Lay Reader's Letter
As we approach the shortest day of the year you might have noticed it getting colder and darker; though some people, snug in their cosy houses with hot water on tap having plenty of food from the supermarket reached in air-conditioned cars, don't experience the extremes of the season. It wasn't always so - I'm sure many older readers recall the experience of waking up with ice on the bedspread. They remember what it felt like to be cold, dark and hungry and how they looked forward with hope and expectation to spring and the joy of warmer, lighter days and more food to eat.
Hope, expectation and joyfulness - those should be the characteristics that mark our celebration of Advent and Christmas. Advent - the four weeks before Christmas - is a time when the church meditates on the state of the world with its darkness and violence, at the coldness which people can show one another, and considers its hopes for the future of the human race, hungry for a better way.
How can we bring an end to the ever more sophisticated ways we have of killing one another, wars over resources, mass starvation, poor healthcare of most of the world's inhabitants, the greed of the wealthy, fear of strangers, pollution, climate change? An end to injustice has been the great hope of people from time immemorial - the world groans for such a change - for someone who will show us how to bring about change. Surely, it's too much to hope for, too much to expect.
But the Christian message is that in the birth of Jesus, at Christmas, God does change things. That is exciting, that is Good News, and it is why so many of our Advent and Christmas carols are filled with joy: 'Hark the glad sound!' Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come', 'A great and mighty wonder', 'Hark! The herald angels sing glory to the new-born King', 'Joy to the world, the Lord is come'.
Born a little baby, Jesus came and showed a different way, a way based on love, peace and justice for all people; and if the world is not to spiral into more and more despair perhaps His way is the one to try. It's not easy; I quoted G K Chesterton last month, well, here he is again "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried".
Christmas brings Good News, a message of joy for the world; but maybe you have missed it, maybe you have failed to be excited. Perhaps, like our experience of the seasons we are too comfortable, too distracted by modern commercial Christmases, to see the excitement that the message of Jesus brings to many millions of people throughout the world. Come along to church this Christmas and be awakened to the joy.
Finally, if hope, expectation and joy have been the themes of this article, please share with the congregation of St Mary's in their hope, expectation and joy at the announcement of a new vicar, Rev Coralie McCluskey; she will move here to take up her post in February. Please pray for her and her family as they prepare for their move and for her new ministry.
My hope is that you will experience the joy of the Christian message this Christmas.
-- Gordon, Reader at St Mary's Eaton Bray
- February 2010
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.