The Ministers Letter
Happy New Year!
As the nights draw in, and Christmas approaches, we enter the season of Advent, a time of watching and waiting – waiting for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, and for the time when Jesus will come to establish his kingdom once again. It is a time of expectation and hope, of joy and peace; and yet, for many, also a time of anxiety, loneliness, and sorrow, as they remember loved ones who have died, or worry about how to afford to eat or to heat their homes, let alone to buy presents or to do special things.
Advent Sunday is New Year for the church. It is the day when we change Gospels – we return to the book of Matthew, the first of the books which tell the story of Jesus, from his birth to his death, resurrection, and ascension. Written about AD60-65, it had a specific audience, the Jewish community, in mind. Because of that, it is full of references and quotes from the Old Testament, aiming to show that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfilment of all the prophecies, the one that God’s people had been waiting for.
Matthew begins by placing Jesus in history, tracing his family tree right back to Abraham. He then begins the story of his birth. The story contains important details not found in the other Gospels. It is here that we see Joseph wanting to break his engagement to Mary and being persuaded not to by an angel in a dream. It is in this Gospel that we find Jesus visited not by humble shepherds, but by travellers from the East, with expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, each gift representing something of who Jesus would become and what he would do. It is here that we see the Wise Men stopping off at King Herod’s palace, and the resulting slaughter of young children in Bethlehem, as Mary and Joseph flee with their young child to Egypt. It is, perhaps, a difficult story to read, but one that has become so familiar, as we retell it each year.
The story may change as we move through the Gospels, but the message of Christmas never changes – that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And so, as we light the candles on our Advent wreath, or see the lights shine on houses, Christmas trees and shopping streets, may we remember why, and pause to reflect on the real light, the light of Jesus, that shines into the dark corners of the world – the light that can never go out. And may we reflect that light wherever we are and whatever we do, this Christmas and every day of our lives.
With love and blessings for Christmas and the New Year,