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In Advent we journey in the dark towards the light of Christ. Today we hear from Kit who shares his thoughts on what that means.
As we continue in our Advent Journeys, we begin to think about how God still speaks to us today.
During Advent some of you have kindly shared your own thoughts, meditations and moments and we offer these as part of our journey together.
Today we hear from Laura who shares with us her journey through the Jesse Tree.
Here is this week’s service
Here is this week’s service.
As we journey on through Advent we think of many whom we have journeyed with…those who are no longer with us and whom we miss. Rev Norma Higgott, Chaplain at The Highland Hospice, reflects on those journeys of remembering and of the journey of hope we can all take to heart this Christmas.
Suggested Reading Exodus 3 v 1-14
As we journey on through Advent and indeed as we journey on through this pandemic, I wonder if you are feeling weary? It has been a hard year for us all as we have had to come to grips with the reality of Covid-19 and constantly adapt to the changing regulations. Everyday tasks can seem an uphill struggle-be it working from home, battling with wearing a face mask, constantly sanitising hands, watching over those who are most vulnerable-and often unable to support them as we would wish.
A man who understood what it was like to be constantly adapting and journeying in uncertainty was Moses. From the bulrushes to an Egyptian palace, from privileged position to fugitive, from shepherd to leader of a nation, from slavery to freedom, from close encounters with God to wandering in the wilderness, from the hope of entering a promised land, to only seeing it from afar.
Moses’ dramatic encounter with God at the burning bush set him on his long journey of faith-through all its ups and downs. Have you had similar dramatic encounters with God in your journey? Sometimes looking back and seeing how God has sustained us can be a real encouragement when we are weary and burdened.
Drive in Carol Service Friday 11th Dec 7pm
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We could say that there is not much positive about the current pandemic but one positive is to see the various options for worship and the different offerings on line and on social media to lead us through Advent.
Here is another “real” option! Whoever thought we’d be considering drive ins but Muir Churches Together have arranged a drive in carol service at the Black Isle Show Ground. Details below. All welcome!
Suggested Reading Genesis 50 v 15-21
Joseph and his rainbow-coloured coat is a well-known story and, of course, musical. It is a story with a happy ending….. eventually! I have been pondering the journey that Joseph was forced to undertake after his brothers sold him to into slavery. Jealous of their Father’s favouritism towards Joseph, fed up with his boasting, his rainbow coat was to prove the final straw. They initially planned to murder him but instead sold him into slavery. Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt as at the hands of a band of ruffians he was taken in chains to a foreign land? Stripped, betrayed, sold and alone it must have been the worst journey of his life. And yet, in years to come, after many more adventures, he was able to say to his brothers:
“ But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. — Genesis 50:20 .”
Have you seen God work through painful and difficult circumstances to bring good out of them? How might that enable you to help others? What good might God be able to bring out from the current Covid journey we are all on?
Did you know that in order to see a rainbow you have to be under dark rain clouds with your back to the sun? Gods promise is that sooner or later the rainbow will appear in our journeys-no matter how dark they may seem at the time.
Gordon’s Reflection. Compline – 7th December
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Thomas Merton and the one in whom all things cohere
Thomas Merton died 52 years ago on Thursday. One of the most important Roman Catholic voices of the mid twentieth century he wrote and spoke extensively about the relationship between personal spirituality and working socially and politically for justice and peace.
He argued that personal prayer and spirituality were subversive. That if we seriously engage in prayer it will take us down into our deepest, inner selves where we will connect with God, but also find ourselves face to face with the darkest parts of our own selves, the deeply hidden wounds and the anger, resentment, pain, guilt and shame that go along with those wounds, and the unhelpful ways those negative feelings contaminate our dealings with other people and the world. Merton knew that it is in deep engagement with God in the depths of ourselves that we find healing and forgiveness, become our true selves, deepen and extend our relationship with God and with other people and the wider world. At first, we can only glimpse this but gradually find and become our true selves and that changes us and changes the whole way in which we see and engage with the world around us. So he was able to say that to become a holy person a saint was to simply to become ourselves, our true selves. And he realised that if we fail to engage with that inner journey of what Christians have called spiritual growth, healing and forgiveness then we inflict our wounds and hurt on the people around us and undermine and damage even the best things we try to do.
If we do go on that spiritual journey and begin to see ourselves and others and the world differently, that brings us into conflict with the ways of the world, we become subversive, in the way that Jesus was subversive, challenging the conventions, challenging religious leaders, challenging his disciples who so often misunderstood him and were baffled and confused by what he said and did most of the time!
Jesus then is a supreme example of a true self, at one with himself and at one with God and at one with the whole universe. That is why the writer of the letter to the Colossians (Ch 1;13-20) deliberately uses the most extraordinary, overblown and exalted language to describe Jesus – claiming not only that Jesus has rescued us from darkness and released us from sin, but that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, that in him everything has been created and that absolutely everything is held together in him.
This is the Jesus we prepare to meet again every year as we journey through Advent and look forward to the coming of this one true self who invites us to go on a journey of discipleship with him, so that we can find healing and release from our damaged and damaging selves and become our true selves, seeing the world and living in the world from a different perspective, a perspective grounded in that inner experience of healing and oneness: unity with God, the universe and other people.
Here is the link to this morning’s service. https://www.youtube.com/embed/bi831tmABHc
Suggested reading Genesis 32 v 22-32
Yesterday we journeyed with Jacob as he fled his home and encountered God in the dark, lonely night. Now, many years later, he is making the return journey. Now he has wives, sons and daughters, flocks and riches. But he is still afraid of what his reception might be from his brother, so he sends them all on ahead and prepares to spend the night alone again. And into this darkness God comes, in the form of an angel, whom Jacob wrestles with all night.
It is an amazing episode, full of incident, unanswered questions and mystery. It is not an outward journey this time, but an inward one that Jacob has. For somewhere in the titanic struggle that takes place Jacob is changed. He holds onto God, despite having his hip out of joint and he comes out of it no longer as Jacob- the chancer, the cheater, the liar, the coward-but as Israel, the father of the twelve tribes of the Jewish nation.
Are there times in your life when you feel you have wrestled with God? When faith has felt like a struggle against doubt and uncertainty? What might we learn from Jacob?
5th December Suggested reading: Genesis 28 v 10-22
How dark it has been these last couple of days! The beautiful crisp and icy landscape quickly disappeared into the rain and gloom of dark December. Travelling in the dark, as so many must do at this time of the year, is never easy, particularly in this part of the world where street lighting is often scarce!
On our journey through Advent it stuck me that Jacob was someone who knew about travelling in the dark-literal and spiritual. Jacob has tricked his brother Esau out of his privileged position as the oldest son and has to flee for his life. He travels away from the family disagreement and heads towards his uncle Laban. The sun sets as he journeys and, with no light to travel by, he settles down in the wilderness with only a stone pillow to sleep on.
Who knows what thoughts went through his mind as he lay there alone in the dark and the cold but I am sure that many of us at one time or another may have found ourselves feeling something similar. Overwhelmed perhaps by the darkness of grief, fear, loneliness, anxious with an unhappy past and an uncertain future?
And yet, into this dark night, God comes and speaks. As you look back in your own life what times of darkness has God used to speak to you? What might he be saying to you, his church, his world as we walk this Advent through the darkness of Covid?
As you approach the Castle of Mey on the north coast, you see a fairly typical 16th century Scottish castle, built on land originally belonging to the Bishop of Caithness. To the right of the front door of the main building is another door way through which you can see, as in a picture frame, the Pentland Firth, south of the Orkney Islands, scene of the most turbulent tidal races in the world. At ebb tide at the Merry Men of Mey, a tidal race just to the north of the picture, the water can pour out of the North Sea into the North Atlantic at the rate of some 30 kilometres an hour. Then across the water at Scapa Flow is the location of the scuttling of 74 ships of the German Navy’s High Seas fleet at the end of the First World War. The idyllic calm and serenity of a particular day last year when the photograph was taken, belies both the agitation and turmoil of the sea when the weather is perverse but also the particular history of the first world war, with its tragic and senseless loss of life. A time indeed when life itself seemed to have lost any meaning.
The season of Advent, which we have just begun, essentially focuses on Hope, our hope for the coming of God’s kingdom, and God’s hope for the redemption of humankind.
Hope was the last thing in the myth of Pandora’s box, the hope that all the evil in the world will ultimately be overcome. And it is true that desperately we look for the first shoots of a promise for better times, and the good news at least is that we have been made with a faculty to believe that hope can be grounded in reality. Something to work for. This has been amply proved this taxing year by the hope for a vaccine, by our trust in the scientists who know what they are doing and their confidence that they are on the right track. Our part, of course, is to trust them even when some facets of social media seems dead set in persuading us not to do so.
Similarly the Advent Hope requires of us to trust in the message of Jesus Christ, to believe in the power of his resurrection and the confidence in ourselves to deliver on it.
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One of the earliest Bible characters who undertakes a momentous journey is Abraham. Genesis 12 tells us that when Abraham was 75 years old God called him to leave his own country and to journey to a land “that I will show you”. No destination given, no clear map, just the promise that God would bless him and through him bless many others. And Abraham went. He had many adventures on the way-learning a lot about himself and about God as he journeyed.
As we journey on through Advent, we too are called to journey in faith, in uncertainty, without a clear map of where we are headed. As we do so we can learn a lot about ourselves- and how much we like to feel in control!
How does the fact that we cannot map out our journey or set a safe destination make you feel?
Who is truly in the driving seat of your life today?
A prayer of St Columba
Alone with none but thee, my God
I journey on my way.
What need I fear when thou are near
O King of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand.
Setting out to journey towards God this Advent means keeping our eyes and ears-and all our senses- alert to his presence. I have been pondering on the experience of those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were journeying in sadness, confusion and uncertainty-and perhaps we can identify with those emotions in our life and most certainly in our world today. But someone came to journey with them. They did not recognise the stranger but when he talked to them, when he walked with them, they found new hope, new understanding, new joy. It was only when, much later, as he sat and broke bread with them that they realised that Jesus himself was their travelling companion.
As we travel through Advent may we be alert to God speaking to us, journeying with us. He may come in all sorts of unexpected ways-in the chance meeting, the smile of a stranger, a line of a song or a poem that keeps returning, a sunset or evening star. As you look back over the day can you see signs of his presence? How might you become more aware of God alongside you?
“By this time, they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Luke 24 v 29-31
Advent means coming. We prepare for the coming of Christ into our world and we look forward to the day when he will come again. In many ways, advent is all about the journey of God to us through the centuries of the patriarchs, prophets and finally through Christ himself in the Incarnation. There are many journeys tied up in the Christmas narrative and we will be thinking about some of them as go. But advent is also a call for us to journey afresh towards God, to seek him. Whilst the world continues to journey through this pandemic, and however we have coped -or not -with the challenges it has brought, Advent offers us all the opportunity to make our journey into a pilgrimage. Each day during Advent there will be a short passage and thought here for you to ponder and I hope that we can journey together in seeking God afresh in our lives.
December 1st 2020
I wonder if, like me, you are an extravagant packer? When we go away, I always take far too many things, most of which will remain in the suitcase unused and unnecessary. All they will have done is weigh me down and slow me down as I try to carry them- be it at the station or airport or just into the car!
In our journey toward God I wonder how much baggage we are carrying? How many past hurts or wounds, how many preconceived ideas or plans of our own? How much anger, fear or cares are we laden with? What might God be asking you to divest yourself of and give to Him this Advent as your journey?
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11 v 28
“The soul that journeys to God but does not shake off its cares and quiet its appetites, is like one who drags a cart uphill.”
St John of the Cross
Here is the recording of Sunday’s service.https://www.youtube.com/embed/wnLHKXMg9CI?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent