nora the noisy angel

In the interests of recycling I am reposting something I wrote 3 years ago. It’s the text for a story that you might like:

Nora the noisy angel*

nora-the-noisy-angelHeaven was normally a calm, quiet place. It was peaceful, gentle and lovely. The angels would talk to each other in gentle whispers because it was so quiet.

Except for Nora. She could not speak quietly. If one of the other angels whispered, “Good morning Nora,” she would respond in a loud voice, “GOOD MORNING!”

If one of the angels whispered, “How are you?” Nora would bellow, “I’M WONDERFUL THANK YOU, HOW ARE YOU?”

And when the angels suggested that Nora should speak more softly she would shout, “I’M SPEAKING AS SOFTLY AS I CAN!”

The other angels called her Noisy Nora and that made her a bit sad. She wanted to be quiet but didn’t know how.

One day Nora heard that they were holding auditions for a very special choir of angels. She was very excited and went along. Thousands of angels were singing in sweet harmony: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to everyone!” It was a lovely, inspiring, melodic sound.

When it was Nora’s turn she tried her hardest. But instead of a gentle harmony she sang at the top of her voice, “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND PEACE ON EARTH TO EVERYONE!”

“I’m very sorry Nora” say the angel choirmaster, “You’re too noisy. We can’t hear anyone else.”

Nora was really sad. She knew that the choir were practising for the most exciting moment since God had said, “Let there be light!” and she couldn’t be a part of it.

She went and sat down on a small cloud and cried.

She was still crying when she noticed that it had got brighter around her. She looked up and saw the Kindest Face.

“Hello Nora,” said the Kindest Voice.

“HELLO!” she said loudly, instantly feeling guilty about speaking so loudly to Him.

“I’ve got an important job for you,” said the Kindest Voice. And He whispered in her ear to tell her what He wanted her to do.

The next day the massive choir was ready, lined up in the darkness, waiting to sing their special song in honour of the special baby. They all waited for their cue. Then they noticed Nora walk out in front of them and step out from behind the night curtain in front of a group of startled shepherds.

“DON’T BE AFRAID!” shouted Nora in her loud voice, so everyone could hear, “I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU. IT’S NEWS THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER! A SPECIAL BABY HAS JUST BEEN BORN IN BETHLEHEM. GOD’S COME INTO THE WORLD AND YOU CAN FIND HIM WRAPPED UP WARM AND LYING IN A MANGER!”

That was the cue for the rest of the angels. The night curtain was raised and the massed choir sang their special song: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to everyone.”

The night curtain came back down and the angel choir went back to heaven. Nora peeped through and watched as the shepherds faces shone and they hurried off down the hill into the village to find the baby.

When Nora got back to heaven the rest of the angels cheered and shouted and made such a fuss of her because she had done such an amazing job with her loud voice. And Nora could see the Kindest Face beaming at her.

She was so pleased that for the first time in her life she whispered, “Thank you.”

I have worked out some lyrics for a song that can be sung to the tune of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer after the story has been told:

Nora the noisy angel
Didn't have a quiet voice
And if you ever heard her
You'd be deafened by the noise
Nora just couldn't whisper
Her voice was always far too loud
She only had one volume
That echoed loud around the clouds

'Glory to God on hi-gh'
Went the special angel song:
'Peace on the earth as well'
And Nora went along
She sounded like a foghorn
Drowning all the harmonies
She couldn't join the choir
And sing the baby-melody

As she cried upon her cloud
She heard the Kindest Voice
"I have got a job for you -
I need to use your mega-voice"

Nora spoke to the shepherds,
She didn't need a microphone.
She told them about the baby
Born to bring us all back home.
When she went back to heaven
How the other angels cheered.
And Nora's First Christmas message
Echoes down across the years.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*If you like the story and want to use it, feel free. If you fancy giving me a credit that would be nice.

the magic of Christmas

playing cards 2Regular bloggists among you will know that I am rather keen on magic tricks. I don’t have any special magic powers, I went to a normal school rather than Hogwarts, I am not in league with the Devil and don’t access the ‘dark side’: it’s all down to skill, technique, practice and sleight of mouth.

So today, as a special treat, I am going to perform an illusion for you on my blog.

I want you to try not to think of anything in advance of this, but I am going to attempt a bloggage-mind-reading. Clear your mind [insert ‘that didn’t take as long as it should’ type magician joke here].

For those who are unfamiliar with them, let me explain about playing cards. Playing cards come in four suits – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades. They are marked from 1-10 (one also known as the ace) followed by three court cards – Jack, Queen and King. That makes 52 different cards in a deck of cards (plus Jokers if you want to be pedantic).

Now, when I tell you I want you to think of any playing card apart from Jokers. Not yet! When I tell you.

Okay, think of a card. You may have thought of the Queen of Hearts but that’s not surprising because it’s in the picture.

So now change your mind and think of a different card with a different suit.

Now change your mind one more time and think of another different card, not the first one.

You are thinking of…

[dramatic pause]

[extended dramatic pause]

[additional text to put my mind-reading answer further down the page, forcing you to scroll down to it and making sure that it was less likely to have been on the screen when you started thinking of cards so you can’t claim I influenced you]

You are thinking of…

[drum roll]

the seven of spades.

This is the moment where you leap up screaming, “That’s amazing!” (I hope you are on a train at the moment!). You will be wondering how I did that and are either extolling my skill and calling the BBC to demand I have my own TV show or are calling a psychologist to sort out the mess I have just made with your mind.

Actually most of you won’t have leapt up screaming, “That’s amazing!” Most of you will have been thinking of a different card. Now you may be feeling rather disappointed and let down because what I promised and what you had hoped for was not what you got. But try to imagine how you would have felt if I had chosen your card – a freely chosen card that I could not have known when I wrote this bloggage.

All I did was create an expectation and choose a random card. I had a 1 in 52 chance of being right. Most of the time I will be wrong, but probability suggests that some of you will have been thinking of the seven of spades. And for those people, for a moment, the improbable or even the impossible happened.

Advent has been a season of expectation and hope. We reflect on God’s promises and how, at the time of Jesus’ birth many people felt disappointed and let down because they were not getting what they hoped for. We reflect on our own hopes and how sometimes they go unfulfilled.

But we also anticipate how, when Jesus was born, those promises were fulfilled. Not in a spectacular way for everyone but in a subtle way to a few. And for those few there was a realisation that the impossible and improbable had happened to them and it overflowed in joy.

The wonderful thing is that now, because the improbable and impossible has happened, we can all experience it for ourselves because it’s available to us all. Jesus the God-human born in Bethlehem can be born in you too.

This will be my last bloggage before Christmas, so I pray for a hope-fulfilled, fear-turned-to-joy, peace-on-earth Christmas for you all.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Candles by Carollight

I was listening to one of my favourite Christmas CDs in the car today: Annie Lennox’s Christmas Cornucopia. She has a beautiful voice and the arrangements of the carols and songs are lovely. I find it very uplifting and inspiring. (In the middle of the collection of songs is a French carol, sung in French. I will come back to that later.)

I don’t know if Annie Lennox has an active Christian faith. But at the very least in recording these Christmas carols she will have a greater awareness of the nativity and what Christians believe about who Jesus is. I wondered whether those recording the songs regarded them as something spiritually significant or simply as a variety of folk song.

Worship BackgroundTonight I will be attending one of my favourite services of the year. (I am not sure I actually have a favourite, they are all special, but I think you know what I mean.) I love a traditional Carols by Candlelight service. This will be the first time for a number of years where I will be attending as a member of the congregation rather than being part of the planning and preparation and leading of the service. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (he says ironically as a coffee-drinker). I know some people who don’t find it uplifting (including some Ministers). That’s okay. There will be other services that bless them more.

But it’s also the service that sees attendance at church increase significantly because there is still enough residual affection for the service within our society that attending the Carol Service is an important part of what makes up Christmas. There will be a number of people there whose church attendance is limited to once a year – regular if not frequent!

Churches get quite excited by this annual influx and will also work hard at helping people to feel welcome and inviting them to increase the frequency of their attendance or deepen the level of their engagement with the church. Messages will be preached that explain that it’s not just a nice story but really happened and has significance for us today, that Jesus can be incarnate in our lives as much as he was in the stable. Friends and relatives will be there and Christians who invited them will be pleased that they came and heard the message and sang the carols. But should we be that excited? Singing the words of a carol will not make people a Christian any more than singing in French makes Annie Lennox a Frenchwoman (I told you I’d come back to that). And going to church won’t do that either, no matter how frequently we attend.

There will be people there tonight who come to enjoy singing the Carols and who need to hear that message, but who will go away untouched by the message. They will have sung their lungs out, enjoyed the atmosphere, appreciated the welcome, nommed the mince pies and will go away mentally ticking that off their to do list for Christmas without it making any difference to them.

Before you think I have gone all ‘Bah Humbug!’ on you, let me say that I am delighted that people come regularly once a year. I think it is important that we can provide this part of their Christmas experience. I think it is right that we offer a different perspective on the festival and remind people what it’s really about. I hope and pray that it will make a difference.

But it’s not the church’s job to make that change happen. It’s not even up to us (although we have to do the inviting). That’s up to God and the people who come. Let’s come with expectation of a special service, expectation that we will enjoy ourselves, and expectation that we will experience a fresh encounter with God.

Be blessed, be a blessing

small children in the park, tea towels for goalposts?

kids footballThe text below comes from an article in today’s The Independent newspaper. Click on the link for the full glory of the article and cheesy pics.

Chelsea have made some star signings over the years but this one would trump the lot – that of Jesus Christ.

However, even with all his roubles, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich won’t be bringing the Son of God to Stamford Bridge. But a survey has found that 20 per cent of kids think he already plays for the Blues.

A total of 1,000 children were asked the following multiple choice question as part of a survey for Netmums: Who is Jesus Christ? a) A footballer for Chelsea b) Son of God c) TV presenter d) X Factor contestant or e) An astronaut

Incredibly, 20 per cent of the children asked at a shopping centre in Brent Cross went with option a).

Even if Jesus was available in the transfer market, one suspects Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who styles himself as the ‘Special One’, might feel uncomfortable about being upstaged by such a star name.

It might be possible the children confused Jesus Christ with Jesus Navas, who plays for Manchester City.

The discovery that many children believe Jesus plays for Chelsea wasn’t the only worrying finding. According to the results a quarter of them think the shepherds found the infant Jesus with the assistance of Google Maps and that more than half think Christmas Day marks Santa Claus’s birthday.

***article finishes***

So if you have any doubts about the significance of Nativity plays (tea towels included), Carol Services, Christmas School Assemblies and so on…

Be blessed, be a blessing

(corny joke alert)

The survey didn’t say what position they thought Jesus played but we all know he must be a goalkeeper because Jesus saves!

(you were warned!)

bad news good news

This week Microsoft announced that they were pulling the plug on their clipart. Apparently it was because so many of us now search for images online that there has not been much demand for clipart. That’s bad news. Not because I am a big fan of clipart. And I do search for images (royalty free) online.

sheep cartoon
a captured screenshot from a PowerPoint slide I created, hence the crosshairs!

But it’s bad news for those of us who are not good at drawing – it was a real blessing to be able to create images by using clipart. A few years ago I created this cartoon (left) using clipart. I had a concept but I needed ready-made components to be able to make the concept a reality. Now that Microsoft has withdrawn clipart I am either going to have to learn to draw, or find another source for the components I need.

I think that I have always had an affinity for the shepherds and angels part of the Christmas events.  I think the whole episode lends itself to all sorts of comedic interpretations and slants – for example the cartoon below (again created using clipart)Christmas Card 09, or Nora the Noisy Angel (last year). But most of all I like it because it shows that the incredible good news of God’s gift to humanity in Jesus is for everyone – even (or especially) those who were excluded from mainstream society.

Which indeed is “Good news of great joy for all people.”

Be blessed, be a blessing

it’s a cracker!

christmas crackers

Why are Christmas Cracker jokes so bad? They seem designed to illicit a groan rather than a giggle. It’s almost as if they have a testing department and reject any that make someone smile. [Horrible thought – imagine being a joke-tester for Christmas Cracker jokes?!]

crackers

Someone somewhere is employed to find these jokes or even write them. Or perhaps now they have a computer that does that for them?

nutcrackers2

Christmas Crackers are a strange phenomenon aren’t they? A roll of paper with two crimps, a small explosive device, a paper hat, a small gift (to which we will return) and a joke. What an unusual combination, especially to celebrate Christmas. We don’t have them for the rest of the year, so why are they exclusively Christmas Crackers? Quick, down to Dragon’s Den with the idea for a company to make Crackers for all occasions…

Oh yes, the gifts. It seems that the only significant variable in a box of Christmas Crackers is the quality of the gift. The cheaper ones have a piece of plastic that has been moulded into a shape that resembles something in everyday life but which is entirely useless and will be thrown away with the rest of the cracker rubbish. The more expensive ones will have something that looks like it might be useful but will break the first time you use it. And the very expensive ones have things that we are sure will be very helpful but are priced out of the reach of most of us. If the gifts are the only variable then they must dictate the price of the crackers.

So here’s another idea to take down to Dragon’s Den (or perhaps combine with the previous one)… make another variable – the quality of the jokes! The cheaper ones will continue to have the ones that make you groan, but the more expensive you go, the funnier the jokes.

However, I want to subvert that idea even before you offer me £100,000 for 10% of my company. I would imagine that those who can least afford crackers deserve the funniest jokes and the best gifts. So my company’s USP* would be that the more expensive the cracker the worse the joke and the less useful the gift – playing on the expectation that crackers must be crummy – and these expensively priced but cheap to produce ones would subsidise the production of wonderful ones in the budget range.

Wouldn’t it be nice at Christmas that the first really are last and the last first?

Be blessed, be a blessing

There was a recent competition to find new, funny up to date cracker jokes. My favourite was “What does the Queen call her Christmas broadcast? The One Show!”

Closely followed by: “How did Mary and Joseph know Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born? They had a weigh in a manger.”

*Unique selling point

Happy Mas

Happy Birthday to whom?
Happy Birthday to whom?

Each year at about this time someone complains about ‘political correctness gone mad’ or ‘health and safety gone mad’. It’s usually because of some well-intentioned attempt to avoid causing offence that ends up causing more of a problem. So we have ‘Winterval’ instead of ‘Christmas’ so it’s not religious. We have Mary told to wear a hard hat when riding on the real donkey through the streets.

I try not to get too hot and bothered about these things because I do believe that there are good intentions behind most of these things and those are not usually reported in the hysteria.

This year there is an advert for Christmas that says ‘Christmas starts with Christ’, which is a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse. We have a poster outside our church with that message, which is a gentle riposte to ‘Winterval’. But I have another suggestion. If we want to de-religiousise Christmas let’s just call it ‘Mas’. The suffix ‘Mas’ means ‘Festival’. So if all we want to do is have a party then let’s just call it ‘Mas’ and be done with it.

However, if we want to wish everyone a Happy Christmas, let’s really go for it – baby in the manger and all – let’s tell people the reason for the season.

This Saturday the local Salvation Army band will be playing carols on our forecourt in the Town Centre. I’ll be there with them, giving out invitations to our Christmas services in the hope that this year some people will add Christ to their mas. You’d be welcome to join us!

Be blessed, be a blessing.