So 2019 – our Bicentenary year – draws to a close, and what do we have to look forward to? Well, Christmas and the New Year, and they aren’t bad ways to follow up the joy of celebrating our special birthday! But before we look forward, let’s take a moment to look back.
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone that has enabled us to celebrate our 200 years. Many of you contributed in some way to the success of the events, and several of you gave a great deal of time and energy to making everything happen. We are all indebted to you for your service to us. I hope that you have all drawn a sense that as we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us over 200 years, it is very much 200 not out – there’s a long innings still to come.
So we turn from our own celebration to the celebration of Christmas that we share with the Church worldwide. For some of us we will be thinking of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, that we were blessed to be able to visit in September. A few of us queued for a couple of hours to get into the Grotto where we remembered the birthplace of Jesus. It was a strange experience. In this queue we experienced something that was almost a meditation. As we neared the cave, someone began to sing carols, and a group from several different nations were united in worship and contemplation.
Of course, it is not necessary to have visited Bethlehem to be able to experience the joy of Christmas. God has chosen to enter into the world that he created; coming not in some glorious display of his power and might but as a baby. The second person of the eternal Trinity emptying himself of glory and becoming the most helpless being. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6-8:
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
This is the extraordinary truth of Christmas: that you and I matter so much to the God who we have repeatedly rebelled against, that he was willing to sacrifice everything for us to become adopted into his family.
So while we celebrate the hope of the world at Christmas, we often also have a sense of mourning as we look at so many who are celebrating without really knowing what it is that is worth getting excited about. For many, Christmas is a time to spend with family, to value one another, and to enjoy hopeful thoughts about the future. We long that the people around us would hear the message that the angels brought to the shepherds on that hillside outside of Bethlehem:
‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’Luke 2:11-12
How much our world needs to hear the message of the Saviour, Jesus – who has loved us, died for us and risen again for us, so that we might have eternal life. All the more reason to encourage people to come along to our Christmas events. Invitations are available now, so please make good use of them. And there are other events that you can support – why not come along to the Grove Cottage Carol Service on 11 December?
So what do we have to look forward to in 2020? We will be starting a new Alpha Course, Celebrate Recovery will be resuming as well, and we look forward to all that the Lord is going to do as he moves us forward. I want to encourage you to pray for all of these events coming up in the next few weeks. Pray for those that you might invite along. Pray that the Holy Spirit will be poured out here and bring many to know the hope of the world.
Yours in Christ,