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Advent 2023

23rd December

OUR CHRISTMAS CRIB

Our Christmas Crib is kept in a box
in the loft,
wrapped in bubble wrap,
to protect it
from knocks and dust.
It comes out each year,
making me feel warm
and cosy inside.
Is that the same for you?
Do you unwrap each piece
and smile as you do?
Mary, Joseph, the shepherds,
the kings, the donkey,
the manger and
smallest of all,
the baby Jesus.
Comfortable nostalgia,
I guess.
Is that the same for you?
I arrange them all
with care,
starting at the back, until
there’s hardly room
for the baby
in the manger.
I have to move
the figures around ,
to make space.
Is that the same for you?
Do you have to make space
in your life,
for the Christ Child
at Christmas?
In the hectic rush of festive cheer
do you really make room?
I’m not sure that I do.
And when Christmas is over
and the busyness subsides,
I pack it all away,
with care,
in the bubble wrap,
in the box,
in the loft
and leave it there.
Is that the same for you?
Do you keep the Christ Child
stored away safely,
out of sight and forgotten
until the following year?
Are you, like me, distracted
by the peaks and troughs of life
as you navigate through?
Is that the same for you?
Occasionally,
when scouring the loft,
I catch sight of the Crib
and think of the baby,
born to bring hope
to a troubled world.
I allow that hope
to give me strength
and welcome the peace
it brings.
I sincerely pray
that’s the same for you.

Heather Gallagher

22nd December

WHAT KINGS?

How on earth did a group of astrologers
become Kings over the years?
Elevated to royalty, we’ve been.
You must have seen us
in Nativity plays
and on Christmas cards,
kneeling low
around the crib?
How did that happen?
You tell me!
There’s not a word of that
in the Bible, you know.
I can see that we must have looked
different.
We were from the East -
exotic, perhaps.
And rich in comparison
to many.
In a world of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’
we were certainly
in the ‘have’ category.
And we definitely had the money,
the means and the time
to follow a star
halfway across the world
to visit a new King!
Put like that, it’s no wonder
We’ve been given crowns
and royal robes
and privileges galore.
But for us, this was not
simply a labour of love.
It was the culmination
of months of study and debate.
Of like minds
making a discovery
of unprecedented significance.
And this was our goal,
the proof, if you like,
that we were right.
The birth of a new King.
A new dawn for the Jews.
We caused a stir in Jerusalem,
I can tell you.
And our encounter with Herod
was tricky, to say the least.
But we weren’t about to be deceived by
a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
So we travelled on to Bethlehem
where the star,
our star,
stopped. Still.
And we knew
our journey had not been in vain.
Intellectuals don’t always cope well
with feelings
and mine were all over the place.
Elation, excitement, wonder and fear.
Yes, a feeling deep inside,
of foreboding,
tinged with bitter sweetness.
We entered the house
and found the child
with his mother, Mary.
Not quite what we had expected,
but definitely the One we’d been seeking.
And I can tell you this,
we weren’t there, peering into the manger
with a group of bewildered shepherds,
as some might have you think.
They were long gone.
This was just us
and them.
We fell to our knees
and worshipped him.
We had brought gifts, though,
and presented them.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh,
carefully chosen and full of meaning.
Perhaps that’s where
the confusion started.
Three gifts, three Kings.
Who knows?
Who needs to know?
That’s really not what matters.
For it became clear to me then
and stays clear to me still,
that our journey
is the journey we should all make -
to find the Child
at the Centre.
The true King
of Peace.

Heather Gallagher

21st December

ANGEL VOICES NEVER SINGING

We don’t sing, you know.
Whoever told you that
is wrong.
That’s not our job.
We’re messengers,
pure and simple.
Special delivery guaranteed.
We have perfect timing,
No ‘Sorry you were out’ cards for us!
We often work alone,
when we need to reach deeply
Into the soul of the receiver.
But when the time is right,
we work together -
a Chorus, if you like
of mesmerising, electrifying,
earth shattering
white noise.
But never singing.
Check it out -
you’ll see I’m right.
That first Christmas kept us busy,
I can tell you.
Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds -
they all heard and believed.
You could say it was
our finest hour.
But our work continues still.
So don’t be disappointed
if you never hear Herald Angels sing
or play their harps
in sweet harmony.
You have the promise of far more.
For ours is the clear, true and
unmistakable voice
of God.

Heather Gallagher

20th December

THE STABLE THAT NEVER WAS

We love that Stable,
don’t we?
Romantic somehow -
down to earth,
just like Him.
Surely it is true?
All those Nativity plays,
Christmas cards and Carols
can’t be wrong,
can they?
Can they?
Look carefully though
and you’ll never find it in the story.
You’ll never lift the wooden bar
to see the cattle stall.
You’ll never hear the cooing birds
or smell the soft, sweet hay.
In truth, we simply do not know
for sure
where Christ was born that day.
But there was a manger,
that much is clear
and He was placed there,
with no pomp or fuss.
For us.

Heather Gallagher

19th December

THE INNKEEPER


Just read the Bible for yourselves
and then you’ll see
there’s not one word about me.
And yet -
I was the one who called “No room!”
I was the one who barred their way.
I was the one who looked into her eyes
and saw resignation there
and jagged pain.
What could I do?
It was true.
There was no room.
Full to bursting we were.
Good for business
but not for them.
A couple here for the Census -
soon to be three.
If truth be told, I was tired
and tetchy -
almost sent them
away.
But something about that girl
touched my heart that night.
“Going soft,” my wife called it,
but I know different.
“Wait!” I cried.
“There is a place -
it’s not much, but it’s safe
and dry - come with me!”
I'll never forget
the grateful look she gave me.
Made me feel good, I can tell you.
So that was that - I’d played my part
and could have left
right there and then.
But I wanted to,
I needed to
stay.
Convinced then,
as I am now,
that this was no ordinary birth.
A boy it was, a baby boy -
clearly loved.
But more than that.
Somehow holy.
Then visitors - Shepherds, I ask you!
Scared to death by Angel voices
and like me, drawn to the scene.
Witnesses, it seems
to a wondrous sight,
that special night.

Heather Gallagher

18th December

THE DONKEY


There’s no mention of me in the story.
Strange that!
Not a word about a donkey
and yet -
I was definitely there.
They needed me on that journey.
How would they have managed it
without me?
Yes, I was there
and carried that gentle young girl
when her legs grew weak
and her burden too heavy.
Seventy miles of rough, dusty track.
Too far for her,
but not for me.
I’m built for it, you see.
And the man - he looked troubled
as if he had the woes of the world on his shoulders.
I could feel it -
Donkeys are good at stuff like that.
Oh, I know we aren’t much
to write home about.
Ears far too long for our bodies,
a strange, unmissable cry
and a reputation
for stubbornness.
But we’re strong and steady,
tireless
and sure footed.
Perfect for this task
and for this couple.
So I did my best
to bear the load,
avoiding the rocks and dips
along the way.
Hoping I gave them strength.
At Bethlehem I fitted in fine
and stayed with them there,
watching it all.
Saw the baby come into the world,
squalling.
And felt kind of special
when my feeding trough
became his cradle.
Knew then,
just knew
my work was not done.
Donkey work, you humans call it.
But I call it
Love.

Heather Gallagher

17th December - 3rd Sunday of Advent

 

PRECIOUS LITTLE


We’ve padded out the Christmas Story
over the years.
And why not?
There’s precious little
in the Bible.
Matthew and Luke did their best.
They talked to people who
were there.
Eye witnesses
who remembered what had happened.
But memory’s a funny thing
And plays tricks on us all.
So they wrote down what they heard,
before it was too late.
The bare facts.
And we’ve added the rest.
Possibility fuelling our imagination.
We enjoy those added extras,
don’t we?
It’s what we want to believe.
And does it matter?
I think not.
Far more important is
the simple truth
that radiates from
the very heart of the story -
Emmanuel, God with us!
And the little we know
about His birth
is truly precious.
Precious Little indeed!

Heather Gallagher

Hiking Trail

As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. 

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