By the time you read this letter and this edition of ‘Calendar’, Christmas will not be far away.
For many, the old familiar Christmas carols will be a reminder of the story of the birth of Jesus. We shall hear about Bethlehem, ‘no room at the inn’, Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men. It will be the story of something that happened long ago.
For my part, it is not just a reminder of God’s love for the world in time past – God in Jesus is continually coming and speaking to us in fresh ways. A heart-warming story I read recently along with a Nativity Scene that I saw yesterday are but two reminders of this….
The Nativity Scene was a modern one produced by a Palestinian craftsman using wood from olive trees from just outside Bethlehem. On one side of the scene there is the stable with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus lying in a manger. On the other half of the scene there are shepherds approaching the stable. They cannot reach the stable though because a huge wall has been erected and it is a barrier between ordinary folk and their God. If you went to Bethlehem itself you would find that scene is a reality. Israel has erected a huge wall which means Palestinian farmers cannot get to their fields in many cases and Palestinians would need a permit to get from Bethlehem to Jerusalem – the Wise Men would not have been able to make their journey either. For all those like me who saw this Nativity Scene yesterday, God in Jesus was reaching out to us and challenging us about this injustice!
The heart-warming story talked of a conversation between a Methodist Minister and young girl in a far-off country. She showed him something that she had received last Christmas which she keeps under her bed. She brought it out to show him and for her it is still a treasure many months later, though none of the items in the box would have cost any more than £1. It was one of those shoe boxes filled with small items and wrapped in Christmas paper. It might well have been one of the shoe boxes done by somebody here in Tadcaster or from nearby. Through people like that young girl, Jesus still reaches out, appealing to people like you and me. Through the response that many have made through the shoe box appeal, Jesus comes to children far away with a fresh example of his love.
Wishing you and others fresh Christmas blessings and a happy 2010,
With much love,
Your Minister and friend,