Dear Sisters and Brothers.
Christmas - that time when we are busy entertaining and being entertained, preparing nativity plays and pantomimes, singing the traditional carols and hearing the familiar stories. From a distance we may see that the incarnation story, centred in a manger in the occupied village of Bethlehem, is woven around with journeys.
- The journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the instruction of the occupying power. A journey echoed by all those expected to fulfil the whims of those in power.
- The journey of the Shepherds who we are told left their flocks in the fields to travel to see the infant child laid in an animal feeding trough.
- The journey of the Magi, travellers from the East, followers of another religion. Seeking truth, first among those with power but eventually finding it in the poverty of the village of Nazareth.
- The journey to Egypt, a family fleeing the cruelty of those in power. A theme that continues to resonate in our own time, with one refugee crisis after another.
- Journeying continued throughout Jesus's ministry, travelling around the Holy Land and eventually that final journey carrying his cross to his crucifixion.
You like me may have grown-up with stories of Methodist local preachers walking vast distances to preach. I know a minister who had served in Ringwood and would cycle to chapels along Southampton water, some 20 miles, to preach on a Sunday. I also heard about a chapel which was built in a certain spot because it was just an hour's walk from five villages.
Never has it been easier to travel than it is today and yet we seem to be reluctant to do so. At our recent Circuit Meeting a number of churches failed to send representatives. We want the Circuit to support our causes but some are unwilling to support the Circuit when asked to do so. I wonder whether this is a reflection on a general malaise which is that the church exists to serve us, rather than that we are members of the church in order to serve God.
erhaps at this time of incarnation we need to consider these words of St Paul, 'Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.' (Philippians 2.5-8 NRSV)
Your brother in Christ,