from manger to margins

In all of the Christmas rush my thoughts were pulled back to these men. Men whom I can now call brothers, men behind bars and watching Christmas happen through interminable hours in front of a TV screen. Nose pressed against glass, unable to reach through and touch. Those who lament the ‘easy’ nature of the prison system in which inhabitants ‘even have TVs in their cells!’ demonstrate a worrying attitude to what constitutes living.

Life is whiled away in a space so small every crack is seared into memory. The white noise from the box numbs the senses where the drugs don’t, whilst serving as a constant reminder of the life they are not living. Christmas: family, table, celebration, Saviour.

We know Christmas can be hard for many people for many reasons. Any sense that our own feelings don’t match the neon joy blinding us from every angle at this time of year can make us feel pushed to the margins. How far outside the margin they must be feeling right now.

As my heart chewed this over, Jesus whispered again that it is for the marginalised that he has come. He comes in a manger, in a dirty forgotten corner of the town, God incarnate. He came for the margins, he dwells there still and he is coming back for them. From manger to margin – this is where we will find him this Christmas and always.

How I pray this will filter through the white noise and be whispered to their hearts during this season. Knowing that it is for them that Christmas happened at all. Joy of Emmanuel may you rise up in the margins, singing the eternal song which says: ‘I did this for you’.

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desert instead of rainforest

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Advent this year has found me stuck on the idea of waiting. In many ways, it has been a hard wait. A desert wait. It was fitting that I happened to be reading Isaiah this month – as I found myself daily identifying with the Israelites as they waited. Through the interminable “how long, Lord?”, holding onto the promise of a Saviour. 

On this side of that Bethlehem night, I know that the promised Saviour is now Immanuel. The promise has been fulfilled – so the wait should be somewhat less painful, no?

Perhaps. But it would be foolish to presume that because we live on this side, the dull nothingness of the waiting is any more pleasant. This month, I have been waiting along with the Israelites through a spiritual desert time. Nothing catastrophic, dramatic , just a lacklustre dullness. Blunt edges and feet in sand. What made this all the more painful was that I was supposed to spend this month in a rainforest, not a desert. Continue reading