Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Little Matchgirl

As Advent is a time for pausing and reflecting I thought I would do it by reading through a book. This year I have chosen 'Lighted Windows' by Margaret Silf. It starts on the 1st of December - tomorrow.

But, this evening I thought I would start by reading the introduction. I was amazed to discover that Margaret writes about 'The Little Matchgirl'. Amazed because when I was out with friends this evening we were talking about just this story.

Let me share what Margaret has written:-

'The 'Little Matchgirl' wasn't a story I was familiar with, but as she [a friend] retold it, it came to life in a way that reflects, for me, something of the spirit of this Advent journey. The little matchgirl was a young child, undernourished and very poor. She earned her daily bread by selling matches, but the earnings were sparse and at home a cruel father was waiting to punish her if she failed to bring home enough money. One dark winter night she was standing in her usual place, shivering and gazing at the lighted windows of the big houses all around her, catching fleeting glimpses of all that was going on inside those rooms - the preparations for Christmas, the lovely gifts, the bright decorations, the happy faces, the smell of Christmas puddings and roasting goose.

All she had was a box of matches and there were no customers tonight - they all had other things on their minds. 'Dare I strike one?' she wondered. She took out a match, and struck it, gazing for a few brief moments into its blaze of light. As she did so, she imagined that it was one of those lighted windows. She looked inside, in her imagination, and entered into a warm room where loving friends might welcome her. Another match; another scene. Another window to look into. Perhaps a fine dinner set out for a family. The crackling of the goose, the aroma of mince pies. Food and shelter. And so she continued, until she came to the last match in the box.

The story has a bittersweet ending. As she strikes her last match, the little matchgirl sees a shooting star falling across the night sky and her granny is standing there, smiling, waiting to gather the child into her arms and carry her home to heaven. The frozen child is discovered the next morning, with an empty matchbox in her hands and a deep, contented smile across her white face.'

[Note from Linda:- Here is another summary of the story - "On a cold New Year’s Eve, a poor girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is freezing badly, but she is afraid to go home because her father will beat her for not selling any matches. She takes shelter in a nook and lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow, she sees several lovely visions including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward, sees a shooting star, and remembers her deceased grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone died and is going into Heaven. As she lights her next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother nearby for as long as she can. The child dies and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the dead child in the nook."]

Back to 'Lighted Windows':-

'The Advent journey invites you to share something of the magic and the mystery of what it means to look into some of your own 'lighted windows'. But these are not the windows of fantasy. They are the windows of our common quest to discover 'God-with-Us' - Emmanuel, God incarnate in the world of everyday reality with all its shame and its glory. They are like 'windows' of an Advent Calendar, leading us ever closer to the mystery that is born in Bethelehem.'
Looking forward to opening the first window tomorrow.

St Andrew's Day reflection

File:José de Ribera San Andrés.jpgFile:Flag of Scotland.svg

It's St Andrew's Day here in Scotland and since 2007 this has become a bank holiday (not that we have bank holidays in the church!). The Scottish government's flag-flying regulations state that the Scottish Saltire (flag) should be flown, on this day, on all its buildings wherever there is a flag-pole. I wonder how many will actually pause this day to think about the flag and what it represents. It is called the St Andrew's flag after our patron saint - St Andrew (seen above in a painting by José de Ribera).

St Andrew is also the patron saint of other countries including Romania and Greece and of fishermen, golfers and performers.

He was a fisherman and one Jesus' disciples ("lay down your nets and follow me) but, before that, he was a follower of John the Baptist. John came to show the way, to point to Jesus, the one who was to follow. And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

Andrew was a follower of John but John pointed him towards a different path. A path that was to lead him to walking side by side with Jesus and ultimately following in his footsteps for the rest of his life. Andrew was to end his life in crucifixion for his faith. But, not on a cross like Jesus (a Latin cross) - Andrew apparently considered himself to be unworthy of that. Rather, he was crucified on a Crux decussata or, as we know it, a saltire.

As the  flag flies across Scotland today we bring to mind a man who dropped his nets to pick up a new life, to become a fisher of men.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

Found this on Facebook this morning - it has enchanted all who I have shown it to throughout the day. A simple retelling of the nativity story done with a clever interpretation of the music/lyrics of Queen's great hit. The story of Jesus birth, no matter how it is told, continues to have the power to reach in and move our hearts. Perhaps it is partly because of the familiarity. We have heard the story told again and again. Partly because we first heard it when we were young. Hearing it again brings us back to the simple trust that we had as children.
I remember being part of the telling of the story in primary school. I didn't have a big role. My task was only to clap the two coconut shells together to make donkey trotting noises - but I loved it! I felt involved. I felt that I was caught up in this wonderful tale that we heard each year. Watching the puppets perform in the rhapsody I again was caught up in the story - now as an adult but somehow, somehow, transported back to the sheer delight of the little child. Jesus said 'bring the little children to me'. The child inside still responding to that call to come and see the child in the manger.

Mascara, Military and Music

Mascara, Military and Music
This morning as I was getting ready for work, I kept hearing snippets on the radio about the need to have mascara remover at the ready. Intrigued I stopped long enough to hear what it was all about. The Military Wives Choir are releasing a single called 'Wherever you are' in time for Christmas. Before I knew it I was transfixed to the spot as I listened to the words. Tears in the eyes right enough. A pause in the morning rush to think about those who are sacrificing daily - the troops and the families.

One of the most comforting things about faith is having the belief that we are never alone. Feeling alone is surely one of the hardest things to cope with in life. This single brings us all that bit closer. We may be far removed from the fields of war. We may be far away from the families waiting at home for news. But, we can be close to them in our thoughts and prayers. We can stop and listen and show our support.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent Remembering

First Sunday in Advent 2011
Taking time today as we approach Christmas, to remember absent loved ones and holding those memories in God's peace, love and hope through faith. Reminding ourselves to live lives that matter.

Live A Life That Matters

(Author unknown)

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won't matter where you came from,
or on what side of the tracks you lived.

At the end, whether you were beautiful or brilliant, male or female,
even your skin colour won't matter.

So what will matter?

How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;
not what you got, but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.

What will matter is not your memories,
but the memories that live in those who loved you.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.