Greetings to you all at this Christmas Season. A season of goodwill and peace, yet also a really busy time for many involved in Church life with all the extra things to do over this period.
So, as you prepare for feeding the elderly and lonely, preparing those extra school assemblies and class visits to hear just what us Christians say Christmas is all about, distributing Christmas parcels, sorting out home communions for those who can’t make it to church, re-imagining the familiar narrative in creative ways, and sorting out if those advent candles are actually going to last every week and still be up for lighting Christmas eve? Yes, in all the busyness of this wonderful season may you know God’s peace.
I couldn’t have imagined a few weeks ago that this year I’d spend Christmas on Chemotherapy! It kind of makes it all a bit surreal to be honest, the discomfort of my whole routine being thrown into chaos for the time being. I cannot tell you how much I long for normality once again, and yet this is my normality for now.
In recent days, I have realised something I hadn’t ever seen in myself. I am quite a proud person. Proud of never having been ill before, proud of having no operations, spending no time in hospital, not being on any medication. Also, proud that I had reached 57 and hadn’t ever needed to dye my hair. Silly things really, but I was so proud of all these things, this was my normality. Yet this normality has been replaced by regularly visits to hospital and my hair falling out by the handful, as I realise that cancer is indeed a humbling experience, one that throws all securities out the window and brings in a new way of being.
So as I turn my attention to Jesus who stepped into our world and become Emmanuel, “God with us”, I am caused to ponder just how our Lord’s “normality” was changed for our sakes. To leave the Glory of heaven for this? For us? What did it mean to make “himself nothing” as “He humbled himself”, what did it mean for Christ to “be found in human form”? (Phil 2)
As I childishly long for my sense of normality to be restored, did Christ also long for His, to be back with His Father in Glory, where life was sweet and normality was heavenly? I’m pretty sure He did, and yet for our sakes He shared our weakness, suffering, frailties and humanity. The tiny new born baby lying in the manger, exposed to risk of infection, being born in that hostile environment, not to mention fear of death as Herod sought to kill Him, shared our vulnerability, our dilemma.
And suddenly I realise that this is His normality, the mess of life is Christ’s normality. Christ who steps down from glory to the manger, Christ who confronts His enemy in the Wilderness, Christ who reaches out to the lepers, Christ who stoops to wash the feet of His friends, Christ who is lifted high on a Cross, Christ who walks out of the open tomb – says to me in the midst of all this – and to you at this Christmas season -that in the fear, doubt and loneliness, in the struggles and confusion of life, Emanuel – God is with us. Hallelujah!
May God richly bless you all this Christmastime and my sincere prayer is that 2018 be a year of faithfulness and grace for us all.
Blessings and love
Regional Minister for Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire