Gaudete Sunday – “that deep shiver of gladness” – CS Lewis

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This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, yes, the one with the pink (sorry, rose) candle!

The point of the rose candle is to stop us in our tracks, it’s supposed to stand out and make you go, ‘why’s that there?’ just as the reading from Isaiah set for this Sunday says “the desert shall rejoice and blossom” (Isa 35:1). Blossom in the desert would make you sit up and take notice. Gaudete Sunday is all about taking notice of the signs of the coming kingdom, the glimmer of light in the darkness.

I don’t think I can encapsulate the mood of Gaudete Sunday any better than CS Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He uses the appearing of Father Christmas in the land where it is ‘always winter and never Christmas’ as an allusion to the appearing of John the Baptist in the wilderness. Here is an extract:

“Didn’t I tell you,” answered Mr Beaver, “that she’d made it always winter and never Christmas? Didn’t I tell you? Well, just come and see!”

And then they were all at the top and did see.

It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch’s reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard, that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.

Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world – the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The Witch’s magic is weakening.”

And Lucy felt running through her that deep shiver of gladness which you only get if you are being solemn and still.

fatherchristmas

 

A New Year meditation: You also shall light my candle; the Lord my God shall make my darkness to be bright.

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This morning’s psalm in Morning Prayer was Psalm 18 and this verse in particular stood out for me:

light my candle

At the beginning of a New Year it seemed to me to be so apt. We often feel that we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we have to do everything ourselves, that we have to bear our burdens on our own. These are all things we hear sometimes in church circles but I don’t think they are the way of Christ.

Imagine your life as the unlit tea light in the picture. What are the areas of your life where you need God to bring light, energy, warmth?

It is God from whom we get any energy at all, any vision at all, any desire to keep going. He is our source. We don’t have to and shouldn’t try to go it alone in 2013.

 

I do not know how to pray

I do not know how to pray
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My prayer life has developed a new rhythm over the past year. I’ve been reading the Anglican ‘daily office’ – Morning Prayer and Compline each day, when I wake up and just before going to bed. Morning Prayer and Compline include the reading of different psalms, short passages of scripture and some set prayers (which are largely based on scripture). I already really like liturgy and I’m finding that this pattern of prayer is becoming a part of me – I’m starting to really miss it if I don’t get around to it.

This has made me wonder more about what prayer is. In the evangelical settings in which I’ve spent most of my adult life, there has been a lack of ‘set prayers’ – all prayer has always been extempore and usually informed by a list of ‘prayer points’ – specific things to pray for. There is nothing wrong with this kind of prayer – it’s good to pray specifically for things – particularly as it helps you to be more aware of answers to prayer. However, it’s not the only kind of prayer.

These are some of the other types of prayer I am discovering:

Silence

Just sitting in silence with God (even if you can’t feel his presence) is a form of prayer. In some ways it can be a kind of offering. I tend to surround myself with noise – I nearly always have some music on or the tv. Setting aside some time to be completely silent is a way in which I can say – “God, this time is yours now”. Some years ago I went to the Taize community in France. In each service there, they have a 10 minute period of silence. When I first arrived I decided to go through my ‘prayer points’ list in the 10 minutes silence. After a couple of services I realised that the silence was not there for me to fill, more that I was there to be filled by the silence, by the peace, by the presence of God.

Praying the psalms

Reading the psalms each day is interesting. Sometimes the sentiment of the psalm exactly matches how I feel. Sometimes it doesn’t at all. As I say the psalms I seek to make them my prayer – either for my own situation if it is reflective of how I feel or for others if it is not. Praying the psalms helps me not to plough the same furrow every day with my prayers – left to my own devices I often find myself praying the same things. Praying the psalms ensures that I am constantly reorienting myself towards God and His praise and that I am also acknowledging those more negative feelings I might have.

Comfort prayers

Some of the prayers that are always part of the daily office become a kind of comfort. I can even pray them at other times because I have learnt them by heart. When I can’t think what to pray, I can draw on one of these, like this beautiful prayer from Compline:

Visit this place, O Lord, we pray,
and drive far from it the snares of the enemy;
may your holy angels dwell with us and guard us in peace,
and may your blessing be always upon us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessings

Recently we were in a church that offered healing prayer during communion. My friend went to be prayed for and began describing his situation, the things he felt he needed prayer for – interestingly, the team pretty much ignored him and simply laid on hands and prayed a blessing over him. I think it can be a bit of an evangelical hang up that we feel the need to list our requests before receiving prayer from someone. Of course, the Lord knows our situation even better than we know it ourselves, so why do we feel the need to describe it in detail? It’s a good lesson in humility to simply ask for a blessing and receive it, knowing that God will give us what we need, whether we’ve articulated it or not.

Candles

This blog post was triggered by an article I read in the Church Times yesterday. The prayer of the week was this one:

Sometimes prayer is just that: a tiny, perhaps even pathetic, gesture. A nod to God of our need for Him. And that’s ok.