|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the Christmas cards that struck my eye this year was one that has a picture of a Jesus figure on the front, accompanied by presents around their head, and the proclamation ‘It’s All About Me’. What do you think about that? I suspect that it is a gentle way of poking fun at both the tendency of some Christians to be somewhat sanctimonious about ‘possession’ of our end of year communal festivities, and also the way in which we often want Christmas to meet our own expectations. This often begins as children - doesn’t it? – when we human beings don’t quite receive the magical Christmas for which we were hoping: maybe when we don’t have quite the special present we were expecting; and/or when our Christmas meal, or worship, isn’t quite right, or too much; or when we, or others around us, aren’t able to maintain the proverbial spirit of peace and goodwill in all our interactions. Sometimes our expectations are just too much, or too unrealistic. Sometimes they are quite right, and we are let down by events or by others. Either way, we may feel a little betrayed, especially if hopes for ourselves are involved. Perhaps however, in the disappointments of our personal Christmases, we may still learn a little of the wisdom in the birth of Christ. Fresh light may then stream in, particularly when we start looking beyond ourselves – not simply to the Christ child, but to everything about them. This may be part of the learning of this Covid-19 year, in which many Christmases are not as the world as a whole would hope. For, like the first Christmas, pictured in various ways in the Gospels, we have had to learn that it is not ‘All About Me’. If God is among us – the central message of Christmas – then he/she/they are everywhere, but not as we expected, and all of us are, truly, ‘in this together’…
bread and roses - the song of Mary
As you may be aware, there is a tradition in more Catholic Christian circles of using rose pink as a colour for this Sunday. For the third Sunday of Advent has often been known as “Gaudete’ – or ‘Rejoice’ – Sunday, and rose pink, became linked to it, as rose pink is also associated with Mary the Mother of Jesus. So, being a bit into colours at the moment, especially pink ones, I thought I’d do a little investigation into the subject. The first thing I came across was the Readers Digest guide to rose colour meanings It begins very interestingly. The red rose is said to symbolise love, and, I quote, is ‘Perfect for: freaking out your first date; covering beer stains; wooing a hunky bishop.’ So, something to bear in mind there? In contrast, according to Readers Digest, the pink rose is said to express grace and elegance, as well as sweetness and sympathy: and thus: ‘Perfect for: sick secretaries, (and) the platinum blonde in your life.’ Again, is there something useful for us to remember there? Well, maybe just a teens-weensy bit of gender stereotyping in that, don’t you think?! It is a little like many approaches to Mary, the Mother of Jesus …
This being our national churches’ day of prayer for refugees, let me begin with a brief video clip to help focus our hearts and minds. It shares the voices of some of our Australian children, expressing well the human issues of deep pain and the need for greatly enlarged compassion in our country and world today, as well as a touch of the confusion and helplessness many of us can feel…
Now, I know that there is much disagreement about certain aspects of refugee policy in this country, including among some Christians. It is a striking feature for example, that key political figures who have shaped recent Australian refugee policy are well-known Christians, including the Prime Minister and the former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Scott Morrison. Their views and actions, whilst supported by many, have hardly been popular with others. For the overwhelming consensus of our Church leadership and informed research is that we, as a nation, have not got it right with refugee and asylum seeker policy. Indeed, our Church leadership tells us, again and again, that we are currently often out of step with both international human rights and Christian compassion. So, whether or not we, as individuals, agree with our national political leadership, this makes prayer and support for refugees an important concern for us all. As Christians, we can hardly sidestep the issue. As Australians, we have a fine record of receiving and caring for refugees. In Toowoomba indeed, we have so much to celebrate in that regard, not least in work which this parish helped pioneer. So what do we now do to build upon it?...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney