Caring at Christmas

The closer we get the more emotional I am feeling this year about Christmas. it’s too much build up I think! The gap between the reality of our world and how we’d all like it to be is just getting bigger it seems. We can all help do something though however tiny if we want to. Often it’s the little things that grind you down….

My husband is a paid carer and like alot of people in the helping professions, is working this Christmas. He was fed up last night, not because he’s going to miss some of the party, but because his client had been served a half defrosted meal for lunch by other paid carers, and noone had remembered to stock up on dog food.

Because he’s working this year,  Christmas is being reordered.  Instead of normally going to church and then on to my parents, we are going to spend the morning at home for a change, and the kids are having a sleepover at my parents with extended family on christmas day, and I’m coming home in the evening to celebrate with husband when he gets back from work.

This has been preying on my mind, as we all get set in our ways and I’m also in a new context and was nervous about how to present this to people in the congregation. While I’m not yet a vicar or a curate, I responded to an article in the Church Times about vicars slacking on Christmas day. My response was published. The article was by an eminent theologian, Angela Tilby, and discussed familoraty- another eminent theologian Ian Paul has since commented on the article and it’s published responses here http://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/should-clergy-have-christmas-day-off

I know there was a large mailbag as it touched alot of nerves, not just those of women in ministry but all of us who give up regular chunks of our weekends to serve in church settings at the cost of nuclear or extended family time.

It’s been a roller-coaster year 2016, and I’m relieved to have just scraped a pass on Ian Paul’s module at St Barnabus. It all seemed unimaginably strange when I started in September. The thing I’m learning about theology is it’s full of different opinions, positions, perspectives and all have nuanced rationales behind them. I am finding my feet but it’s quite odd being asked my own response to people’s perspectives who have given it considerable thought.

In previous commissioning and strategic planning roles my own opinion hasn’t been that key, as a team in the NHS or social care we relied instead on the consensus of stakeholders involved, political drivers, finance available, research evidence and it’s been my role to combine these perspectives into a set of options that someone else would then make a final decision on, having weighed up the risks and issues.

I keep thinking that at some point it will become clear whose the correct, common sense answer is. However this doesn’t really seem to be how it works! God speaks to us all in a myriad of ways in a world of multiple languages, contexts, cultures and conditions. We can all hear God’s voice and bring our own perspective, this is called hermeneutics. It doesn’t mean though that any one of us is not “on message” if we are sincerely expressing a theological view. There are restrictions of course, but within the parameters of the discussion there is more blue sea than horizon.

I took the kids to see the Disney film Moana and found it really inspiring. Like Moana, the ability of God to direct my travel plans is becoming more and more central to my life and it’s now impossible to stay in the comfort of “what we’ve all always done”.

Theology is basically talking about God, and I can happily do that all day long, I am hoping by the end of the training I’ll have more of an understanding of the debates and issues that are in the sea with me and the history and previous journeys people have made to navigate it all.Hopefully this will help me understand more about the Bible, but I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion there are no shortcuts, only my ancestors and culture behind me!

 

Mighty oaks and acorns

I love this time of year, although it’s colder and wetter, I love seeing the trees change colour, and the harvest time. When I was preparing my talk for Granny’s funeral this week, a picture kept coming up of a mighty tree, that had sadly fallen. She lived to 100 and I guess that’s the equivalent of about 300 if you are an oak tree. The picture came to mind of birds nesting, animals building their burrows in the roots, and of children and families picnicking underneath. A host of wildlife living in and amongst this tree, that would sadly have to find a new home now. Losing Granny is really sad, even though she’s been expected to die for a long time! We have a host of memories and experiences that are unlikely to happen again now she’s passed. It’s the end of an era in many ways.

From a spiritual point of view, I am thinking about harvest today, having been to a lovely service at Clifton Methodist Church,where we all shared a three course Sunday lunch to celebrate harvest together. The abundance of God’s gifts was on our minds, and I was really pleased to find this description in the Bible:

Daniel 4 v10-12

I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

In the Old Testament however, this was also referring to a King who was due to be overcome. Like a modern day football club going from winning the Premier League to facing relegation, (no guesses who we support), Daniel’s prophesy told of this tree falling and having to be cut down to the ground before it could regrow. I guess there are many institutions, and organisations today that we have at one time or another thought of as permanent, or intransient that have since proved not to be. The stock exchange before a crash, the Co-Op bank before a scandal, Politicians before they are elected, the list could go on.

In our personal lives, sometimes it’s hard to accept a situation has changed or moved on, even when it’s blindingly obvious to everyone else!

I am therefore reminded of both the huge generosity of God’s love and the centrality of God in our lives. He can supply this abundance for us but if we forget it’s a gift and start to see it as a personal or corporate achievement, the whole thing can come crashing down around our ears! As Christians we believe that Jesus his son was God’s ultimate gift to us, which was also a tragedy and a miracle all at the same time.