Category Archives: reflection

Winter Nights and Fairy Lights

There’s something fascinating and overwhelming about the dark at this time of year.  It’s still pitch black at seven when the alarm goes off and by the time I hear my daughter’s key in the door the daylight has already begun to drain away.  Day after day there’s a bit less light and a little more darkness. It can feel like the darkness is winning.  But then, even as we are drawing towards the shortest day of the year,  something beautiful happens.  People begin to rebel against the coming darkness… and drape their streets and homes with tiny lights.  Suddenly thousands of fairy lights twinkle through trees and across living room windows, all declaring that, against all evidence to the contrary, this is the time to celebrate –  light is breaking in!

It certainly makes me think about how you and I are called by God to shine out like stars in the sky.  Boldly resisting the oncoming darkness we can each choose to live in a way that allows a pinprick of God’s own light to break through into the world.

It’s also a picture of how we need each other.  One or two fairy lights don’t make a huge impact by themselves, but joined together in an orchestrated rebellion against the darkness? There’s something so captivating about that picture – Hundreds of thousands of tiny little twinkling lights in a sea of darkness, defiantly holding out the truth that the light has come, and the darkness has not overcome it.

As I’ve been contemplating this picture of fairy lights in a row, all connected to one another, I remembered our annual childhood ritual of checking every bulb in the string before we put them up.  Back then fairy lights were wired in series, individual lights that were interdependent, part of a greater whole.  Every last one had to be in working order and in place for them to light up, and there seemed to be a lot of time spent around our plastic seventies tree trying to work out which coloured bulb had slipped out of place or needed attention.

Of course the analogy doesn’t entirely hold up.  Sadly in many of our churches one or two or maybe many of us can slip out of place or get broken and no-one will notice until it’s too late.  So for me at least, this picture is a challenge to check on and check-in with my neighbours – the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has chosen to put me near.  Sometimes people need a bit of time to talk, to know that someone cares about what they’re going through, to know that someone has got their back.  Sometimes they need some help in getting some restoration in their relationship with God.  I have no doubt that being open about our own struggles and helping others by knowing and loving them well enough to hold them accountable is the only way we can be pure enough to shine out.

We’re in this together friends.  Let’s be a twinkling, joined-up, rebellion against the darkness.

The light will always win.

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Poured Out

 

It’s nearly Pentecost.  And this year more than ever I’m aware of the need for a fresh pouring out of the Holy Spirit in my life.  So here’s a repost from a couple of years of ago… May some fresh hope and fresh hunger bubble up in your heart this week…

I’ve been thinking about Pentecost, about the confused but hopeful disciples gathered in an upper room. Meeting together perhaps to celebrate Shavout – the festival of the first fruits, but certainly to pray, to stare at their empty hands, to hope. Waiting, but not sure about what they were waiting for. Hoping, but not sure what to hope.

And then suddenly…

The Holy Spirit showed up in the room.

And he sounded like a violent rushing wind and he looked like flames of fire.

I suspect the Holy Spirit can choose to look and sound pretty much how he likes, but on this occasion he came to them in a way they could not mistake. The same fire that had burned with the presence of God in the bush where Moses heard God speak now came to rest on each of them. Wonderful but terrifying.

Almost every time I read a story in the Bible, something different about it grabs my attention. What stirs me most when I read this one today is the very first gift that the Holy Spirit chose to give to those trembling disciples. As the Spirit was poured out he gave them a gift of languages, the ability to make the good news available to everyone.  

I love that. The very first gift of the Spirit was one that shouted for all to hear that everyone could be included, that the presence of God was not just for the chosen few, but from now onwards it was for everyone who called on the name of the Lord regardless of where they came from.

Of course they were misunderstood. And some who didn’t quite understand what was happening yelled out their criticism (as occasionally happens today when the Holy Spirit shows up in a way that’s not quite what we expected!) so Peter stood up to explain what was happening, quoting this beautiful verse from Joel:

‘In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions
and your old men will dream dreams.’

Acts 2:17 NRSV

Sometimes we think about the presence of the Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit (or of some of them), as being just for ‘the special’, just for ‘the holy’ or just for ‘someone-else’.

But God is pretty clear about it here.  When he pours out his Spirit, it is on all flesh.  No-one who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ is excluded from that statement:  we can’t exclude others from it and we can’t exclude ourselves from it.

God didn’t say, “I will pour out my spirit on those who shout loud enough, or pray hard enough, sing sweet enough or close their eyes long enough”.

He said “all flesh”

even when you’re tired

even when you’re lonely

even when you’re grieving

even me

even you.

That’s the beauty of Pentecost – the good news in my language, the spirit poured out into my flesh. The precious, beautiful Holy Spirit, suddenly available and present to us all. Poured out not in a trickle or a dribble, but in abundance – a gush of the pure, sweet, inexhaustible presence of God poured out over anyone who wants to come and stand underneath it.

Any time you like.

You just have to ask.