Monday, December 22, 2014

Prayer diary Monday 22 Dec 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour 
Luke 1. 46, 47

Reflection:
These words of our Lady reflect the joy she felt in serving God. Our lives should also reflect similar delight in serving the Lord with every thought, word, and action of our lives.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Joseph's story

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.

Christmas is almost upon us. It is a time when we rightly think of the Christ-child and his mother, of shepherds and angels, of inn-keepers and wise-men. But this morning I'd like to concentrate on another important figure on that story – I'd like to focus on St Joseph, and on the role he played in the greatest story ever told. So I'm going to tell you a little story of my own, an imagining of what that first Christmas was like for the man who would become the earthly father of our Lord, as he might have told it in his own words: 

I confess that I was worried when the decree was issued for the census. A trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was no easy thing at the best of times, but in winter, and with a young girl, and she due to have a baby at any time? The whole idea was troubling.

But then, so much in my life had been troubling lately. It began when they asked if I would marry Mary. I was a little shocked – I was an old man, older than her father, and she was really just a child. But her parents said she was a holy girl, one who lived a life of prayer in the temple; but she was also very lovely, a true beauty – and the young men couldn't keep away. They buzzed around her like flies drawn to sweet dates. She needed the protection of a husband. And the temple authorities also asked me to marry her. 'We know you are a righteous man, Joseph,' they said. 'Do this for her; do this for us.'

Well, what was a righteous man to do? Could he say no when even the priests asked it of him? So we were betrothed. Legally she was my wife, but she still lived with her parents. And then she came to me. She told me she was with child by the Holy Spirit, that she had been visited by an angel, and that the child was to be the promised Messiah.
Did I believe her? Completely. Had not the prophet Isaiah foretold that a virgin would bear a son? And who better to be the mother of the one that God was sending to save Israel than this holy creature,? I did not doubt her for a moment.

But I did doubt myself. I thought that I was unworthy to play any part in this. So I decided that I would set her aside – quietly, so as not to cause her any trouble. Let people think that I was the father and that I was abandoning a young girl to raise the child on her own. What did I care what people thought of me, as long as no one thought badly of Mary? But then the angel came to me, in a dream, and told me not to be afraid. And when I awoke I knew that God wanted me to be the one to protect this mother and her child. An old man seemed a strange choice; but who was I to question God.

But then came the census. The thought of the journey troubled me. It was nearly 70 miles to Bethlehem – with me on foot and Mary on the donkey it would be a long, slow journey; not that we could travel fast, with Mary so close to her time. And as it turned out the roads were so rough that it took longer than I expected - six days. I worried about bandits – with so many travelling, they were bound to be out looking for easy prey. Mary said not to worry; that God would protect us. She was right, of course.

We stopped early each night and I gathered wood for a fire – the nights are cold at that time of year, even if the days are fairly mild; and I put together a little shelter for Mary. I was always good with my hands.
But I was glad when we got in sight of Bethlehem. Mary was looking so tired. I was tired. It had been a hard road and I am an old man. The worst was over, I thought.

And then Mary turned to me and said it was her time. What; now? I said, foolishly. She just smiled at me. The inn was full, of course; with so many arriving for the census it had to be. But the people there were good and kind. They made sure there was room for us in the stable. With plenty of clean straw it was probably more comfortable that the inn itself; the bodies of the animals warmed it as well as any fire; and with the baby soon to come, it was more private.

And so that was where he was born. The easiest birth I've ever heard tell of; a miracle in itself, for often the first born is hard on a woman, especially when she is very young. But one moment I was chewing my nails with worry; the next there he was. We wrapped him in his swaddling bands and then, because there was no where else, I packed the manger full of hay and laid him in it. Mary took me by the hand.
'This is our son,' she whispered, her voice full of wonder.
'This is our Messiah,' I whispered back. Silently we sank to our knees, gazing at the child. The animals gazed at him too; and it seemed that they, like us, worshipped him.

As the night passed others came. Shepherds from the hills with tales of the heavens bursting open to reveal heaven itself and choirs of angels. Later still, wise men came, kings who had come to worship another king, a greater king than themselves, a king sent by God to all the world. When they had gone, I thought we would go home. But that night as I slept, I had another dream. The angel warned me that this new king's life was in danger, that a king of this world wanted to take his life; he warned me to take them away, to keep them safe. And so when I awoke I faced another journey, a longer one. But I did not care. Old and tired as I was, God had chosen me to protect this king, and to protect his mother. And I would do whatever I could to do so, travel any distance. I was old, but I knew I could not fail; it was as Mary said – God would protect us. And so I was not afraid. I knew I need not fear or worry or let anything trouble me again.


To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God, be praise and glory for-evermore - Amen.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

prayer diary Saturday 20 Dec 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ 
Luke 1. 38

Reflection:
Our Lady said 'yes' to God despite all the risks she ran in the society she lived in. Why do we then so often say' no' to him when the risks are so small and the rewards for saying 'yes' so great?

Friday, December 19, 2014

prayer diary Friday 19 Dec 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

When Zechariah saw the angel, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.' 
Luke 1. 12,13

Reflection
Zechariah was a righteous man yet he trembled before God's messenger. How much harder must it be for those who reject all that is holy to stand in the presence of God himself when the time comes?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

EGYPT: CHRISTIAN CONVERT FACING MALTREATMENT IN PRISON

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has received confirmed reports that Bishoy Armia Boulous, an Egyptian convert to Christianity who is currently serving a prison sentence, is being mistreated in prison.

Bishoy Armia Boulous, formerly known as Mohammed Hegazy, is being held in Tora Prison, Cairo. His lawyer has informed CSW that Mr Boulous is being held in solitary confinement in a cell designated for those awaiting capital punishment. Prison staff are abusing him verbally on account of his religion and are also abusing him physically; including breaking his glasses and making him walk barefoot to hearings in Minya Misdemeanour Court. There are unconfirmed reports that Mr Boulous has begun a hunger strike in protest at his detention and maltreatment.

After originally being imprisoned in December 2013 on allegations of  'sectarian strife', Mr Boulous was released then re-arrested on the same day in July 2014. He was working as a correspondent for El-Tarek TV, a Christian TV channel, when he was arrested and his camera was confiscated. The arrest document from the Head of the Intelligence Police in Minya Province stated: 'It came to our knowledge that a convert from Islam is photographing the demonstrations.' Mr Boulous' solicitor asserts that in reality these charges were precipitated by his client's attempt in 2007 to change his religious designation in his national ID card.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We continue to have serious concerns about the charges brought against Bishoy Armia Boulous, as well as the unacceptable mistreatment he is being subjected to in prison. Mr Boulous was merely doing his job as a camera man when he was arrested. Moreover, the charge levelled against him lacks substance, adding credence to assertions that he is being mistreated because of his earlier attempts to seek official recognition of his conversion. The new Egyptian constitution states in Article 64 that freedom of belief is absolute, and in Article 9 the State undertakes to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens without discrimination. We call on the Egyptian Ministry of Justice to urgently investigate the mental and physical abuse Mr Boulous is receiving in prison, to adhere to the constitution by dropping any charge he faces in connection with his religious status or conversion, and to release him.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Thursday 18 Dec 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.' 
Matthew 1. 22-23

Reflection:
God chose as his Mother not a Queen, or a person of wealth and power, but a woman of great holiness, a woman obedient to God's will. We also must strive to be holy if we would welcome the Christ-child into our hearts at this time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 17 Dec 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah,fourteen generations. 
 Matthew 1.17

Reflection
Do your eyes glaze over when you hear the genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels read? You're probably not alone! But these accounts are important, for they stress the continuity of the Old Testament with the New and how the promises made by God to his Chosen People were fulfilled in Christ.