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When your birthday is overwhelmed by Christmas

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY! There are, of course, some advantages of having your birthday so close to 25 December. As a child I particularly prized the fact that I would never have to go to school on this my special day. Remember, I went to primary school during the 1950’s when school was not meant to be fun. No Happy Birthday hat at St Nicks’. And as an adult the big bonus is that my loving family – should they remember – can buy my presents in the sales, giving more bang to their buck. But sadly it is not a very big bang when compared to the massive boom of Christmas Day. And that’s the burden those of us born close to Christmas have to carry throughout our lives. People just fo

How I met up with Jesus in the fog

Fascinating phone conversation with John last night. The last time we spoke it changed my life. It was way back in February 1963 when Roger from my Covenanter Group invited me to the 6.30 pm Gospel Service at the sponsoring church, Oxford Hall, a small Brethren assembly. By then I had been attending Covies for a few months, having been rescued from the sheer boredom of Prayer Book Matins at St Nicholas’, my childhood church. I could sense somehow that God was at work in Roger, and so I said “Yes.” However, on that particular evening a thick smog from the Mersey estuary drifted over Waterloo. Even so I headed out, not far to go, to find that Roger had not turned up as promised.

Christmas - the whole story

“Our job,” reflects Archbishop Sentamu, “is to lead people to Jesus and leave them there.” I’ve just read these words in Jeremy Duff’s excellent BRF Guidelines as part of my time with God this morning. Over the last six days, preparing for Christmas, his notes has helped me explore the prologue of John’s Gospel, the opening 18 verses, with each day focussed on just one or two verses. It’s always a rewarding experience to savour God’s word slowly and simply allow its meaning to ferment, water into wine. John, of course, is different to Matthew, Mark and Luke, together known as the synoptic Gospels. In his Gospel there is no nativity as such, no angels or shepherds, no manger or wi

When God drops you in it

“Surprise,” observed Boris Pasternak, “is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” That certainly was my experience yesterday afternoon. The cathedral was packed for the carol service: great atmosphere, a real sense of occasion. The choirs were getting into position, final sound check. Clearly a lot of preparation had gone into this service. I arrived in good time. After all I was leading the service along with Father Peter. So we took a service card to see what we were tasked to do. Peter was doing the bidding prayer at the start of the service, just like last year. Naturally I assumed I was taking the concluding prayers as well as a few prayers during the service. But my na

Walking your daughter down the aisle - that magic moment.

I’ve done it no less than four times – and each time I walk even more slowly to relish the moment. Mr Markle has all this to look forward to according to the Royal Wedding Exclusive in this morning’s Daily Mirror. There we have the vivid headline “I’d love to walk Meghan down the aisle.” It seems that this reclusive dad has broken his silence to “Mirrorman Chris” who flew over specially to Mexico to give us this long-awaited news. Strangely while the story dominates the press edition there is not even a hint of the story on the Mirror website. To know more you need to buy the paper. Short pause as I scurry to the Post Office to buy my copy. An even shorter pause as I realise

Terrible Christmas trees. Derby - this year's winner.

"It looks awful. Why bother? It does not look festive at all. Take it down along with all the railings. Embarrassing to be from Derby." So as we enter December, we have our first awful Christmas tree story. In fact, just a few moments ago (life has since moved on) it was the lead piece on the BBC news website with the startling heading “Derby cordoned-off Christmas tree 'an embarrassment.'” Such stories are now part of the annual ritual of the Festive Season. No doubt you will remember “the cold blue lights and scrappy tree” from Buxton in 2015 while the white 20ft tree in Stockton was branded the “worst in Britain” some two years earlier. This particular sapling was compared to a

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