Letter from the Minister.
Rev Phil Summers
A strange Advent
This Advent is a peculiarly odd one. We are certainly in a time of waiting and we are deeply aware of the truth of that old saying: ‘It’s the hope that kills you’. Depending on whether you are reading this hot off the press or glancing at it as you sip on a sherry just before your Christmas dinner, you will be reading it pre or post a General Election. Being pre-election may fill you with a sense of foreboding or one of longed for new possibilities. Post-election you may feel that all is well with the world and we can now move forward, or you may be experiencing a sense of deja vu, or you may be in despair wondering what kind of country you live in. Such are the ways of the world. And into this world Jesus is born. With all is frustrations, arguments, falling outs, truths, half-truths, fake news and lies; into this world Jesus is born. And in this world the baby born to us will grow and call us to a new relationship with God and with one another.
In Matthew’s version of the Christmas story Mary’s betrothed, Joseph, is told by the Lord in a dream that Mary’s child is from God and is then told, ‘you shall give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matt 1:21). Pre-election you may well be praying for Jesus to come and save us from our sins. Praying that Jesus’ call to generous living and loving is heard and enacted by people and politicians alike. Post-election your prayer may well be the same. For whatever happens (or has happened) I’m are deeply aware that we humans struggle to get it right. We seem incapable of using our money wisely and well, the gap between rich and poor in our land is growing, and although the basic standard of living can be shown to be rising, it is also true that life is still precarious for many. Too many people live in relative poverty. Across the world the problems are even more acute. Pre-election you may be hopeful that things will change. Post-election you may be certain of it; or have given up hope all together.
We need Jesus to heal us of our sin. A sin that is all too prevalent at this time of year, as our television adverts scream at us to buy more and more and more. The way of the world seems to be that my Christmas dreams can only be fulfilled if I get what I want and eat what I want regardless of damage to the environment or the needs of the world around me. The child born to us at Christmas comes to save us from these selfish attitudes. Jesus challenges the idea of a Christmas, and indeed, a lifestyle that looks only to me and not the needs of others.
Mary recognised it as she sang of God’s purposes and action… ‘to rout the proud, raise the lowly, fill the hungry, send the rich away empty’ (Luke 1:51-53). Pre-election we need to consider the poorest in our land and our world, then allow those needs to influence the way we vote, for our Jesus has saved us from the sin of selfishness – voting only for things that will make me richer or my life easier. Post-election, having known the gracious, forgiving, love of God in Jesus, we need to continue to reach out beyond ourselves and heal the wounds that our present political situation has inflicted. This is achieved by the healing love of God working through us. This is what Christmas is for – to birth love in a world crying out for reconciliation.
Have a great Christmas and a peaceful new year.