Friday, 5 December 2008

Advent giving

It's hard to focus on Advent things today, because other pressing concerns have occupied my mind ... namely its my birthday.

I love birthdays ... mostly because like Christmas, I enjoy receiving presents. But unlike the festive season, on my birthday I don't have to sit and wonder:

'Did I get him a card as well?'
Did I buy something for her too
and if so ... did I spend as much on her as she has done on me?'

Of course I realise that this is not a healthy way to view the giving and receiving of gifts ...
but few of us seem immune from this.
So many of us seem to feel a perpetual need to balance the cosmic scales of our giving.

God has other ideas.
At the birthday of Jesus the world receives the greatest gift of all
God takes on the risk and vulnerability of flesh
And there is no way that we can ever balance the munificence of the giver of the gift.
At Easter time, God does it all over again, with another unrepeatable act of generosity.

It is a great moment of personal awareness when he discover and admit our finitude
when we confess that there is nothing we can give to God to balance up the abundance of heaven's giving. But somewhere in the bleak mid winter of this advent time I can hear the soft refrain of carols ... 'what can I give him ... give him my heart.'

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Today was World AIDS Day 2008
For 20 years now, 1st December has been universally recognised as World AIDS day, a time to reflect on the issues facing the 33 million people living with HIV /AIDS today. This year, as well as the established Welsh Civic Service that traditionally marks the day, Calvary Baptist Church played host to the first Christian Aid, HIV/AIDS Day Service. For a long time now, Christian Aid have been working in partnership with local community action groups, particularly in Africa. Much of the work involves supporting those living with HIV/ AIDS, or orphaned by this global pandemic, together with campaigning for better healthcare, anti-discrimination legislation and sex education.

So it was that some members of my church's Global Issues Group met with others from around Cardiff for an informal time of songs, prayer and storytelling that began by reflecting on our own experiences with HIV/AIDS over the last 20 or more years.

It was then a true privilege to listen to Moira Jones from Khayelitsha, a township outside of Cape Town. Moira is director of a group called Wola Nani ( Wola Nani is Xhosa for ‘we embrace and develop one another’. It was established in 1994 as a non-profit organisation to help bring relief to the communities hardest hit by the HIV crisis. Begun against a background of economic curtailment on welfare spending and a huge increase in the number of HIV and AIDS cases, Wola Nani initiated programmes to help HIV positive people in the local community cope with the emotional and financial strains brought on by the disease. I was staggered at the variety of practical support given by Wola Nani from a small budget funded largely by their own craft income generating initiatives.

Although those gathered for the service were small in number, everyone agreed it had not only been worth the doing, but the evening had been time spent on ‘holy ground.’

Monday, 1 December 2008

Putting the wanting back into waiting

Yesterday saw the beginning of Advent ... at last I can start thinking about getting ready for Christmas.

In this same week my new credit card arrived ... (new card, but same old number and sadly the same old balance) but it put me in mind of the old advertising slogan ...
'taking the waiting out of wanting.'
This Advent I want to try and turn all that on its head a bit ...
I want to put the wanting back into the waiting ... as I wait ... as God calls on us all to wait and watch and pray and get ready for his coming into the world ... I want to put God's wanting back into the next four weeks ...
what is heaven's desire for my here and now ...
and do I want it as much as God does?
inevitably the answer to that question is no,
but who knows what I might learn in the asking?

ps Check out the daily advent reflections on hopeful imagination