WORD FROM THE MINISTER – REV ANDREW PROUT
As we enter the season of Advent we are reminded that it is a season that will lead us to the place of divine presence in Bethlehem where God became flesh in Christ and made His home with us. It is a season when we hold in our hearts and before God those in our Church and the community, and in the world in need. We remember particularly those who are housebound, infirm, must contend with inner struggles, are facing challenging circumstances, or who have been recently bereaved. The season also marks the commencement of a new lectionary year. The lectionary is a three year cycle of readings from the Bible, with a particular focus in each year on one of the Gospels. It is used by nearly all the mainstream Churches. The Gospel set before us this year is the Gospel of Matthew, a Gospel which emphasizes a number of things.
First, the Saviour who is born is sent from God.
Second, the Saviour who is born is of God. This is ‘God with us’
Third, the Saviour who is born, enters the world for all people and all nations,
Fourth, the Saviour who is born, is He who will give comfort and who will set people free.
All this is encapsulated in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus, which itself gives account of the virgin birth, resonates with the story of Moses, tells us of the visiting Magi from the East and of their gifts, and above all recalls as prophesied that ‘The child will be called Immanuel which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). I draw comfort in all these things. The world into which Jesus was born, not unlike our own, was one filled with uncertainty and for many, injustice. Many people such as Mary and Joseph struggled to make ends meet. Israel itself was ruled by a brutal ruler in Herod who himself was under the governance of Rome. Two thousand years on, we still observe that deep longing in people’s hearts and lives for a better future, and a world where all can go in peace. We hope and pray, whatever the outcome of the General Election, that there will be a coming together and a working together for the common good. We are mindful of the challenges we all face and the concerns we all have in relation to matters of livelihood, climate, politics and state.
Yet, as Matthew would remind us throughout his Gospel, for rulers of nations, for the people, for the suffering, for the hurting, for the anxious, for the weary, for those who are seeking and searching, there is comfort, there is hope, and there is a future that can be good, for each other and for everyone. For God’s starting point is to meet us where we are, to enter our disjointed world and our diverse lives in His Son, being found in a lowly manger, and from such a place, to lead and guide us, not as someone who stands apart or is afar, but as one who comes alongside us in our weakness and frailty, and who will be with us every step of the way.
Charles Wesley would write in his Christmas hymn ‘Glory be to God on high’ (STF 199)
We, earth’s children, now rejoice,
The prince of Peace, proclaim;
With heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s name:
Knees and hearts to him we bow;
Of our flesh and of our bone,
Jesus is our brother now,
And God is all our own.
I trust you pray and feel, as I, uplifted by these words. I look forward to sharing with you all the events and services over Christmas and the New Year. Please also extend a warm invitation to your family, neighbours and friends as we come to the end of what has been a very special year in the life of our Church, our 125th of work and witness in the local community and area. In that regard I must thank everyone for the part they have played in making this anniversary year so very special. It has been a team effort and one very worthwhile.
Finally, please do not forget the two opportunities to share in the Covenant Service, the first a shortened form with communion at 9am on Sunday 5th January, and then the full service with communion on Sunday 19th January at 10.30am. This service is one in which we place our lives and work before God at the beginning of a New Year. Please also with reference to the recently circulated Christmas Mailing, give your most prayerful thought and consideration to the separate letter requesting financial support towards two posts that we hope to advertise and fill in the New Year in partnership with Marlborough Road Methodist Church. One of these posts relates to our work in the Church and in the community with families, young people and children, and the other to our work equally with older people. Blessings to you and all whom you hold in your hearts this Christmas-tide and Holy Season. May you truly find and know the Saviour’s peace.
With every blessing and kindest regards.
Rev Andrew Prout.