Often before writing this letter I re read a previous letter from a similar time for some inspiration. After all, especially at the high lights of our Christian year the truth remains the same. I have just read the letter where I described the Christmas when our grandson Harry was born.
I described a very different Christmas for our family but how it, ‘was still Christmas, we had been in a place full of very unwell babies and the day was marked even there.’ I wrote how, ‘we were given a stark reminder that birth is precarious even today with all our modern hospitals so how much more would it have been so in ancient times and how much more is it in some places and situations in our world today without sanitation and medical assistance!’
Reflecting a year later I wrote of, ‘the amazing truth of Christmas, the creator of all became a human being with the risks of childbirth and the vulnerabilities of a baby.’ Two lines from the carol See amid the winter’s snow came to mind:
“Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies.”
Two years further on and another verse from that carol has come to mind several times:
“Sacred infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.”
It is that final line, ‘such a world as this’ that has come into my thoughts. As Christmas has approached that phrase has seemed so apt. It is such an uncertain world. Whatever one’s vote was last year in the referendum we can’t fail to see the prevailing uncertainty that the result has brought about. Add the unpredictability of a certain Mr Trump to the mix it’s no wonder that people fear for the future. Yet for millions it is far worse, the day to day reality of war, a refugee from war or the fight to get enough to eat makes the present full of fear and anxiety.
We have been reminded this year that our own tradition arose out of a period of turbulence (my previous two letters being about the CWM and Reformation anniversaries). We have revisited those early reformers who gave us such insight to the truths of God’s grace at Christmas. Our eyes turn to Bethlehem during this festive season and this year with the added reminder of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration, when at best it can be said the British government gave contradictory promises; resulting in so much conflict that has ensued and continues to do so. For me Christmas always makes me think of the Bethlehem I have been fortunate to visit, a ‘little town’ now so different from our cards and plays, now little more than an open air prison, a town surrounded by a wall that is stifling its population. Our own concerns should pail into insignificance when viewed through the prism of those walls and guns.
It was to such a world as this that God came. Jesus did not enter a calm and contented world but then as now one that is divided and dangerous. How wonderful that as we celebrate, it is God entering not the world as we would like to be but as it is, he came, ‘down to such a world as this.’
Wishing you peace at Christmas,
P.S. It has been a year of anniversaries and several 60th birthdays in our church, congratulations to our Reading Scottish Pipe Band on their 60th anniversary.