Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends

As we look forward to Christmas we begin the season of Advent and the theme uppermost in my mind is ‘love’. This is partly because we will be using a book in church during Advent entitled “Love Came Down at Christmas”. One of the questions that always emerges as we approach Christmas is, “What is this all about?” Many answers that call out from our world: peace on earth, family time, gift giving, Father Christmas, Christmas trees, decorations, parties, some of which is thrown at us by the media and businesses that want to make as much money as possible out of Christmas by selling as much as possible. In some ways who can blame them. However, for me Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus and Jesus is all about the love of God.

The words, “Love Came Down at Christmas”, are from a well-known song but they really do encapsulate the meaning. In coming to this earth in the frail form of a human baby God took an unprecedented step to enter our world and bring with him a radical means of engaging with love. Love is the root because God himself is love. Of course, in our society where we can say, “I love my husband or wife, I love skiing and I love chocolate cake”, we can see that the meaning of the word love is problematic. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, in fact, there is a lot that is good and a lot that brings happiness. However, the particular kind of love that God in Jesus brings is quite different. The love of Jesus is quite radical because it is totally selfless and, in the life of Jesus while he was here on earth, we see demonstrated the fact that his love was incredibly strong and transformative; not at all restrictive or controlling. In his presence and by his actions people felt totally accepted by Jesus, totally loved and the effect of that love and acceptance was to change the course of their lives for the better both in this world and the next. That is still true.

As I have said many times, Jesus did not come to this earth to start a worldwide religion but he did come to start a revolution of the very best kind; a revolution of love. The study book we are reading is based on a very familiar passage of scripture from 1 Corinthians 13. It is often read at weddings and it is worth holding as a guiding light for the whole of humanity (see words from 1 Corinthians 13 on the Prayer Page).

There is a lot that is really good, creative and wholesome about the world we live in but it is not hard to see that there is also a lot that needs the healing. Even if you claim no faith the ideal set before us by 1 Corinthians 13, of a world filled with selfless love. must be a very positive thing. The world around us exhibits many destructive and divisive traits as people strive for a way of life that meets all their needs, sometimes at the expense of others. The examples of many leaders in our world do not actually help quell these realities. For me, hope for the world lies not in something that begins at a political or leadership level but in something that begins right inside of me. This is based in a choice, at an individual level to make the world a better place using the principles of selfless love, no matter what the cost and, for me it is about following Jesus. Christmas reminds us that transformative, healing love has immense potential if we are willing to engage with it. I invite you to join me this Christmas in a vow of renewed intention to love and serve as Jesus loved and served. I look forward to seeing many of you at our Christmas and Carol Services and pray a very peaceful and happy Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year.

Stephen vicar.sb54rev@gmail.com

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