Minister's Letter

December 2017 – January 2018

 

The Lord be with you.

 

… So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them… (Lk 2:4-7)

 

As Christmas approaches once again, many look forward to the retelling of that most beloved of stories, complete with its angels, stars, shepherds, magi and, of course, that cosy stable, filled with calm and welcoming animals.    All these things add to this wonder-filled story, and seem to give us a warm glow and sense of well-being.

 

… When they (the Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’   So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod… … When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi… (Mt 2:13-16)

 

But I wonder if it is the darker side of the Christmas story that perhaps speaks most powerfully to our times, because the story of the first Christmas is not really a happy story, but a story about life in the real world.  It’s a time that sees a young couple embarking upon the perilous business of childbirth in temporary accommodation fit only for animals, and a story that sees a young family, in the face of real and great danger, fleeing across a border in a desperate bid to seek sanctuary in a foreign land.

 

2017 has been another year which has seen millions of displaced people desperately seeking a safe haven far away from the war or persecution of their homeland.  I wonder if we always remember that these are individual people with hopes and dreams for their own lives and the lives of their families.  And I wonder if we heard some of those individual stories that we might perhaps encounter the Christmas story afresh - in the life of a young mother who is grateful for any kind of roof above her head, or in the desperation of those mothers and fathers who are prepared to walk mile after mile, crossing borders and risking their lives to find a place that will be “safe” for them and their children to live. 

 

As we go about our normal day to day living, preparing and embracing our usual festivities at Christmas and New Year, may we be mindful of those for whom this season offers little cheer. Christ’s charge to Peter was “feed my sheep, care for my sheep.” It is a call that is as relevant as ever, and so may we be ready to reach out to others with a spirit of generosity, care and goodwill and do what we can to make sure that this spirit is not left behind like Christmas past.

 

Until the next time – The Lord, bless you and keep you, and may God’s mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

 

Your minister …

 

Mary Haddow.

 

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