From the Rector - December 2019

Dear Friends,

How often these days do we hear about 'causing offence? It can be as though people go out of their way to take offence, or at least to be offended on behalf of others, who are often not remotely offended, but no matter! The festival of Christmas is often caught up in this and every year we can find examples of local authorities, schools, charities, shops or whoever else, diluting or even doing away entirely with this Christian celebration because of the fear of causing offence. Why should this be?

follow star sThe Christmas story is rather modern and multicultural. An unmarried mother, homelessness and sleeping rough, foreign visitors, travelling from afar, and then refugees fleeing persecution seeking shelter in a far-off land. What is there to fret over you might wonder? Indeed, you might question why Christianity is being more and more marginalised across Europe and for that matter, persecuted in numerous other regions across the globe. Perhaps it is because the true message of Christmas is indeed offensive to our modem, selfish way of thinking because it demands a response from us.

The dynamic message of the angels would transform our world for the better, if only we’d let it.

'Christ is born in Bethlehem'.

It demands a response. That response is either to bow down in worship or to judge the claims made of this baby as false and to move on, ignoring Christmas altogether. However, before being tempted by the latter, people should first examine the life and teachings of who this baby grew up to be. His teachings speak so powerfully across the generations right into our lives today. They are still transforming lives for the better and they can transform ours.

  • 'Love your neighbours as yourselves. Forgive those who sin against you.
  • Don’t hoard wealth, share it with those who have little.
  • Help the stranger, love the outcast, love each other, love God.'

It is so simple, yet the world thinks it knows best. But here is the answer to the world’s many problems. It is a message so alien to the wray humanity conducts itself, and God knew that. He knew what we needed, and so he gave it to us; He gave freely of His love, His guidance, His forgiveness and His redemption, clothed in the fragile, yet perfect form of the Christ child.

Yes, this message is uncomfortable for many. Much better to gloss over it and hold a Shopping Event in October or better to elbow out the life-changing message of the Prince of Peace by using the excuse that we don’t want to cause offence.

What really lies at the heart of these negative responses to Christmas as it's meant to be is an unwillingness to engage with that simple invitation that God gives us in the person of Christ.The Lord of the ages calls us into a relationship with him, yet so many would rather pretend they haven’t heard it because of the awkward challenges that such a relationship would bring to their lives.The all-embracing loving example of Jesus of Nazareth has been causing 'offence' for 2,000 years.

The light which first shone from Bethlehem’s stable will never be extinguished. It continues to shine all around our world, usually at its brightest when facing the greatest resistance. Why do so many light it? The gracious invitation is for us all.

'Peace on earth, goodwill to all men, salvation and forgiveness of our sins.'

It is freely available to each and every one of us, if only we would stop trying to change the subject and just accept that during our short, temporary lives, we would do well to follow the example of the shepherds and wise men; to acknowledge, like them, that something truly amazing happened that night in Bethlehem, something that we can no longer ignore. It is the greatest decision any of us can make. Christ, the saviour of the world came to bring you light and hope and peace. What is your response to be?

The season of Advent brings us the magnificent vision of life and hope for the future given to us by Christ. Advent is our time to become more involved, more caught up in the meaning and the possibilities of life as a Christian community. Thus we are preparing not only for Christmas but also for Christ's Second Coming.This means that when He comes again, we will be awake and watchful. He will not find us asleep.

Yours, Richard