Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

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Denying Christmas

Without fail, every Christmas, the same tired old chestnuts are given an airing. There are the complaints about the commercialisation of the Festival - which seem to me to be as futile as bemoaning the coldness of ice. The modern Christmas we both celebrate and deny is as much an invention of the industrial revolution as the steam engine.

And there are the secularists who shout to anyone who will listen that Christmas is a fraud. December 25th was not Christ’s birthday. Christians pilfered the winter solstice from the pagans and turned it into the festival of the Nativity. Clearly, there's some truth to this. What the old religion imperfectly glimpsed, Christianity brought into the full light of day. Now Christmas has become embroiled in the political correctness debacle. Even the Red Cross has banned Christmas cards from their catalogues for fear their neutrality might be compromised.

But cries of political correctness can’t undermine the true meaning of Christmas, because all the popular imagery of the greetings card - star, stable, shepherds - play a quite minor if evocative role in the story. Indeed, historians tell us that for the first three or four centuries of the Church’s existence, there was no Christmas Day. Apparently, the earliest Christians found no need to assign a fictitious date to Christ’s birth in order to anchor the incarnation within the calendar. They celebrated Christmas and Easter every time they met.

Christmas is about the arrival of the Messiah, and there’s an incident in the Gospel where the disciples of John the Baptist come to ask Jesus whether or not he is the Messiah. In his reply, Jesus never even mentions the circumstances of his birth.

Instead, He tells them to report to John that the blind see again, the lame walk, the deaf hear, lepers are cleansed and the poor are given good news. Their condition could be transformed by the coming of the Kingdom of God, which Jesus embodies - justice, peace and joy by the power of the Spirit brought within the range of all.

That’s the core theme of Christmas. The poet John Donne wrote, 'I need thy thunder, O God; thy songs no longer suffice me.' The danger is that we may be so mesmerised by the songs of Christmas that we fail to hear the sound of approaching thunder, as the Messiah inspires us to establish justice, peace and joy on the earth.

Think how the burdens of so many wonderful humanitarian agencies, charities, and missions could be greatly eased if this political as well as religious vision of Christmas could be realised.

It's the thunder that gives us vision and strength to reach out and help others in need.




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Merry Xmas!

Here we are in the midst of a beautiful Advent and I’ve heard my first cranky retort regarding a Christmas card. A very kind and dear lady stood over me as I was seated at my desk this morning. She held pinched between her fingers, as if she were holding a soiled nappy, an envelope. ‘Look!’ she exclaimed! ‘How offensive!’

Curiously I took the envelope in my hand. On the back were the handwritten words ‘Happy Xmas!’ and the sender had hand-drawn a small cross. Inside was a lovely card bearing an image of a Greek icon depicting Christ.

It’s so easy for us to become caught up in our secular world that we often lose track of, or even patience for understanding the world around us. In this case the sender of the card had created, in my opinion, a rather thoughtful use of their time.

The first letter in the Greek word for Christ is ‘chi’ and the Greek letter for ‘chi’ is represented by a symbol similar to the letter ‘X’ in the modern Roman alphabet. Therefore, ‘Xmas’ is certainly an appropriate demonstration of their sincerity and creativity in sending a Greek icon image as a Christmas card.

Just as one might use ‘Xian’ as an alternative for the word ‘Christian,’ perhaps there had been even more thoughtfulness on the part of the sender who may have seen herself caught in a quagmire of political correctness. It’s hard to say.

But if we’re forced to live in a world where we may no longer speak from the heart, write from the heart, and love from the heart, out of fear as to whether it will cause someone else offence, we may find ourselves simply no longer bothering to communicate at all.

And wouldn’t that make our world sad?

Father Bill Haymaker+

Postat în onoarea Tatălui Bill


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Our Greatest Gifts

It was just about this time last year when my son made a comment that has stuck with me throughout the year. He was tickled at watching me rather frantically try to balance my Christmas week’s duties. I was endeavouring to juggle in the midst of lousy health, two funerals, a string of home visits, trying to squeeze in the shopping for the food we would cook and deliver on Christmas Day, plus our own Christmas meal. And particularly challenging was an appointment schedule where I was to meet up with a pianist at numerous nursing homes, where we were to sing Christmas carols with the residents.

Unfortunately, the pianist had a proclivity for becoming, er, um, ‘filled with the spirit’ before he came to the nursing homes and he was in more need of the Zimmer frames to get about than the residents. Compounding the situation was the fact that although he was an accomplished musician, his Jack Daniels infused repertoire would begin with Silent Night, but somehow segue into an impromptu rendition of Let Me Entertain You from the musical Gypsy, complete with leg kicks and gyrations!

Willem described the last week of Advent as my week of “überchurch.” Well, I suppose he’s right. It is a week of ‘heavy church’ for us, the clergy. But it’s part of our vows to be there and it’s part of our natural composite which makes us want to serve.

But there are many others who labour so hard during this time of year to make the season of Christmas come to life. From the kindness of their hearts, people come from their busy homes and their demanding jobs to decorate the church, wash and iron the fresh altar linens, polish the silver and brass, arrange the flowers and prepare for our celebration of Christ’s birth. All of their labour is to the glory of God.

In many ways, I see the selfless work these kind souls perform as redemptive. It’s reflected in the eloquent squares of crisp white linens, in the purificators, in the gleam of the freshly polished chalice and paten – they speak of a restored human nature, of the rough places levelled and straightened, of all the stains of human life on earth removed in Christ.

The holly and the ivy that adorn the pews promise renewal to the people of God in the depths of Winter. And I believe that these physical things can often speak volumes to the masses of people who will arrive on Christmas Eve but not at other times. It may be that they don’t think much about God during any other time of the year. But it may just be that this one time, those loving touches of colour added by a dedicated team of ‘miracle makers’ could awaken something within them – something that helps them begin to hear with their inner ear.

This all came to mind this evening as I stood in the cemetery, surrounded by the solstice dark. I’ve just returned from hospital in Eastbourne where a friend lingers in the balance between death and life. He has been in a coma for the past three days. His wife refuses to leave his side.

As Mr Piddles did his reconnaissance check around the perimeter of the cemetery, in search of UFO’s (unidentified furry objects), I took the opportunity to look up at the bright constellations.

I thought about the tragic events that occurred in Newtown Connecticut and the families whose lives will never be the same. I thought about the adults who gave their lives for the children and how an entire community will never be the same as a consequence of a nation exercising their rights. And I thought about the six-year-old who just days later, carried his parent's gun with him to school, according to the child, 'at the suggestion of his parents.' I prayed that these events will now be the turning point for change. 

And I focused my thoughts on the countless children whose lives never become part of a media frenzy - those who are trafficked, sold, abused, tortured, and disposed of, with as little thought as the flick of a cigarette ash.  I prayed that their lives receive just a trace of attention and action.  

And then I gave thanks to God for all that is good in our lives and for the fact that we are connected with one another in a bond that cannot be severed, and that we can weep together, just as we can also rejoice.

Father Bill Haymaker +


Postat căci Tata Bill 

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For Unto Us a Child is Born

I've just arrived home from celebrating Midnight Mass. The turnout was lovely. Celebrating Christ's arrival were 4 woofs, 2 meows, 1 cluck (a duck) and a small boy with his pet ferret. (I'm not certain what sound a ferret makes.) Oh, and there were 106 humans. All found time from their busy schedules to come together to lift voices in celebration of our Saviour's birth. And endured the rain!

As people flowed out of the chapel, shaking my hand, many said they weren't sure they were going to bed tonight - there were presents still unwrapped, the turkey hadn't completely thawed, tables needed setting and a host of other concerns.

Clearly, there is a lot happening this Christmas. But it is not at parties, or in shopping, or the excitement of the Christmas lights. To find out what is really going on you need to stop and listen; if you listen closely enough, perhaps you will hear it: a sharp, persistent cry: the cry of a baby: God's cry, as He visits His people. He is the Word made flesh, yet newly-born He cannot speak. But goodness, how He wails. Every mother knows that imploring sound: it stops her in her tracks, makes her put everything down and run towards the child. It is a cry for help and protection; a cry for love and intimacy.

The Child of Bethlehem cries on behalf of the lost and the lonely, the exiled stranger, those struck by grief; His is the cry of the elderly who spend most of their hours alone, the prisoner who faces his own guilt, the trafficked children who are frightened and exploited, the orphans suffering from HIV and AIDS. They are not asking for much- only to be part of the human family. Whether it’s the abandoned children of the world, or here at home, do not forget that He cries for you too, whoever you are: for deep in our own hearts we are all pleading for intimacy and merciful love.

When you are with those you love this Christmas, I hope you will listen for that cry in the hearts of others. And that the cry of the hearts of the people outside your windows stops you in your tracks.

In Moldova and Romania, at the end of the Christmas Mass, people kiss one another with the words, 'Christ is born!', and the kisses are returned with the answer: 'Truly He is born!'.

You can kill people in crowds, but you can only kiss them one by one. The message of the Christ Child is that we are not a crowd. We are many; but God sees only each of us. Tonight God slips gently into the world as a child, to be with us. There is nothing we have done that cannot be forgiven; there is nothing about us which will stop God loving us. Listen for the sound. God is crying for you and me. He wants to embrace you.

To find out what is really going on this Christmas, let Him.

I wish you a Joyous Christmas. May you experience Christ's love in everything you do!

Fr Bill+

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