Europe, 20 June 2016 Brexit. Markus Grolik/Cartoon Movement/Hollandse Hoogte

30th Dec.

Go to church because after all I’m an elder, but mainly because it’s between Crimbo and New Year an’ the minister’s knackered so it’s usually a short service. Also you get brownie points for turning out as most people don’t bother. So there I am making my way to my pew, when I notice that someone else is sitting in it. A woman with a baby. So I say, quite politely, Excuse me Senga, that’s my pew.

But she gets unruly an’ says, I’ve been sitting hear for the last six weeks and nobody objected. And anyway my name is Kayleigh. So how is it your pew? Did you carve it yourself, Ronald?

Totally out of order. So I just say, real nasty, I hope the wean disnae disrupt the service. Then I go and sit beside old Jim Patterson who just grunts an’ says, What a surprise, I thought ye might be deid. Then the service gets going and the next insult is the children’s hymn. The minister reminds us it comes from Zimbabwe. I mean, we took Christianity to the dark continent an’ now we lower ourselves by singing their hymns. Next thing they’ll be telling us to leave our assegais at the door.

But the worst insult is the sermon. Which describes the holy family as refugees, for God’s sake. Disgraceful! I know my Bible and the word refugees is never used: an angel told them to go to Egypt. Does he think there’s an bleeding angel appearing to all these refugees that are flooding the land. And not content with correcting the Holy Bible, he then tells us that because the Egyptians were hospitable to the baby Jesus, we should be hospitable to the asylum seekers – asylum sneakers I call them- fleeing persecution an’ wanting to live here. What sort of logic do they teach these ministers now. So, the Egyptians were nice because it was the Son of God and now I’m suppposed to be nice to the son of an Albanian Drug lord! Look, if the Son of God arrives in Leith asking asylum, I’ll be the first to welcome him, but that’s no’ the issue. It’s these daft, modern, weak- kneed, bleeding -hearts of ministers who can’t bang the Bible and give us God’s truth. That’s what’s emptying the churches.

And I told him so when he shook my hand at the door. And do you what he had the gall to reply?

I have always believed, he says, that the first duty of an elder is to be in church every Sunday. If you were present more often, you might have a better understanding of the gospel. And by the way, there are no reserved pews in this or any other Church of Scotland.

So that’s modern Christianity for you: you’ve got sympathy for illegal immigrants but nane for yer ain members!

Brexit27th Dec.

Couple of days after Crimbo but still no sign of the fitness watch I ordered from Amazon. Not for myself you understand. Definitely not. I may be 19 stone but I’m totally fit. I could easy run 100 yards if it wasn’t bad for my heart. No, its for the missus. Like I said to her when she was peching a bit carrying the turkey, “Yer gettin’ a bit porky dear,” I mean she’d hardly the breath to serve me. She didnae take it well. “I notice yer no’ gettin’ off yer fat arse to help me!” Now I’m not an unreasonable man, so I went straight online and ordered her one of those fitnesss watches that does yer blood pressure and measures how many steps you take in a day an’ that. So when it arrives she’ll have to admit I’m helpful. Might even get her to pay for it.

28th Dec.

Still hasn’t arrived. So I send Amazon a bit of stiff feedback and they have the impertinence to send me a standard email mentioning festive holidays for staff. Bloody typical! So there’s all these foreigners working for Amazon because no sensible native would work on these conditions and then they want a break at Crimbo as well! Like how many of them know anything about the meaning of Crimbo? I mean Santa Claus and yer turkey an’ that, they’re British, yeah.Like when it says O come all ye faithful it doesnae mean come all ye from bleeding Bosnia an’ Romania and poxy Poland. Anyway, if they take these rotten jobs away from us natives, at least they could work at Crimbo so we can get our orders on time.

And that’s another point when I think about it. Foreigners are too ignorant to deliver stuff for Amazon. I mean take yer average Bulgarian. Like he might know the road to… eh the road to…. the Black Sea or the Dardanelles – or is that in Turkey – and yer Pole might know the way to the Tatar mountains, but that’s no good for getting to Dundee or Forfar.

I say this to my stupit brother-in-law who’s arrived to scrounge a drink, and he tries to tell me that hardly any EU immigrants works for Amazon for that very reason, but  it’s all poor Scottish boys who’re officially self-employed with delivery firms that don’t allow toilet breaks. He thinks he’s won the argument until I say, “Just take a look at the names of the the bosses of they firms. It’s all things like Jaconelli and Scorpani, and guess what that means: Mafia! That’s another great gift from the EU. Before we had our own scumbags. Now these immigrants come over here and hijack our criminality sector.

He just shakes his head and says he must get to his bank because they’ve refused him an overdraft. When he tells me he’s with Santander, I just chuckle and ask him if he knows where they come from.

The Sunday before Christmas Sam woke up angry. In fact, he’d gone to sleep angry the night before. Now that he was nine, he reckoned he didn’t need to write silly letters to Santa Claus. No, like a sensible person he had simply asked his parents for what he wanted, namely, the new United home strip, the one his even his pal Jimmy didn’t have yet. He knew it was a bit pricey, but after all, it was Christmas. His mum hadn’t promised it, but she hadn’t said no either, so he thought he was in with a good chance. But that was weeks ago, and although he had peeked every into the cupboard where they always hid the presents, there was no sign of the strip. All sorts of other presents for other members of the family but definitely no strip, and now Christmas was only two days away. Only two days! He’d begun to accept that they’d decided on some other stupid thing instead. So, he was angry.

And it didn’t help that he’d got to go to church for the family service where he was supposed to act the part of of Melchior, a wise man. “I bring you gold for a king,” he thought, wondering not for the first time what use gold would have been to a baby. The cat was sitting at the top of the stairs, so he gave it a week kick, which made him feel better. During breakfast the dog was under the table, so he kicked it just to be fair to the cat. After breakfast his wee brother aged three wanted him to play, so he gave him a secret kick as well, and he started to howl.

Still angry, he left the house to walk to the church, noticing that Gemma Smith aged 5  from up the street, her with the sweet smile and the beautiful singing voice, which always annoyed him, she was standing, greeting on the pavement. Somehow that made him feel good, and ignoring her, he marched to the church. He noted with satisfaction that Gemma failed to arrive to sing her solo.

Once he had knelt before baby Jesus and said his line, he took his place just to the right of the crib, which meant that as everyone was singing Away in a Manger, he was able to give the holy crib a good nudge with his right foot. Immediately after, he felt a sharp tap-tap at his ankle, and looking down, saw that the baby Jesus was holding up his hand towards him. As he hesitated, the baby nodded, and he grasped the baby’s hand with his own.

Afterwards he would have liked to be able to describe what happened next. It was like a journey, yes, but a journey through nothing, through no space and no time, so that immediately he was in another place, a bit like a huge garden in the middle of which was a wooden bench, on which was seated the baby Jesus, looking remarkably, well, remarkably in charge of everything.

”Hello, Sam,” said the baby Jesus.

”Where am I, please?” asked Sam, feeling a little scared as well as daft to be talking with a baby.

”Beyond the universe,” the baby Jesus replied, “You can see if you look down.”

He did look down then at the millions of galaxies with their billions of suns and their trillions of planets, spinning in dazzling light for ever and ever and ever. In an instant he panicked and turned to run, but quicker than a thought a creature with wings picked him up, and placed him safely on a soft surface. The baby Jesus laughed, “Don’t be afraid, you’re on my hand.” Sam looked and it was true. The baby’s hand  was larger than he was. Somehow he was still able to be angry.

”I’m not staying here!” He shouted, kicking the hand, and jumping over what seemed to be a wall. He ran like the wind for minutes, then stopped to look, and saw that he was not pursued. Ahead of him was a mighty mountain. If he got over that to the other side, he’d safe from that baby and his hand. Oh the climb was hard, rough rocks, tangled heather, steep ridges, terrible cliffs, but at last he gained the summit, and was able to take his time descending the other side. He’d done it.

”Well done, Sam” the baby Jesus said.

Sam saw that he was back on the baby’s hand. “The mountain,”  he gasped, “What happened to the mountain?”

”In all that time,” the baby told him, “and with all that effort, you have climbed from one wrinkle in my hand to the next.”

Sam knew that the baby was speaking the truth. He was silent.

”I want to tell you two things,” baby Jesus said.

“Firstly, the creatures you sometimes think are small and unimportant are bigger and more important than you can imagine.

”Secondly, all gifts are good gifts.

Do you agree?”

”Yes,” said Sam, “I’m sorry about the kicking.”

”We all get angry sometimes,” the baby Jesus said smiling. “See you in church.”

Again he journeyed through a dark nothing, and came to, suddenly awake, in his own bed. It had been a dream, he realised.

He was careful to stroke the cat, pat the dog, play with his wee brother, before leaving for church. But there, standing greeting on the pavement was Gemma Smith.

”What’s wrong, Gemma?” he asked, laying an awkward hand on her arm.

”I fell and twisted my ankle, and I can’t walk properly and I’ll never get to church to do my solo!”

”If I kneel down,” Sam said, “You can climb on, and I’ll give you a piggy back to the church. Can you manage?”

He felt a bit daft in front of his mates, arriving with a wee lassie on his back, but he wasn’t too bothered. When he knelt before the crib with his gift of gold he remembered his adventure, and maybe so did the baby Jesus, who gave him a big wink.

”What are you hoping to get for Christmas?” the minister asked him as he prepared to carry Gemma back home.

“The new United strip,” he said confidently, “but all gifts are good gifts.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ tempted1. Have you finished?

2. You should know better than to imagine I will ever be finished testing your faith. I will always be here, with you, in you…

1. In me? Surely not, unless I give permission you cannot be in me!

2. Ah, child of God, haven’t you guessed?

1. No, but you’ll tell me…

2. We’re not completely separate, you and I; I can ask because you’re already asking; I can doubt because you’re already doubting…

1. But you have shown me things I didn’t know, things I could not have invented….

2. I didn’t say we are completely the same, but you’ll admit that my thoughts are not foreign to you.

1. I can’t deny it, to my shame. But you’re against my convictions, opposed to my ministry…

2. I’m opposed because somewhere in yourself you’re also opposed. If there is no door, I can’t get in. So come on now, are you ready to give up your foolish mission, which as you suspect, can only end badly?

1. No. My father has sent me; I can’t refuse.

2. Dear, dear, your father, is it? Have you seen this father?

1. No but…

2. Touched, smelt, tasted him maybe?

1. But I have heard him. He speaks to me.

2. When he is speaking, can anyone else hear his voice?

1. No. This is not the hearing of the ear, but the hearing of the soul.

2. And what language does the father speak? Hebrew? Aramaic? Greek maybe?

1. He speaks the language of love, which is holy and should not be mocked.

2. I won’t mock, child of God, but why are you so sure that this father is not an invention of your soul, your noble soul that wants the dreams of your ancestors to be true, that the present evil age will pass away, and the new age of God’s goodness will dawn………… through you.

1. I do believe these dreams…

2. So God and you are not separate in truth. You speak and call it the word of God, you do something and call it an act of God. In reality, there’s only you; the father is a fiction.

1. We are not separate, but in your words, terrible spirit, we are not completely the same. The father does not force his way into unwilling lives. He can work for justice because I want to work for justice, he can heal because I want to heal.

2. But you only believe this; you have no proof.

1. If I can believe in you, surely I can believe in him!

2. But he wants you to do and say things that are foolish and dangerous, whereas I just want you to have a happy life. And remember all the evil that will be done in your name, and in the name of your father.

1. You showed me the evil, but you didn’t show me the good. The father permits evil, as you say, but he creates good. That’s fact. You may not be able to know it, but I and many others know that goodness is created every moment. That’s why I’ll listen to the father’s request.

2. I hope you see some good, Child of God, before you see some of the other stuff that’s got your name on it.

1. Amen.

 

 

Christ tempted1. These huge buildings, is this one your very own cities, Spirit?

2. As in all cities, I have considerable possessions here. This one is called Glasgow, in the nation of Scotland, which the Romans called Caledonia, the birthplace of an eminent Roman called Pontius Pilatus.

1. A man of blood, I’m told…

2. But we have moved forward some two thousand years, when human beings have built machines to fly in the air – you see? – and to speed along their roads, and to kill others at a great distance, yes, many changes, and yet here still your followers remember you and gather in what they call churches, to worship you along with your father…

1. God forbid they should worship me…

2. Ah, but they do, Son of God, in some cases along with your mother also…

1. How she would have laughed!

2. Often their meeting places have spires pointing to heaven, see there, and here, and here…

1. Why do they display the shape of the Roman execution stake?

2. That may one day be revealed to you. But look, here is one of your followers, a man who is admired because he helps boys to enjoy physical sports.

1. He should be a happy in what he does for them.

2. He should be, but he isn’t, because when he served as an altar boy in your church, your priest abused him by touching his private parts and raping him. Now he does the same to the children in his charge. No, Son of God, you can’t stop him or confront him, you are in my power, we are observers only.

1. It would be better for such a man that he be thrown into the sea with a weight around his neck! But I suppose amongst many disciples there are bound to be a few who go wrong?

2. Unfortunately, Son of God, the law courts of this and many other nations are discovering thousands of cases of such abuse carried out within your church by its leaders, both male and female.

1. But these crimes are utterly contrary to my teaching and example!

2. Indeed so, but they do arise from the power you gave them. Will you not entrust them with your joyful message and the management of your assemblies? You may teach them to honour children, but their power will enable them to abuse them.

1. God forbid!

2. As you know, God may forbid, but he will not prevent.

1. You say I will give them power, but you are wrong: I will ask them to be slaves to each other and to all in need.

2. I do not need to argue with you Son of God, but invite you to look at the evidence. A large part of your following is ruled by a priest in Rome, who is called their papa, and all priests are called father by their flocks. Even if the good man in Rome tells them to be slaves, won’t they have great power? And if they have it, won’t some abuse it?

1. So I will entrust them also with my specific commandment about welcoming children and never hurting them.

2. Yes, you will, my dear man, but they will pervert that very commandment to gain access to children. You cannot stop them, but if you do not entrust them with your message, your mission will end with your death. How much good would your followers have to do, to balance they evil they will bring on the world?

1. I thought you might be in favour of evil, terrible spirit. Why are you warning me in this way?

2. “In favour of evil”? No, no, just anxious, as always, to protect humanity from the worst follies of God.