Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends

I can hardly believe that Christmas approaches once again. The passage of time for me is not marked in days, weeks and months, rather, by the fixed regularity of this letter. Recently I saw an advert that began, “Discover the magic of Christmas”. My initial reaction was a moderately averse one but, as I thought about it, I got what they were trying to say. I remember writing once about how difficult I have found Christmas in the past, especially when Christmas paraphernalia starts appearing November. I had always reacted badly to the hype. However, having made a decision to leave that behind and embrace it, I found myself deliberately seeking out the Christmas section of a local garden centre yesterday looking for the very stuff I disliked so much in the past. We bought tree decorations to send to our grandchildren in Sweden and even indulged in festive cake. I guess that shows what happens if you put your mind to it.

It set me thinking, though. What does the ‘magic’ of Christmas mean? There was nothing very magical about the very first ‘Christmas’. Shaped by the reality of Roman occupation and relative poverty, the very first ‘Christmas’ was pretty tough. The years that followed for Jesus even included a spell as a refugee in Egypt. Over the years it is we who have added the so called ‘magic’. I suppose the use of the word is intended to engender a sense of warmth and specialness about a season of ‘peace and goodwill’. Whilst the first Christmas was a very different affair to what we often imagine, and though time has distanced us from the grim reality of life two thousand years ago in Palestine, there is no doubt that something absolutely amazing and profound happened.

I prefer to rephrase that original statement as follows, “Discover the miracle of Christmas”. For Christians the Christmas miracle has many layers. It’s a miracle that God should inhabit humble human flesh at all. It is a miracle that he should even want to. For God it was a natural response of love. From our perspective God’s love for us is the miracle. It was God’s love that drove Jesus to come to this earth to rescue us from the darkness of the broken places in our lives and our world. The time in which Jesus came was pretty bleak and despite all the amazing and wonderful things in our world and in our lives that reveal God’s love for us, there is still a lot of darkness and suffering in our time too. Through his life and ministry Jesus showed us the true heart of God. One who loves us beyond measure, one who would sacrifice anything to bring us to new life in him and a better future both here and now and for eternity. For those who encountered Jesus, his words and his presence brought healing and wholeness, encouragement and hope. That is still true today if we will let him mould and shape us in the love of God.

I am growing to enjoy the festivities that we have added to Christmas but what I am looking forward to the most is celebrating the miracle of God’s love in every circumstance of life because of the birth of Jesus. I invite you to come and join us in our celebration of this amazing reality. You will find all of the details of our Christmas services in the centre of this magazine.

A very happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas to you all.

Stephen.

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