Wedding Anniversary!