Chapel Street Methodist Church

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Minister's Letter, 16 December

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Dear Friends,

At the moment it seems to be dark most of the time, and raining much of it, even in tier 1! My mother used to say that Advent was like a lighted Christmas tree shining through the winter murk. The brilliant truth that Jesus is with us, does indeed lighten everything up.

I passed a really good road sign yesterday which warned SLOW CATTLE GRID.
So, I might slow my car down, or beware of the slow cattle for which the grid is designed ……… but slow cattle grids sound scary, most cattle grids I have seen are stationary!

I have been interested at the intensity with which people in the media are insisting that the ‘real meaning of Christmas’, its true heart, is not buying things but getting together with family and friends. Human fellowship is the heart of Christmas which must be balanced against the risks of increased infection. It is indeed the choice that the government is giving to us. It is not an easy balance to get right. The nation’s physical health is vital, but so is the nation’s mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. Safeguarding one of these should not be at the expense of the others. There is no zero risk in life. Every action involves risk management; go out to see the view and you may be knocked down. We need to seek God’s wisdom and guidance to make our choices responsibly.

Having said that, is it true that the real heart of Christmas is being together? It is easy to simply say that the heart of Christmas is really Jesus. This is true, and the more we become aware of the limitations of human relationship, the more Jesus stands at the centre of everything. However, as we look at the Christmas story, Jesus does not appear on His own in isolation. A diverse group of people are brought together; Mary and Joseph, inn-keeper and villagers, shepherds, magi, etc. Jesus causes this gathering. We know that without the baby there is no nativity scene. But with only the baby there is no nativity scene either.

If you can meet with others this year, then putting Jesus at the centre of your gathering will give it depth and real joy. If you will be spending Christmas alone this year, then the government are more pessimistic about you than they need to be. You will be at the heart of Christmas because Jesus will be with you personally and then through friendships, prayer and human communication, He will gather a fellowship around the two of you.

It’s great that our churches are putting up their decorations. One chapel has three beautiful Christmas trees at the front, a tall one in the middle with two shorter ones flanking it. The pattern is so reminiscent of the three crosses at Calvary. Immanuel, God with us is a saviour. He comes to save us, not just to identify with us. Christmas and Easter are inextricably linked. He was laid in a manger and laid in a tomb. The angels at His birth are there at His Resurrection. The best line in any carol is probably ‘Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth’. The gospel for us and for our sharing in mission is that Jesus’ birth gives everyone the opportunity to be ‘born again’.

Blessings to you all for this coming week.

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Published at 20:09 on 16 December 2020

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