"So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom." NKJV
The drinking songs of the spirit
Dylan Thomas, the Welsh bard who killed himself with booze at just 39 years of age, wrote for me, one of the most influential pieces of prose ever to touch my ears and my heart. Under Milk Wood, A play written for voices is a most remarkable verbal wonder and the beauty of the opening words always, I mean always, moves me tears. It took Thomas some ten years to write it and indeed, it was the last thing he ever wrote, his Magnum Opus if you will. Tonight, on this last night of the year, I refer to this play by Thomas and quote you an opening paragraph.
Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row, it is the grass growing on Llareggub Hill, dew fall, star fall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood. Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning, in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman's loft like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread's bakery flying like black flour. It is tonight in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies. Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding through the Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms. Time passes. Listen. Time passes.
At the end of this year, on this night of old endings and new beginnings, I call you to listen! Time passes. Listen! Time passes. Now let me ask you, "What have you done with your time this year, these last years of your life?"
Do you believe the Gospel? Is Christ your lover? Do you take His passionate and sacrificial claims seriously? Or have you been just messing around with God? Have you been conning others and just kidding yourself with your Christianity? Have you been half dead rather than fully alive to God, for God? Listen! Time passes. Listen! Time passes. Enough of this plastic pudding! Enough of this sham and shameful shallowness of a life. You had better get real this year else you shall end up with nothing, yes with nothing at all!
Dylan Thomas, created Under Milk Wood and all its exciting cast of characters around a fictitious Welsh town called Llarregub. The town didn't exist, it doesn't exist and it never shall exist. The town is pure fiction! I need to ask some of you tonight, indeed, I must ask some of you tonight this burning question: "Is 'pure fiction' the description of your Christianity?"
The fictional town of "Llarregub" is, of course, "Bugger all" spelt backwards, and I tell you at the end of this year, that is exactly what any fake Christianity will get you when you come to stand before the Judgement seat of Christ!
Forgive me for being a little rough with you tonight, but the day is far spent and I greatly fear that in the furious wind to come, many who profess life will not stand and many will end up with Llarregub. So, it's time to get real with yourself friend for your sake and for God's sake, for time passes. Listen. Time passes. Tell me then tonight, have you got life? Are you living life? Are you truly alive? Or are in fact, you tucked up in your coffin tonight?
Listen: "Wake up from your sleep, climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:14-20 from THE MESSAGE)
Pray: O Lord, from the loneliness of Llarregub may all the "dickybird watching pictures of the dead" come visit me in my dreams tonight and talk to me of the redemption of my time. Time given, time spent, time often wasted. May their desperate words come upon me like wild waves that my ship would so tilt and ride, that it might split the hawsers tying me steadfast to my sorry, safe but fictional little harbour. Tomorrow O Lord, suck me out to sea and show to me the big seas of Your dreams, that I might see the Wonders of the Lord and so fill my empty hands with treasure from on high that I might at last begin to live! In Jesus name I pray, amen.
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