Thought for the month - December 2019
Christmas lends itself to actions or rituals which by annual repetition become things of delight and deepened memory: oranges in stockings; Christmas pudding; watching (or studiously avoiding) the Queen’s speech; singing carols. For me it is also things like the prayer which begins “Stir up O Lord…” and most of all hearing the beginning verses of John’s gospel, “In the beginning was the word…” (commonly known as the prologue).
If we were basing our school nativity plays on the prologue, they would be short and unpopular with parents. There are few parts to play - there is no mention of angels, Joseph and Mary, shepherds or Magi, but despite this it cuts through to the meaning of Christmas and why we remember the birth of this poor provincial Jewish boy every year for over two thousand years after the event.
Christmas is important, because God entered into his creation. Christmas is important, because in this often dark world eternal light shines. Christmas is important, because it gives us hope that we may truly become God’s children.
In a way - because we don’t have the individual characters of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Magi or angels to draw our mind’s-eye – the prologue leaves us focusing on Jesus and at the same time the wider perspective. If Luke and Matthew’s gospels are a portrait, John’s is a landscape.
The Christian pastor, teacher, preacher and scholar John Stott said “We must be global Christians with a global vision, because our God is a global God.” This is what the prologue of John’s gospel reminds us. Christmas is about a global God, who became local for the globe to be saved. And if we call ourselves God’s children, then we are required to share this global vision. Our Christmas vision must be so much wider than oranges, puddings, Christmas traditions and even carols.
That’s why in the New Year, beginning with the feast of Epiphany (which we are celebrating this year on the 5th January) we will be spending some time together looking at the place of a global vision for our Christian faith here and now.
We will be picking up the theme of inclusion which is at the heart of the visit of the gentile (and pagan) Magi to Bethlehem. We will explore the global scope of the Gospel “God so loved the world” and the centrality of the cross “Christ died once for all”. The gospel is always crossing boundaries, so we follow the call of Paul over to Macedonia and Paul’s deliberate argument that his mission to all is just a reflection of God’s zeal for all.
We then start to unpick the nature of partnership in the gospel – by focusing on the importance of body-thinking – we are one body across the world and we need each other, followed by a reflection on the privilege of being in partnership with others engaged in mission. Lastly we look forward and up to that greater unity which is in our future and the ultimate goal of all mission – when heaven and earth will be joined together in God.
So my prayer this Christmas is that all your Christmas traditions may be suffused and indwelt with God’s global vision of love and salvation for his world.
Happy Christmas and a flourishing New Year.
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