Letter from the Minister - November 2008

I want to say a big thank you to all those people who turned up for our Back to Church Sunday and barbecue; it was good to see the church overflowing. What was even more encouraging was the number of people at the Harvest Festival when even more of you came. It has also been good to see the number of people who have decided to support the church financially in these difficult times. And I am very pleased by the gracious way the community has accepted and understood our need to provide a waiting list for our Parent and Toddler Group. Like so many in the caring professions I had to say “…if only I had more resources how much more we could do”.

We all approach Christmas with a little bit of fear and trepidation. Will we be able to put on quite as spectacular a Christmas as we did last year? Will we be able to afford the same level of presents, parties and fun? Or will we have to cut back? It is interesting that when Jesus came to earth as a baby he came, of course, with absolutely nothing. The gift he gave was the gift of himself. In the thirty-three years that followed he gave himself completely to others all through his life. For those who find him through faith, he continues to give himself completely to those who follow him, know him and love him.

I believe that is the key to a real Christmas. It is not about the parties you hold or the amount of food on your table or the lavishness of your gifts. It is whether you are prepared to give yourself and, of course, to be able to receive the gift of others.

One of the saddest things about British life, and often family life, is that we do tend to keep the barriers up. We keep our conversations at a superficial level and we never let our relationships develop. Why? partly because we are afraid of being hurt, and partly because we are afraid of getting involved with other people. Jesus shows us by the gift of himself as a child that he was fully prepared to be completely involved in other peoples’ lives and let them be involved in his. The biggest tragedy at Christmastime is to spend it on your own knowing that there are people you could spend it with but broken relationships, silly words and remembered disappointments keep us at arm’s length.

As it is November there is still time to do something about this. Make contact with people you haven’t seen for some time. In almost every case they will be pleased to hear from you even if it is just an email or a text. Where possible, don’t plan your Christmas entirely around meals and parties but rather give what little free time you have to actually spending time with people, listening to them, talking to them and letting them talk to you. Be prepared to be a little bit more vulnerable, just as Jesus was. It will be hard. It can be difficult. But, rewards are immense. There is no substitute for deep personal relationships with our fellow human-beings.

Why not this Christmas make yourself available to just one person and let other people make themselves available to you? God will certainly bless it and the quality of your life will be improved and, perhaps best of all, you become a better person yourself. I will be praying for you all this Christmastime, as I always do, to make sure you really have an enjoyable Christmas. It is my prayer that you will make new friends and restore friendship with old ones.

With every blessing,
Your Minister,
Jonathan Ford.