Category Archives: Christmas

Walking towards the enemy

Brother Ivo cannot be the only one to have listened to a sermon over Christmas which drew its principle starting image from the 1914 Christmas Truce.

The preacher invited us to consider the courage it took for the first soldier in each sector to put courage, trust and hope to the ultimate test, by climbing over the firestep and moving, with lifted arms towards the enemy lines.

This was not the first Christmas truce.

During the American Civil War the two sides also laid aside animosity for the day; the Union soldiers were cheered to receive a turkey dinner, which had been ordered by  President Abraham Lincoln to offer some cheer in their cold and otherwise bleak circumstances. There was no such comfort on the other side: the Confederacy was a poorer economy, struggling to provision its soldiery to the most basic degree.

How tempting it must have been for the men of the South to disrupt their enemies bonhomie by a surprise attack, yet they did not do so. The message of hope and peace of Christmastide drew them to accepting their lot in simpler circumstances, despite hunger pangs and jealousy.

These historic events led Brother Ivo to contemplate our own divided lines within the Church.

At a macro level we are Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist etc. Within churches themselves, the evangelical, liberal and charismatic look on each other will entrenched distrust. They have recently struggled over the role of women in the Church, and prepare to reprise the performance by opening a second front over the position of gay marriage. It is very predictable, human and sad.

At Chistmas, Brother Ivo wrote of the “Soft Power of Christ”, reflecting that we are called upon to exercise it and especially noting that each of us has  no excuse for not exercising it.

Accordingly, having no duties in his own Church this morning, he will be getting out of his comfort zone to worship with a congregation he does not know in a tradition he does not share. He will be fraternising.

Perhaps this year we all need to do this occasionally, and those who exercise formal ministry might have a special responsibility to shoo their congregations out of their usual pews and Churches, urging them to trust in Christ and to try “walking towards the enemy” to enact our own journey of reconciliation at Christmastide.

The Soft Power of Christ

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Whatever account one accepts about the birth of the infant Jesus, there is no doubt that he came into the world in the most humble of circumstances.

He lived in the  most humble of circumstances, first as a tradesman and then as an itinerant preacher.

He died in circumstances that were worse than humble and swiftly put away on the eve of a major religious festival, so that the embarrassing presence of a beaten and bloody corpse should not defile the festivities.

He never wielded any power that would have been recognised by any of his contemporaries. To them power took many forms, but all of them were coercive.

There was the Imperial power of Rome, the local power of the client King Herod, the religious power of the Sanhedrin, and not least the capricious power of the mob that could stone a woman for adultery whilst leaving the errant man unpunished.

The values of that society were replicated across the world. The power which ruled the world  was built upon violence.

Jesus changed that.

His power was founded on teaching, service and example.

He healed by forgiving sin. He embraced the leper. He lifted up the fallen woman,

He broke the heart of the centurion who crucified him, restoring him to wholeness so that he could be the first to recognise that here indeed was the son of God.

He broke the power of death by calling forth Lazarus, restoring Jairus’ daughter and overcoming the death by which which the powerful had sought to silence him

His teaching was never predicated upon violence, but pointed “The Way” accompanied by the simple injunction to “Go and do thou likewise.”

Soft power proved to be costly to those who exercised it, but it did not depend upon power from the top. On the contrary, the Church was really built by the 72, sent out on the road with the minimum of resources, but the maximum of faith;  that this was “The Way” things should be done. Christian communities have never been built to last without the soft power foundation of quiet Christ-like service.

There is only one difficult thing about the soft power of Christ.

There is no excuse for not exercising it. There is nobody who cannot reach out to another with an offer of a helping hand, a re-assuring word, or a prayer.

As we kneel in adoration this Christmas, let us pray that we shall be inspired by the soft power of Christ, to love as he loved us, and to do unto others as we would be done by.

Adoramus te O Christe

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Brother Ivo wishes all to have have visited this place a very peaceful and joyful Christmas, praying that the miracle of the Incarnation will touch your lives this Christmas time and bring blessings upon all those whom you love.

To everything there is a season, and since Brother Ivo started his own blog he has written on a variety of topics with a mixture of motivations, some serious some less so. He will write again soon, once he has knelt before the manger and given thanks,

As the business of the Christmas preparations come to an end, it is time  to close one’s eyes for two minutes and ”Let the quietness speak”

“It was Christmas Day in the Workhouse” – 2013 Revised version

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Most of us are familiar with the opening line of the poem ” It was Christmas Day in the Workhouse” and quote it as an amusing example of Victorian melodrama. It is however worth a seasonal ”re-read”, and when read, it proves to be a searing indictment of “respectable” and “privileged” attitudes towards the poor.

With that inspiration in mind, Brother Ivo thought it might be updated for these modern times and so here is his 2013 revised  version.

It was Christmas Day at the phone-in.
and the studio lights were bright,
there was tinsel, a tree, and some holly,
and the set was a wondrous sight.
With fancy clothes and make-up,
to grace the TV screen,
the celebrities sat on their sofas
for this is the hour they preen.

The poor and humble viewer
is invited to phone in and greet,
to share for two or three minutes
the company of the elite,
who smile, and are condescending,
they banter and sweetly agree,
as they sip their glasses of champagne
all paid by the BBC fee.

The viewers are meek and they’re lowly.
They’re minding their p’s and q’s
enjoying their moment of limelight
For which they’ve all paid their dues.
Save one, who proves to be different,
who will not play the game,
“Do you know what you people cost me?
“You leeches are all the same!!”

The presenters’ smiles freeze in horror,
the producers’ face turned to white.
A viewer not playing the game here?
Are they really hearing this right?
The producer returns to his senses,
he motions to “pull out the plug,”
But some lowly unpaid intern,
refuses to pull out the rug.

” I won’t be watching your programmes,
which you offer with so much pride,
and neither will my old lady,
’cause you banged her up inside!
We never watch Panorama,
and the kids don’t like CBeebies,
so we never bought your “licence”
cause we only watch ITV.

“We never go shoplifting.
When we want something – we pay-
But we never watch your damn programes
though the court didn’t see it that way.
And as for your Strictly Come Dancing
with frocks at three thousand a throw,
what do they know of “austerity”
who no “austerity” know?”

“You offered us Alex Porlizzi
whose grandfathe once owned the Ritz:
she spent hundreds of pounds wrapping presents
– it didn’t half get on me nerves.
Then Armstrong and Coren drank Bollinger,
cocktails, and Chateau Musar,
my Chardonay thought it disgusting
but that didn’t get her too far.”

“My kids don’t have nothing this Christmas,
while you’re overpaid to “present”,
they stare through the glass of the tele,
at the lives of the top one per cent”.
Nigella, I grant is an eyeful,
but she’s nothing like normal folk,
who’ll never make one of her trifles
and can’t afford gammon with coke.

“Now I understand criminal records,
and I know whose a crook,
and I know Chardoney ain’t one,
– at least – not in my book.”
Lord Patten he choked and he spluttered
from the back of a chauffeured Jag
“These paycheques and pensions don’t pay for themselves!”
( The cat had been let out the bag).

“Get me to BBC Central”
he cried with a deep purple face,
” We must stop this truth from emerging!”
but the caller continued his case.
“There’s ‘undreds of thousands of folk just like us
paying fines and sitting in jail,
while you pay out “undreds of thousands of pounds
To cheer up  your mates when they fail.”

“So enjoy your Christmas dinners.
Don’t mind us in the least.
Just think of the kids in the underclass.
as you’re eating your Christmas feast,
and whilst you’re counting  your blessings
In your smug celebrity way,
just remember who’s paying the price-
Think of us on Christmas Day!”

The celebrities faces were ashen,
They’d never considered the facts
They’d never connected the source of their wealth
To the victims of the tax
They had all lost their sense of proportion
mixing only with millionaires
who cheerfully pocket the money
regardless of poor peoples cares.

The intern in charge of the fader,
let the caller speak to the end,
The glitz all around him had faded
and he looked on the man as a friend.
He secretly knew that the caller and he
were actually in the same boat,
so he proudly walked from the studio
and smiled as he collected his coat.