Words and photo by my friend Joyce Smith who died earlier this year.
As a New Year dawns, we look forward with hope and expectancy.
We ask God to watch over us, and pray for God’s wisdom and strength; for peace on earth;
A New Year Prayer
Be Our Light for the New Year
Come, Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Risen Christ, be with us today and always. Be our Light, our Guide, and our Comforter. Be our Strength, our Courage, and our Sanctifier. May this new year be a time of deep spiritual growth for us, A time of welcoming your graces and gifts, A time for forgiving freely and unconditionally, A time for growing in virtue and goodness. Come, Holy Spirit, Be with us today and always.
Christmas greetings through the usual card sent by post has been disrupted this year because of the industrial dispute between the Royal Mail managers and their hard-working and mostly dedicated staff, so most of my greetings have been sent by email. I wanted, therefore, to have a special design.
Who better to approach than my dear friend Kay Gibbons? She and I have known each other for a long time but more recently, over the past year or so, I have come to know her art too. She is described as a multidisciplinary artist and she works in a variety of media. These include glass, paint and stone. She lives near Oxford and has taken part in Oxfordshire Art Weeks.Next year she will be mounting an exhibition in the Oxford area, Her designs are amazing and she uses bright colours, swirling conceptions, geometric presentation, and a sense of movement which delight and inspire the senses. For me, just pausing to ponder her work gives sheer joy and uplifts me. I can’t fully put my finger on it but it is expressive visual poetry. She uses colour and shape to open a window to the numinous. You can judge for yourself by looking her up on Instagram.
Above is the commissioned ‘Nativity’ that I asked her to design for me. I would like to offer it to the followers of Mr G’s Ponderings as a greeting to you all in this Christian Festive Season when we give thanks in a special way for the birth of the Christ-Child. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who look at my blog and take the time to reflect on what we post. I am very encouraged and grateful.
Not all of you are Christians but every faith has an experience of light triumphing over darkness; of goodness overcoming evil and of hope overlaying despair. Every faith speaks to individual hearts as well as to faith communities. There is the aspect of personal belief leading to how we are to live our life under God.
In our present human darkness and struggle which stretches from Ukraine to Iran; Afghanistan to Syria and as we struggle with the global migration of refugees; the consequences of natural disaster, poverty and hunger, and the lasting effects of Covid, we can, and many do, feel overwhelmed. For some, faced with all this, there is a test of faith, for others a quiet desperation. This year’s midwinter festival comes at one of our planet’s weakest moments. We are fragile, vulnerable and afraid. So Jesus, coming into our world as a vulnerable babe in very unpromising circumstances can be, for us, a reminder that God has us held in the palm of his loving hand. He knows our fears and our needs. The Incarnation of Jesus is about Loving us from within. Love comes to seek us out and it is the God who is pure Love who will lead us through.
None of us know, at this moment, what 2023 holds for us. However, working together across all sorts of divisions, boundaries and misunderstandings, we can make a huge difference to our future direction and security – and that of the earth itself. We have a stewardship of our planet and therefore a duty to all of Creation to do t
In the face of just 10 or so despots who think they have some right to impose their will over the billions of others, we need to return the earth and the care of all to God. The best way we can do that is through sharing God’s love for us with all inhabitants of the earth from human beings to blades of grass.
In whatever form you see God’s light, the birth of Jesus is, for Christians, the incarnation of that light and that love. Love flourishing in all hearts is my Greeting to you this Christmas.
Words of a poem by Christina Rossetti Love came down at Christmas.(slightly adapted)
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine, Love was born at Christmas, Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love Incarnate, Love Divine, Worship we our Jesus, But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token, Love be yours and love be mine, Love to God and all creation, Love for plea and gift and sign.
Difficult Journey is a painting by the German artist, Fritz von UHDE. Its original title was Transition to Bethlehem which locates the scene and therefore the subject. It is the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for the Census. It depicts something of the difficulties they had in bringing Jesus into the world.
Many paintings of this journey and arrival are much more sentimental but this has a realism which roots it into a more contemporary interpretation. It isn’t located in the desert or the climate of the Middle East. This is Northern Europe. The road is muddy and uneven. There are no other people around and there is none of the bustle and crowded feel of a city where there is no room at an inn. There is, however, a sense of isolation and desolation. There are no people and no sense that the couple are welcome. They are dressed as outcasts, he carries the sign of his trade, a saw over his shoulder and she, a cooking pot. They could be refugees today, unwanted and uncared about.
There is a sign that Mary and Joseph are exhausted. No donkey carries them as in some accounts, though not in St. Luke’s Gospel. What is strongly portrayed is Joseph’s role as protector of Mary and therefore of Jesus. She leans into him and he holds her. He is concerned and caring. His love is obvious.
It is this which set me thinking again about Joseph’s role in the Nativity and a partial possible answer is in the poem below which I have written about this.
Against all judgement, honourable, obedient Joseph took Mary to be his wife.
It would be difficult stepping into God’s shoes. Overshadowed by an angel, Joseph was appointed to watch over the God-bearer; the gentle, honest, open, faithful maid who had conquered his heart.
It would be hard to fulfil God’s hopes, God’s plan, worked out with angels who were centre-stage of a sacred drama played out on earth. Joseph could see where Mary fitted in, but what of himself?
Legitimate descendant of David, the sling-thrower warrior, Joseph threw only wood on a lathe – turning, shaping, forming, revealing what was there; allowing the inner core of wood to show itself – its soul.
Joseph, gentle, watchful carpenter, who strokes the grain, and feels the beauty within, holds Mary and the babe in her womb, on the difficult road to Bethlehem with its uncertain future.
He draws her carefully into the folds of his caress, exhausted woman, with kicking inner child, who needs him.
The dawning realization: he knew why God had called – and that He held him too.