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December 2012

December 18, 2012

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel all in the news for the wrong reason. We are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Son of God, Prince of Peace and all we hear about is rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and assaults on Gaza by Israeli forces. Deaths are mounting as are serious injuries. The world stands by and says ‘Israel has a right to defend itself’ whilst Palestinians are denied safety, food, water, electricity and life itself. Three dead in Israel, 95 dead in Gaza, this is not defence it is attack.

The situation is all the more sad because Israelis and Palestinians are brothers and sisters who share the same origins and worship the same God. Both can trace their genetic roots back to the Holy Land of Old Testament times. Moslems, Christians and Jews all accept that canon of 39 books from Genesis to Malachi that we call the Old Testament as Scripture. All three religions worship the same one true God despite using different names for him.

This Christmas spare a thought for the land of Jesus’ birth and pray for its peace. Saying that leads me on to how we celebrate Christmas. Many of us hate all the commercialism of Christmas and the way that imitation has taken over from the real thing with real trees almost a thing of the past. For us a real Christmas is sitting by a real pine Christmas Tree listening to Christmas Carols and looking at Christmas Cards. Sadly none of this is real either, the origins of Christmas Trees, Christmas Carols and Christmas Cards can all be dated to the Victorian era.

True Christmas has been celebrated for nearly seventeen hundred years and has triumphed over all attempts to suppress it but the celebrations today have little to do with the birth of Jesus and much to do with the world of commerce and the celebration of family life. Consequently debt, suicide, unplanned pregnancy and injury all rise at Christmas as people struggle with what is expected.

So the big question is how should we celebrate Christmas? If the birth of Jesus really was such a significant event, if it really means so much to us then it is worthy of celebration. The first Christmas centred on a young couple separated from family who finally had to flee with their young baby as refugees to Egypt. There was no suitable accommodation so the baby was born in a stable. No family brought gifts or even visited. The only visitors were simple peasant shepherds who abandoned their sheep, followed some time later by foreigners from the east bringing gold, incense and myrrh. Oh yes, and angels were all around proclaiming the good news of the birth of the Messiah whilst the King ordered another round of male infanticide to get rid of Jesus.

 

These facts should inform our celebrations. Our celebration of the birth of Jesus should involve us being angels and proclaiming the good news to everyone, being wise men and offering our most treasured possessions for Jesus to use, being like shepherds and abandoning all we hold dear to worship Jesus, being like Joseph and Mary and leaving family and home for Jesus. On top of that we should work tirelessly and ceaselessly to ensure that every child can grow up in peace and safety, surrounded by their family and that no family should ever have to flee as refugees. In short we have to make real that prayer we pray so regularly ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’

 

This will be costly, in time, in resources and maybe even in popularity. We will need to limit the amount we spend on cards, gifts, food and drink. We will need to look carefully at the source of everything we buy. We will need to seek out charities, organisations and individuals truly working to right the world’s wrongs and support them with our time and our money. We will need to speak up for truth, for justice, for the oppressed and for the powerless. In fact we will need to be true to our calling as Christians and live like Jesus. Oh and remember when the going gets tough, it cost Jesus his life.

Enjoy Christmas, Jesus enjoyed a good party, he was even accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. His first miracle was turning water into wine. However his first priority was always God’s call on his life, may that be ours as well.

Ian

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