December 2019: From the Minister’s Perspective
During the annual Remembrance Service from the Royal Albert Hall last week the viewers were treated to the icy glare of a naval rating staring defiantly into the camera during one of the hymns. It was notable not for the fixed expression but because he was not singing the hymn clearly displayed on a screen like the one here in church. Once upon a time I imagine such a gesture would have invited a dressing down or ten circuits of the deck.
The young man stood confidently advertising that religion was not for him. It must have took some doing. The nation looking on and people from all backgrounds seeing his inaction or contempt for that part of the proceedings.
The days of conformity are long gone and I understand people do not wish to be hypocritical about something they don’t believe. Whether its Council Prayer (they were stopped in the summer) or funerals led by independent celebrants, there are no shortage of signs that people don’t want God any more. That of course doesn’t mean they don’t need him. Quite the opposite.
The people who waited for a Messiah understood the need for God in all our lives. His coming was slow and under stated save for a host of angelic choir for the shepherds.
Sadly before, during and after Christ’s coming there’s no shortage of those who cast an icy gaze on faith. The hymns, carols and readings ignored by those who count themselves better than those who believe have a lot of thought to ponder. I have all the time in the world for those who don’t believe or those who can’t explain it. Those who make an outright rejection though are living dangerously. Rebellion against God has a price they can’t afford. But Jesus offered people a gift of love and if they ignored it as did the rich man who thought more of his money Jesus didn’t chase them around the town. But they will meet again for a conversation that will not be easy to avoid. The coming of Christ is a simple story told to simple people and over a period of time but its outcome is restorative and wonderful for those who come near to see who this baby/ child/ man turns out to be; he is The Messiah. He is the cause of celebration and relief for all who believe and trust in him.
As people come near churches this year to hear the story and do the familiar things that surround Christmas, pray that people will find faith. Make all welcome. Smile, be open, and talk to those who show their children the crib in the foyer.
‘He shall be great and called the son of the Most High’ was great news to those who heard it.
As for the young rating well, they say there are very few atheists at sea and a few good storms may change his mind. After all they were singing ‘Eternal Father strong to save’, when he was glaring at the Nation.
Happy Christmas everyone
From Brian, Sara, Charlotte, Emily and Flora