`The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory'
I was struck by one of the reasons an online blogger gave for people staying away from the Church, "People don’t need to be dazzled with big churchy words, eschatological frameworks and theological systems." He went on to call for down to earth talking about love, joy, forgiveness, death and peace, not forgetting God, and by doing so, "they’ll be all ears".
Christians certainly have a gospel to proclaim that has all of these things and more, but in the sharing and proclaiming we need to bear witness to, and leave room for, some awe and wonder, as well as mystery in order for people to be able to think, reflect and want to learn and discover more about the nature and purpose of God.
I think as Christians within the Diocese we connect with the message that the Church needs to adapt, become more mission focused, change the way we do things and to be open to God's Spirit forming and shaping vision and helping us to remember that it is not about believing God is in charge, but then planning and behaving as if we are. However, what many feel is the need to engage and grow more confidence in their understanding of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus and to speak personally to others about what it means to beloved by God, filled with the joy of knowing a God who entered our world as a child, died and rose from the grave in order for people to know the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life.
Put like that, they aren't big churchy words, but if they are to mean anything to other people they need to be spoken within a personal story of finding faith, knowing and loving God, feeling that through being found by Jesus and strengthened by the energy, love, joy and peace of God's Spirit we can find a way through times of sadness, despair and uncertainty as well as to live lives that try to mirror the image and command of God to love and serve. Talking like this is one way other people's ears may begin to turn towards the gospel of hope, but amidst the ideas and resources to underpin Diocesan, Deanery and Parish change and initiative is the need for Christians to explore what they believe, what it means and how it transforms personal lives in ways that isn't dramatic or sudden for most of us, but healing, renewing, fulfilling, challenging and life changing all the same.
Amidst the glitter, yearning for a traditional Christmas, the stress, overspending, worries about who to spend Christmas with etc etc is the reason for the season- God-being-with-us in all our states and situations, bitterness and division, love and rejection. He comes to share our lives, to shine light into darkness, bring hope into despair, and life into death. Incarnation- the awe and wonder. Mystery- why would God do that for me? He does this not just in the run up to Christmas or for the traditional 12 days of Christmas, but week in and week out during the coming year.
You may have some New Year Resolutions ready to make as the clock strikes for 2018, but don't begin the year knowing that it won't be long before your resolve to get fitter or eat less hasn't been fulfilled in the way you hoped. Instead, pledge to do a little less in order to find some time to be still, to reflect and to appreciate what you have, rather than what we feel we haven't. Pray for the resolve to make the changes you might be wanting to make or to bring something of Christ's light into the darkness of somebody's life or a situation that you are thinking about.
The New Year gives you an opportunity to let go as well as to realistically take on. May it be a year when we see more of God's peace, love, strength and hope in the world at work to reconcile and heal through people's endeavour. May it be for you and those you love a year of blessing.
A peaceful and blessed Christmas and 2018 to you and all humanity.