From the Sanctuary
Mind how you tread! With so many autumn leaves on the ground still waiting to be swept up, one has to tread carefully on the pavements in order to avoid slipping on wet leaves. I think ‘mind how you tread’ is also a wise mantra to live by as we head towards Christmas.
Christmas comes at the time of year when the year is dying – and at a time when many significant folk in our congregation and community are dying. That is not morbid, but merely an acknowledgment that what for many is a joyful occasion, is also contaminated with paradox and death. Indeed, the celebration of Christmas is there to bring light into that darkness. That itself, is a paradox.
This sense of paradox and death are very much reflected in the Christmas stories. In spite of our attempts to dress them up with cute children and animals, the narratives are full of death and paradox. We see contrasts between those who come to Christ, in the form of wise men and shepherds; in the lovingness of God for humanity as against the destruction of humanity by Herod; in the security-of-self embodied by Mary that enabled her to step out so hugely in faith, as opposed to the culling of vulnerable children to protect the security of he who was so insecure in his kingdom; we see death verses life. With the birth narratives placing so much emphasis on the ‘coming of Christ’ as a baby, it is easy to ignore or overlook the death, transition, journeying and fear that are imbedded in the experience of Christ’s birth.
Strange as it may seem, that gives me comfort; for whilst others celebrate, I have permission to both celebrate and grieve. The birth narratives show us that life is very much about holding, and living with, the tension between its paradoxes. Life and death are both parts of the same entity. That is our reality. So, whilst we righty focus on the celebrations that make Christmas joyful and meaningful, don’t ignore the fact that some are in pain at this time of year. Our challenge is to sensitively hold both in creative tension, by not pretending that the other doesn’t exist; and to find the presence of God in both – and to tread carefully in our encounters with others.
I wish you every blessing, and in spite of all that is happening around and within us, a very ‘Happy’ Christmas. May you find Christ in all that is.
The members of the Church Committee also wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a joyful New Year.
By the time you read this, the first event of “All Things Christmas” will have happened. For many years now, the Thursday Group have either held an Advent Service and Supper and invited the ladies of Fairfield along, or we have been invited to Fairfield, for their similar event. We are happy to say that on 24th November, this event was held at Dukinfield for the first time since Covid and it was a happy occasion, and always marks the beginning of Christmas for us.
We still have the Besses Boys Band Concert to look forward to on 2nd December, and we hope that you have all bought your tickets for this. The Christingle Service will take place on 18th December at 6 p.m., but we would ask that you come early as, once all the seats are filled, we will regretfully have to close the doors, to avoid overcrowding. Our Christmas morning worship will be held at 10.30 a.m. and this always is a lovely way to start celebrating the birthday of the Baby Jesus, the Saviour of the World.
Why the world was ready for Christmas
Ever wonder why Jesus was born when He was? The Bible tells us that “when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son…” The Jewish people had been waiting for their Messiah for centuries. Why did God send Him precisely when He did?
Many biblical scholars believe that the ‘time had fully come’ for Jesus because of the politics of the time. The Roman Empire’s sheer size and dominance had achieved something unique in world history: the opportunity for travel from Bethlehem to Berwick on Tweed without ever crossing into ‘enemy territory’ or needing a ‘passport’.
For the first time ever, it was possible for ‘common’ people to travel wide and far, and quickly spread news and ideas. And all you needed were two languages – Greek to the east of Rome, and Latin to the west and north. You could set sail from Joppa (Tel Aviv) and head for any port on the Med. And the Roman roads ran straight and true throughout the empire.
So, the Roman Empire achieved something it never intended: it helped spread news of Christianity far and wide for 400 years. After that, the Empire crumbled, and the borders shut down. Not until the 19th century would people again roam so freely. The time for Jesus to be born, and for news of Him to be able to travel, had indeed ‘fully come’.
Christmas Quiz 2022
1. How did No Vac Novak become No Match Novak?
2. 35 years ago ITV wanted a detective story set within 50 miles of the Midlands to rival BBC’s Agatha Christie stories. What did they choose?
3. Which rock star who died in January and would do anything for love, but not that?
4. What unexpected occurrence at the Winter Olympics caused problems in the icy setting?
5. He would have celebrated his 100th birthday in March and was one of a duo who wrote The hippopotamus song mud, mud, glorious mud.
6. What was the career of the President of Ukraine before he entered politics?
7. In May a footballer’s shirt was sold for the record breaking £7.1 million. Whose was it?
8. What were two places outside the UK that gained city status?
9. A surprise guest of Her Majesty for tea over the Platinum Jubilee was Paddington Bear. Who voiced Paddington in the Ukrainian language version of the film?
10. At the age of nearly 90, he published an autobiography looking back on his years in show business in 2018. Its title was Bernard Who? 75 Years Of Doing Absolutely Everything – and its advice was simple. “Do your best and be grateful for every single job”. Who was he?
We hope you enjoy the quiz and that you remembered some of these events and people from 2022.
THE ANSWERS WILL BE PUBLISHED IN THE JANUARY 2023 EDITION OF THIS NEWSLETTER.
The Incarnation: fearfully and wonderfully made
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:15-16
You began life as a single cell. For a few hours you were a miniscule but highly complex blob of jelly, until it began to divide: two cells, four, eight, sixteen, a ball, a hollow ball, and then something more recognisably like a living organism. You were still tiny, but developing a nervous system, a head, a body, arms and legs.
Until recently I hadn’t thought much about Jesus being an embryo. Somehow, I find that thought even more shocking than His birth. How could God, who made the universe, have become something so completely and utterly vulnerable? Maybe in the past, when the development of a child happened in ‘secret’, it was possible just to let that part of the Christmas story go untold.
Today, when we see images of a developing child, or even embryos outside the womb, it is harder to ignore the process of Jesus developing into a baby. The incarnation meant that God’s Son went through all the stages in the diagram in my developmental biology textbook: ‘zygote’, ‘morula’, ‘blastocyst’, implantation, and so on.
Jesus was there in the beginning, and all life owes its existence to Him. But instead of remaining aloof, He chose to become one of us. The Son of God shared the same kind of DNA as every other organism on the planet. He knows what it feels like to have a body, to feel hungry and thirsty, pain and pleasure, dark and light.
In Psalm 139, the writer is meditating on God’s intimate knowledge of him, which began when he was an embryo. There is nothing God doesn’t know about him, and even darkness cannot obscure him from God’s sight. The incarnation means that God’s intimacy with us now extends even further. He became one of us, lived alongside us, and shared our very fragile material nature.
The transcendent God is also immanent, longing for us to relate to Him as Father. He became as fragile as we are so He could rescue us from the messes we so often find ourselves in. With His help, we can remember what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made.
Reproduced by permission from Merry Christmas Everyone: A festive feast of stories, poems and reflection, Edited by Wendy H. Jones, Amy Robinson & Jane Clamp (Association of Christian Writers, 2018)
Father, Thank you for creating us and for loving us so much that you sent Jesus to become one of us and to be our way to you. This Christmas may we know the love, peace, comfort and joy that only You can give, no matter what our circumstances. And may we reflect Your light and love in this dark world to bring glory to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
By Daphne Kitching