Christmas present

As I am recycling at the moment (eg Nora the Noisy Angel) I thought I would recycle a ‘thought for the week’ I sent to the Ministers in the Eastern Baptist Association this week.

giftI had a clever mailing from a well-known Swedish furniture store come through my letter box last week. On the front it said, “Christmas is all about the present.” I groaned inwardly and decided not to open it because it was so far from what Christmas is all about. I was about to recycle it but curiosity got the better of me and I opened it. The text inside reads, “It’s the present (not the presents) that counts. And those moments with loved ones are the best of all…”

“That’s clever,” I thought to myself, “I wonder if I can include that in a Christmas message?” And then I started to reflect on whether it really is all about the present:

Advent is a season of time-travel. We travel back in time to the period before BC became AD and anticipate Jesus’ arrival. We empathise with the longing of his people for God to act. We hope and pray for a better future. We lament. We ache. We wait.

Christmas Carol Services and Nativity Plays are wonderfully nostalgic (which is why they are attended by the regular ‘once a year at Christmas’ part of our church family). They are a familiar touching place with the Unchangeable Story (which we soon discover if we dare to change things too radically). Of course they can also be incredibly poignant and painful for those who are reminded of past loss. In these moments the past is triggering our emotional response to the present.

And yet, in the midst of it, is the small voice of a child crying in a cattle feeding trough reminding us that this is the season of God, the eternal One, with us – Immanuel . In the present.

Christmas really is all about the present, God present with us.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Living on past glories

I have become a convert. I have moved from being a breakfast-time listener to BBC Radio 5 (news and sport) to BBC Radio 2 (music and laughs). That probably says a lot about me, but the conversion is based principally on my enjoyment of Chris Evans and the team (Radio 2) and my getting more and more annoyed with Nicky Campbell’s interviewing techniques and approach to his colleagues (Radio 5).


That little prologue was to set the scene for the main bit. In a recent show, following the Academy Awards (aka Oscars) Chris Evans asked listeners what awards they had received. That got me thinking about awards I have received in the past. There was the time I was playing in goal for Horsham Baptists FC Third XI and was awarded ‘Man of the Match’ even though we lost 9-0 (I kept the score down to a reasonable level apparently!). There was my one and only swimming certificate (10 metres) at primary school, when I doggy-paddled my way down the pool, just making it to then end of the pool before my feet hit the bottom of the pool. I was awarded a School Prize at the end of my Sixth Form for running the Christian Union and School Volleyball Club (and got awarded a parking ticket too when I went to collect it at the prizegiving).

And there was the time when I was a lad in the 1st Torquay Boys’ Brigade Company and was part of a team that won the Brek Trek (hiking race in the Brecon Beacons). We were given a shiny trophy that we were to share between the three of us. I took it home first and promptly forgot to let my colleagues have it until I uncovered it when we were preparing to move to Colchester two years ago! One of the other two team members was then my boss so I cleaned the trophy up and passed it to him so he could have it on his mantlepiece and reminisce for another 25 years before passing it on to the final member of the team.

All this nostalgic glory made me feel good for a while. Then I came back to reality. While remembering good things from the past is great, it is no substitute for living in the present. We can’t live on past glories. I reflected on an exercise we did at a recent prayer meeting. We tried to think of five things for which we were thankful for God that had happened that day. It brought our faith into the present day, rather than living on past events. It’s something I am trying to incorporate into my daily routine so that I can be more aware of what God is doing now, and live with an attitude of gratitude,

To conclude, and bringing together the theme of awards and humour, I leave you with the joke that was voted ‘Funniest religious joke ever’ on the Ship of Fools Website. It was written by American comedian and mammal Emo Philips (pictured).

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. 


I said, “Don’t do it!” 

He said, “Nobody loves me.” 

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.”


I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” 

He said, “A Christian.” 

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” 

He said, “Protestant.” 

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” 

He said, “Baptist.” 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” 

He said, “Northern Baptist.” 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”


I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” 

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” 

I said, “Me, too!”

Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”


He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” 

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.