Back in 2015 we were in vacancy, and I was approached with the request to write the message for what was then The Link, the magazine for West Orchard URC. I agreed, reluctantly. Here we are in 2022 and once again we have said farewell to another minister, Yvonne. Our future regarding ministerial support remains unclear.
Someone needed to write the Christmas Message for Connections and I actually volunteered this time. Seeking ideas, I looked back on my 2015 effort, and I realised that what I wrote then is just as relevant now as it was seven years ago, so I make no apology for recycling it and bringing it to you again.
Whilst putting up my decorations for Christmas, I like to play Christmas songs to help get me in the festive mood. I happened to pay more attention than usual to the lyrics of a golden oldie ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ sung by Sir Cliff Richard. The words set me thinking and it is these words and thoughts I have chosen to share with you.
‘The Child is a King, the Carollers sing, The old has passed there’s a new beginning.’
As December draws to its close, many of us turn our thoughts and hopes toward the New Year, but our thinking should start before then. Surely it starts with the birth of a tiny child – a child born into a world of sin and darkness; into a family which lacked any material wealth; a family which did not boast a royal palace for a home; to parents who promised to show obedience to God and to love their child and one another as God had commanded. It is this birth, this precious gift of Christ our Saviour, which should shape and influence all we wish for in 2023.
‘A time for living, a time for believing,
A time for trusting, not deceiving,
Love and laughter and joy ever after,
Ours for the taking, just follow the Master’.
Time is precious; how often do we wish we had more? Perhaps, in 2023 we should consider how we use the time God has given to us – could we manage our lives differently and thus create more ‘free time’? If so, how would we use it: in prayer, reading our Bible, attending a Bible Study or Home Group? You might choose to spend the time alone, talking to God in prayer. These situations can test our belief in God. We talk to God, and He listens. He does not always provide the answers we would like Him to, but we must learn to accept His will and trust in Him. The new year will, like any other, have its difficulties for all of us here at Baginton Road. With our minister now retired we know that we will face huge changes as we step forward into a new phase in the life of our church. We need to put our trust in God and in the Eldership and to pray continuously. We need to be open and honest with each other about what we think and feel as we explore what is right for our church and the membership.
There is love in abundance within our church family. Anyone who has been through testing situations will confirm this. Love is all around us: in the acts of fellowship, the social activities, the meetings we attend, the giving of time and money, it is there reaching out and enriching our lives, and where you have love, laughter is never far behind. Love flows from our shared love of the Lord Jesus.
The final verse of the song reminds us –
‘A time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease’.
For me, this is the verse with the greatest challenge. I can cope with the giving and the getting – both bring immense pleasure at Christmas and at other times throughout the year. Forgiving and forgetting are much harder. To offer forgiveness, you need to experience hurt, a hurt which sometimes strikes deep within the heart. It is this deep hurt which challenges our ability to forgive, but unless we can forgive and forget the wrong which has caused the hurt and to put the past behind us, then we will never be able to move on fully with our lives. In an equivalent way, the person being offered forgiveness must accept it with grace and humility and both must allow time for the hurt to heal whilst making every effort to heal the broken
I invite you all to make the effort to put behind you any past differences, disagreements, unhappy situations from 2022 and earlier, and try to forget them and any hurt they have caused. In the spirit of true forgiveness, let us take each other by the hand and in unity reach out for the hand of our forgiving God, which is stretched out before us. Let us as true believers in Him, walk forward with faith and in confidence into 2023.
May love and peace be with you all this Christmas time, and throughout the coming
God bless you all,