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Minister's Letter

Dear Friends,

When my children were young I sometimes reflected that we, as parents, were taking them to places or doing things which would give them memories, but I wasn’t sure what those memories would be.  What would be significant for them?  What happens in a child’s mind is sometimes quite hidden from their parents.  Their memories and ours often contain things never shared.  Sometimes these memories are wonderful and sometimes they are difficult or sad.

As we approach Christmas, we remember again the story of Jesus’ birth.  The significance of that event may be shared by everyone reading this, but to each reader it will mean something somewhat different.  As we remember his childhood, mostly hidden from us, we might perhaps think also of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his step-father, Joseph, and that difficult and complex start to Jesus life.  What a wonderful and terrible time it was, there was the annunciation, Joseph’s change of mind after a dream, and the birth in a stable.  There were gifts from foreign kings and shepherds – paying homage having seen strange sights, the flight to Egypt and then life as refugees.  There was a childhood and early adulthood in Nazareth and the challenges that that must have brought with it (“can anything good come out of Nazareth?”).

At first, of course his mother, Mary, was right at the heart of Jesus’ life, but as time went on he found his own way, which was his Father’s way.  He went beyond her and, as the prophet in the temple predicted, a sword pierced her heart when he was crucified very publically by Roman soldiers at the behest of the Jewish authorities.  I wonder if, on that day, she remembered his birth thirty three years earlier.

For us, Christmas can be accompanied with all sorts of emotions – maybe you remember the excitement of Christmas morning as a child, waking up and receiving gifts but perhaps, as you sit down for Christmas dinner, you will remember the people who are missing from the table.

For me, it is a strange final Christmas in Sutton Park Circuit which I will be sharing with you all as I will be preparing, in January, soon after our Covenant service to go to serve in Coventry, joining another part of the Methodist Church family there.

Whatever the memories are, Christmas is ultimately about God coming to us to redeem the whole of our lives.  In times of joy and sorrow, with hidden memories and shared ones, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love – for we are blessed by a God who has shown that we are loved us to the uttermost.

As a new year approaches, whatever experiences life may bring, they will be brought to completion in Christ, and wherever we may travel God will be with us:  God with us –  Emmanuel!

With love,

Stephen

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