What we all long for, from the deepest, most sincere, parts of our being is a deepening of our relationship with God. There is no shortcut.
The discipleship cycle (listening to what God is saying, looking for where God is working,living out where God is calling, learning what God is embedding) provides a helpful framework, which helps us identify something of how we are engaging with Him. Does this look like the habits of your spiritual life? Why not practice during Advent?
Practicing for Christmas is a series of reflections for Advent, specifically designed to help anyone reflect on their practices, or lack of, by drawing on the experiences of the characters in the well-known stories surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Each reflection will be available here from Thursday 1st until Sunday 25th December 2016. Sign up to receive them straight to your email inbox each weekday morning.
What is the best gift you will receive today? In many ways someone reading this in war-torn Syria is more likely to quickly identify the answer the whole of Advent prepares us for, than those of us about to disappear underneath a sea of wrapping paper and material gifts. Today is Christmas Day.read more
In one sense the whole of Advent is about practising waiting, so it’s either unfair to have made you wait until Christmas Eve, or you’re so well practised you’ve not noticed!read more
The Shepherds, the Magi and representatives of the animal community all ‘found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger’ (Luke 2:16). That’s about as much information we get, but it’s all we need.read more
Unless you do something about it, in practice, intentionality is just a long word. Simply thinking about doing something never makes it happen. In spite of this fact, we are very clever as human beings, at deceiving ourselves. In a nutshell, that’s what ‘Practising for Christmas’ is all about …read more
C S Lewis once wrote, ‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important’.
If it is true, as Lewis was asserting, then the Advent story is one half of the most awe-some story in the world (literally so). And if so, then this passage is the high-point of that half-of-the-story. Who would have dared to place angels (messengers of God) and shepherds (irreligious outsiders) in the same scene – both as models of worshippers in the events of the incarnation?read more
Are you the sort of person who wants to change the world? Do you like to put the world to rights over a pint or a cuppa?
I wonder if the shepherds were like that. They spent hours in the fields watching sheep they must have been lots of opportunities to talk about life the universe and everything.read more
For a few days we’ll focus on practices, which nurture the habit of welcoming salvation. Who would not want to welcome salvation?read more
The innkeeper sometimes gets three words (‘sorry no room’) at a children’s nativity, but he doesn’t even get a mention in the biblical narrative.read more
Many will hear this snippet of the greatest story ever told in the coming days. Preachers around the world will relay the Good News of the angels; Good News to bring joy to all the people – news that a saviour was born!read more
Re-alignment has been a painful experience. For me, it took a running injury to grab my attention and the realisation my body needed physical re-alignment to make me pay attention to my bigger and deeper spiritual need.read more
You will never become humble without practice! When Mary says ‘my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant’ it didn’t just happen.read more
‘then the angel left her’… Terrific, isn’t it? An angel shows up and effectively blows your future out of the water. You’ve said you’re up for it. Not daring to think too much about what it might entail, but from somewhere deep within you respond.read more
Mary, she’s a lovely girl, so pure, committed, gentle, innocent. What more could a man ask for? But .. Why? What made her do it and ruin it all. She doesn’t even look ashamed of what she’s done. I can’t bring her home now, the disgrace – the shame – what are people going to say?read more
My book shelves are becoming increasingly littered with themes addressing the in-between times we are living through: ‘Thriving on Chaos’, ‘The Space In-between’, ‘Culture Shift’ etc. Rapid, discontinuous, change, to ‘we don’t know where’ is one consistent thread.read more
‘Let it be to me according to Your word’ Graham Kendrick put verse 38 into a great song back in the 1980’s. I remember hiring Sutton Theatre when we were in London to put on a Christmas production.read more
I still have last year’s WEBA Christmas Card, showing three camels bearing their Magi and leading a lantern parade as part of the Christmas Festival in Calne, Wiltshire. Like the original Magi, they are far from their natural habitat.read more
I’ve always admired Joseph, but I now realise his response was, most probably, far from instinctive and not very comfortable…read more
If you think the figure of John the Baptist is an intrusion into the ‘Christmas story’, then you’ll really struggle if he’s on the door into heaven! … I don’t imagine he was the most comfortable person to be aroundread more
Instinctively none of us want to be vulnerable, but now you’re asking us to practice it! The very good reason is because, unless we embrace our vulnerability we shall never fully know either the strength, or the love of God. Bethlehem was chosen, wait for itread more
Elizabeth and Zechariah were both good people, ‘righteous in the sight of the Lord’. They were both desperate for, but past the window of opportunity, children. On the face of it, Elizabeth was ready,read more
Our best guess is Zechariah had been faithfully ‘serving’ as a priest, day in day out, for many years … ‘righteous in the sight of God’ (6) … ‘observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly’ (6) … he was we know by now ‘very old’ (7). Let’s be honest,read more
It’s Anna again. For sixty years she persisted. I’m not sure I could persist in praying for anything for sixty years! Anna wasn’t the only one, however, as Simeon too ‘was righteous and devout’ and getting on a bit. Like Anna, he was well known forread more
Anna gets just verses. She was ‘very old’ … to be honest in the first century 84 was ancient! Her husband had died after seven years of marriage, so probably lived alone for 60 years. Today she’d be written-off by many people. Ignored, or disregarded, but Annaread more
Mary didn’t have the kettle on for Gabriel – he barged in, unexpectedly. To be honest I don’t want anyone to talk to me about availability during advent and it always takes me by surprise. However, (in my better moments) I know I need to practice being available before God,read more
Isaiah 9:2-7 Practice hope? Surely we do this every Christmas, unless we think we’ve grown up and reached a level of maturity where we no longer need hope? This image expresses, not a child’s hope of presents, but a prisoner’s hope of release one day in the future....read more
When does Advent begin, exactly? We've had the first Sunday in Advent, but all the pieces of chocolate are still safely stowed behind little cardboard doors...we assume. After a short discussion on this subject, we've decided that the Practising for Christmas...read more