Belated Happy Christmas, and a thought as we end the year

I’ve been busy eating turkey, playing with Lego, changing nappies and trying to fit the family round the table, and taking some time off from many of the normal things of life, including using my computer. So apologies for the distinct lack of posts this past week.

Here’s what I said the other day- at our midnight service on Christmas Eve. We’d just had the evocative and beautiful passage from the start of John’s Gospel read out (you know, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God’ etc)… anyway, read on:

We can hear these carols and sing them, we can come to church, see our family, listen to the familiar passages, give to the homeless shelters, make sure all those around us are being cared for… and as we hear these verses from the beginning of John’s Gospel, the prologue, we can get lost in their beauty and poetry, and miss their true depth. We can miss what comes at the very end-

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

God’s word became a person, and came to earth- God with us- Emanuel

Various translations of this verse help us to get to grips with it- the one we’ve just heard reminds us that this is the power of God wrapped up in those swaddling bands

Not only that, but the power of God made his dwelling among us- lived among us…

From the Street Bible- God’s voice gets flesh and blood, skin and bones. He spends time with us; we hang around with him, get to know him, see what he’s like- the spending of time with us.

From the Message: the word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood- not just passing through, but making this his home.

In many communities its not at all unusual for folks not to know their neighbours names, not to stop and chat on their way in and out. In villages its not quite like that- there are some of us who’ve lived her forever, and to walk around the block from here up past the school and then back via the green could take ages, while for others of us that sense of tight knit community can look and feel quite exclusive. Many people are searching for connection, for community, and it’s the responsibility of those of us who are ‘in’ to ensure that the doors are wide open for others, that anyone and everyone can become part of the community.

The word of God moved into the neighbourhood. The son of God became our neighbour. Over the last few months the church have consciously prayed for the local community- we’re encouraging each other to adopt our own streets and to pray for everyone who lives there, we’re also trying to connect with people- through the carols in the pub, the little blessings toddler group… we’re trying to say hello and invite others to meet their neighbour. We are hoping to be good neighbours in the community…

Which brings us to a question that Jesus was once asked- who is my neighbour?

Or to put it in the context of tonight- would we let Jesus be our neighbour? Would we extend the hand of friendship and allow him into our circle of friends? Would we allow our lives to be enriched by all that this new neighbour brings?

When we meet a new neighbour, sometimes we struggle to remember their name, and in the lives we lead its just not possible to get to know them better. Sometimes it takes time to get to know them, sometimes it never happens until circumstances throw us together and then we wonder what held us back. Maybe you’ve always known Jesus by sight, maybe you’re on nodding acquaintanceship, maybe you’re old friends but have fallen out of touch. The choice we have is whether to remain a polite neighbour or to become a closer friend- whether to know who Jesus is, or actually get to know Jesus. Because in Jesus, God came closer to us, as we’re remembering tonight.

I may not post again before the New Year, as I’m not working for the next few days and haven’t been writing, but I hope that I’ll be able to put the challenges I’ve been offering others into practice in my own life as this year draws to a close and we begin the new.

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