I was given a book for my birthday entitled “Divided” (sub-title “Why we’re living in an age of walls”) by Tim Marshall. The chapters of the book go on to describe some of the major walls of the world dividing nations – The Great Wall of China, The Trump wall between USA and Mexico, The West Bank wall between Israel and Palestine – and then some of the less well known walls in the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
The detail explains the reasons the wall was created, technical aspects of the wall’s security, the politics surrounding the wall, people who have tried to cross the wall…..and so on. I am finding it a fascinating and in some ways quite frightening book. Many of the walls have been built in response to cross border violence or significant migration of human beings (frequently caused by war). In many cases the building of walls has only occurred after significant migration has happened and so the wall has effectively separated the migrants from their old country (where old friends and family still lived).
One of the most fascinating walls is that between India and Bangladesh, As a large proportion of Bangladesh is covered by river deltas the country is highly prone to flooding from climate change and this forces migratory pressures which India has attempted to control by erecting the longest border fence in the world at 2,500 miles.
As an island nation we don’t seem to have quite the same fixation with walls (although we do have Hadrian’s wall to keep the Scots out and with Brexit there is talk of various forms of wall in Ireland to separate the two parts of the country). A good part of the Brexit debate has focussed on the issues caused by migration although in fact we are affected by migration far less than most countries in Europe. Greece, Turkey and Jordan have been enormously affected by large recent influxes of people from neighbouring countries.
Behind each of these walls are huge stories of human suffering …..and of course political debate. It seems a pity that we find it so difficult to get on with each other that we have to resort to walls to protect ourselves.
The bible has this to say about the freedom Jesus meant to bring to earth “So spacious is He, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in Him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of His death, His blood poured out on the cross” (Colossians 1:20, The Message).
I hope that one day the walls will come down.
With best wishes
The Greatest Gift
As a child I became very excited as the days nearer Christmas approached. Weeks seemed endless and the days, especially Christmas Eve, lasted an eternity. Waiting for something we really want can be testing and trying.
One year my parents bought me an advent calendar. I eagerly opened the door each morning, learning the story leading up to the double door picture of baby Jesus lying in the manger.
At the end of Christmas the advent calendar doors were carefully closed and it was packed away with the decorations and used again for the next few years. Although I loved the calendar, the excitement of opening the doors for the first time could not be matched.
The anticipation and excitement leading up to Christmas through the eyes of a child is a wonderful experience.
How times have changed! My Grandchildren each have at least two advent calendars to open every year and expect a chocolate to be found behind every door.
For an adult the anticipation and excitement of Christmas and its true meaning often becomes buried under the stress and strain of trying to find time to write cards, buy and wrap presents, plan menus and visit relatives and friends.
Christmas should be a joyful time; God gave us the most precious gift of all in giving us His son Jesus. How do we react? Does the gift keep its wrapping on year after year? Perhaps we don’t expect to find much inside except a useless religious trinket. Perhaps we don’t feel any need for God just now.
At Christmas we celebrate the birthday of the most important person who has ever lived. After all, we call what happened before his birth ‘BC’ and what happened after ‘AD.’
The child in me remains, I no longer have an advent calendar, but I still count the days and wait until I can open presents and celebrate the joy and wonder of Christ’s birth.
Advent season is to remind us of waiting upon the fulfilment of God’s promise as revealed through the prophets. God’s timing may not suit our finite minds, but his promises never fail. In the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament God told of a saviour for the people of God over 500 years before the Bethlehem event.
Being a Christian is about a relationship rather than following a set of rules. It’s about a Person; Jesus Christ, it’s about the most important relationship of all.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
With all the talk around Brexit with deal or no deal, soft or hard Brexit, it may become overwhelming as we face a very uncertain future.
At a time when we are also considering the centenary of the First World War, the knowledge that our country is currently sitting in a very unsettled and potentially unstable state is something you may not find terribly comforting. As a country we had our say two years ago and we now have to entrust our future to the politicians, or do we?
We all need security and we need to feel safe in our day to day lives as well as in the wider world. So where do we go to find that security?
You may currently be underpinning your life with work, family, good health, spousal or other partnership and all those things are vital to our well being and existence, but all that can change in a moment. On Thursday 23rd June, 2016, our country changed forever and we currently live with the uncertainty that has brought. The outcome may be positive or otherwise, but it has changed for ever, nevertheless.
Likewise, our immediate circumstances can suddenly be changed forever. Job loss; the development of poor health; relationship breakups within partnerships or wider familial or friendship relationships. All those things that we use to underpin our lives and our general well-being are incredibly fragile.
So, what is there that is solid and unmoveable or unshakeable?
In 1986 I decided to build my life on Jesus. It was the beginning of the most significant relationship I have ever known. It has carried me through spousal bereavement, difficult family relationships, major changes in working situations, and concerns over health.
I do not like our current national state of uncertainty and insecurity, but I do know that my life is built on something that is solid, unmoveable and unshakeable that has upheld me through major upset and trauma, so I trust that I will be upheld again, whatever the future holds in my immediate personal life and in the wider world.
If you currently feel unsafe and insecure, in the words of the hymn written by Helen Howarth Lemmel, ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full, in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’.