Tag Archives: Love

Interrupted…by Christmas

However you’re spending Christmas this year, I pray you have a safe, hope-filled and blessed one.

A wife posted her Christmas wish list on the fridge for her husband to see. Rather than a list of items of desire, she simply wrote, ‘something that will make me look beautiful’. When Christmas rolled around she expected to open a package with some fancy jewellery of clothing. Instead, she unexpectedly received an exercise bike.

Christmas this year is not what we would have expected back in January.
Christmas has been interrupted.
There’s things we can’t do.
Places we won’t go.
People we won’t see.
We may feel frustrated, disappointed,
hopes have been dashed, people are hurting.

2020 has been a year of change, restrictions and interruptions. And if you’re anything like me, I’m not a great fan of interruptions to my plans and routines.

We’re all marking Christmas differently this year in one way or another…

As we do, I wonder if living through an interrupted Christmas might help us see the Christmas story differently – and afresh for us.

Because the Christmas story itself is filled with interruptions.
Christmas is an interruption.

Mary’s day in interrupted when an angel appears before her and says she will have a child. How does Mary respond? Does she head out stockpiling loo rolls and pasta? No, she said ‘I am the Lord’s servant, let it be’.

The whole land was interrupted with a census called by a foreign dictator that sent everyone back to their hometowns – their own lockdown – so to speak…what do mary and Joseph do? Do they head to Barnards castle for an eye test? No, they comply and head to Bethlehem.

When they get there there’s nowhere to go. Everywhere has already filled up, social distancing and the rule of 6 mean there’s no space for Joseph and a pregnant Mary…they find some shelter…

And then, the biggest interruption of them all,
A baby is born.
Immanuel, God with us.

A baby that is God, and is human, and turns everything upside down. Who enters the mess of the world and be with us in our pain.
A gift that challenges injustice.
A gift that is full of forgiveness.
A gift that shows the world true love.
Because God became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14)

Shepherds on the hillside watch their sheep – their night interrupted with light and the songs of angels…

Townsfolk’s sleep interrupted as shepherds run through the town praising God…

Magi’s studies are interrupted by the appearance of an unusual light…

Herod’s confidence interrupted by unexpected news a new king had been born….

All because God interrupted the world and interrupted the status quo, through a vulnerable babe in a manger.

This Christmas, may the worldly interruptions we face be insignificant to the kingdom interruption that Christmas is all about.
A holy interruption.

Love is with us,
Hope is with us.
God is with us.
Immanuel.

May your life be interrupted by Christmas – God with us.

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Interrupted…by peace

Looking back on the interruption of 2020, and the interruption that the season on Advent encourages us to look towards.

What has given you peace this year?
What is giving you peace today?

Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences.



Lydia, my youngest daughter, is 4 and an early riser – it’s unusual if she wakes up after 6am, usually, around 5:30 in the morning we’re awoke to Lydia coming into our bedroom asking ‘is it morning’, ‘can I have a cuddle’,
‘can you help me put my tights on’, or ‘wake up’!

Louise, my wife and I often respond with something of a grunt, a groan, or a go and play in your bedroom, but Lydia has none of it, she’s wide awake and she wants our attention.

During Advent, Christians often read some of the story of John the Baptist, an older cousin of Jesus who was himself called by God to tell people of the coming one, who would bring signs of the kingdom of God.

Right at the beginning of Marks gospel we read some words that we also find in the Old Testament – which point to John the Baptist as a messenger preparing the way for the Lord – the coming one.

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Mark 1:2-3

The message at the start of Mark’s gospel is – ‘wake up – make space for the coming one!’ Pay attention to the signs of the coming kingdom.

The use of the words that are also in the Old Testament make a link with the words we find there. Some of them come from Isaiah 40, which is a chapter that begins with the words:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says God.

Isaiah 40:1

They are reassuring words, because they remind us that God cares for us, loves us and wants to comfort us. That in making space for God in our lives, the turmoil of life is interrupted by the coming one who came to bring peace to the world.

There’s a myth that God is sat on a golden throne looking down on use little humans wagging his finger in judgement, saying we are awful people who deserve to be punished. There’s even been Christian leaders suggesting that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on us. That’s codswallop.

God doesn’t sit on high, at a distance, judging us. God is among us and with us.

God knows the mess that the world is in, knows we, the human beings God made, are not always the best at looking after the world and one another.

But God knows we try our best and doesn’t focus all effort on punishing us. God loves us and wants our living together to be interrupted by peace, that we might live in peace with one another.

We’ve seen that interruption this year as we sacrifice our own wants and desires, to limit our activity and care for one another through pandemic.

Christmas reminds us that God came to live among us and show us signs of the kingdom of God now. One day Jesus will return and establish an even greater kingdom where all is well, and filled with peace.

But as we journey towards Christmas and hear the message wake up, make space for the coming one – we discover that the coming one, Jesus, has come to make God’s love and care for us more real for us today. The kingdom is now.

So while we know the world isn’t perfect, We know we’re not perfect – perfection isn’t want God is asking of us right now. What God is asking of us is to wake up and be open to be interrupted with peace, to let God’s peace flow into our lives, and flow out into our relationships with one another.  

May your life be interrupted… by peace.

All shall be well in his kingdom of peace;
freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase;
justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring;
wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:

Sing we the King who is coming to reign, verse 2, by Charles Silvester Horne

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In this Advent Season…

In this advent season,
waiting & watching,
Known & unknown,
Certainty & uncertainty,
Hopeful & hopeless,
Stability & instability,
in the now & yet to be,
We pray for peace & love,
Grace & wisdom,
Justice & hope,
For all those who make decisions now, which impact what will be.

Originally written on 12th December 2018, in light of the Brexit ‘meaningful vote’

A prayer for Remembrance Sunday

Rev Dan shares a prayer form Remembrance Sunday, as we stand together in remembrance of our past and seek God’s hope for our future.

Life-giving God,
Who breathed life into this world,
and breathed the beauty of our diversity into humanity.

On this day of remembrance,
we remember today, the perils of prejudice and violence,
and the cost of war and conflict.

Peace-giving God,
we remember Jesus,
Who lived a life of peace and justice.
Help us to live our lives as a reflection of the character of Jesus.

Hope-giving God,
Help us learn from humanity’s past,
Stir us to action to stand against injustice,
to boldly strive for peace in our communities and our world.
And show infinite love towards our neighbour.
As we strive towards a world overflowing with justice, hope, peace and love.

Amen.

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A prayer for all saints day

A prayer for all Saints day

God of all time, all space, all creation,
We Thank you for the lives of people around us,
Past and present,
Friends, family, colleagues.

People to nurture us and help us,
Challenge us and inspire us.

May their living and loving,
Serving and caring,
Reveal to us your love and grace,

And inspire us to live and love, serve and care for others,
To the best we can,
In all the ways we can,
To all the people we can,
As long as we ever can.
Amen

by Rev Dan Balsdon, first published 1st November 2020
Some words based on words of John Wesley

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Sunday Reflections: Barriers Overcome

In this week’s reflections (available in audio and text), I look at how Acts 15 might help us overcome some of the barriers physical distancing is forcing us to face.

Barriers Overcome

Barriers.
Barriers can stop us from getting from one place to another.
Some barriers keep us safe.
Some barriers get in our way.

Barriers can separate.
Barriers can block and divide.

Some of us will have begun to get used to barriers at supermarkets, guiding us in or around the store, with markings on the floor to constantly remind us to keep 2m apart. Barriers to keep us safe that also keep us physically apart.

In 2020 we’re dealing with barriers in way’s many of us have never seen before. Due to coronavirus we’re blocked from being able to physically gather together. Christians can’t go to worship or prayer in church buildings, we can’t meet for coffee or children’s, youth and families ministry. Communities can’t gather for coffee mornings. We are physically distanced from one another.

But we are not socially distant. Over the last few weeks I’ve said many a time in conversations that I don’t find the term social distancing helpful, that I think it would be more helpful to have called it physical distancing.  

Why? Because even while 2m or more apart,  I think we can still be social. We may be physically distanced, but that doesn’t stop us being the social beings we are, made in the image of God to live in relationship. While not the same as physical meeting, the barriers of physical distancing can to some extent be overcome.

We can still have a conversation with the stranger who is walking on the other side of the road. We can still thank our posties and delivery drivers. From this week can sit in our gardens or in the park with a friend (still 2m apart of course).

In every phone call, every physically distanced catch up, every WhatsApp message, every video call, we have been gathering. Sharing fellowship. Seeking to encourage one another and build each other up.

I’ve been so deeply encouraged by just how ready so many in the churches I have been called to serve have been to phone, write, email, text and more to continue in fellowship together, encouraging and building each other up. And beyond that, reaching out to neighbours and friends, offering to pray for them, encouraging them, caring from them. This is mission, this is outreach, this is overcoming the barriers of coronavirus and building relationships.

For the moment we no longer have doors to open, so we are forced to use all that we have left, and we open lives, arms (metaphorically!) and hearts to others. And I wonder if in doing so we discover that it is in open hearted relationships in the streets in which we live, that we see the missio dei – mission of God – at work.

In Acts 15, at the council at Jerusalem Peter has his own barriers to deal with. Gentile believers were being told that unless they were circumcised there were not saved (15:1). The insider-outside separation that 21st Century human society seems so addicted to creating is no new phenomenon. Gentiles were not Jews, Gentiles were not circumcised. Gentiles were not the same as ‘us’ – so how can they be saved?

What does Peter say?  

‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’

Acts 15:7b-11, NRSV

Cast our minds back to Acts 10, and we remember that Peter has already had is time to learn that God is bigger than the barriers of human society:

‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’

Acts 10:15b, NRSV

Peter had already been learning that God does not look for our outward actions, but at our heart. And that brings us in equality with our fellow human beings, not barriers between us.

Peter says:

“we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Acts 15:11

So what may God be saying to us today through Acts 15? That’s for each of us to ponder for ourselves. For me, I think God is reminding me that I’m saved not by my actions but by God’s grace.

That I can let go of some of what I thought was most important. That for a time at least, my calling to this vocation will look very different. And while that feels to me very different, unfamiliar and uncertain, it’s going to be ok. God knows my heart finds the barriers of physical distancing tough. God knows that some days are harder than others. And despite it all, God’s grace is always overflowing, and God’s love always unconditional, he knows my heart. With God, barriers are overcome.

God knows your heart too. However you feel today, wherever you read this, whoever you are. God knows how you feel, your struggles, your anxieties, your joys. And God is seeing you right now, with a heart that is overflowing with love and grace for you.

With God, barriers are overcome.


Join the conversation

if you’ve got thoughts or something to share you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you.

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