Reflection

Christmas comes but once a year!

Christmas comes but once a year!

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“Christmas Comes But Once A Year” was a 1936 animated film set in an orphanage. The children wake up on Christmas day and grab their presents to the theme song:

“Christmas comes but once a year, 
now it's here, now it's here, 
bringing lots of joy and cheer…”

However, things soon go sour as the toys break easily and the children take themselves back to bed in floods of tears. Then Professor Grampy hears them, makes new toys out of household items, dresses up as Santa and distributes the homemade gifts to the joy of the children and all is well, Ahh!.

Christmas still comes once a year but not always with joy and cheer.  Our first Christmas card arrived a couple of days ago with a letter saying that our friend’s daughter had passed away due to cancer.  A neighbour has just lost her mother and someone else we know will have the first Christmas without her dear husband.  These and similar situations will be played out across the world and within our villages.  On the other hand, we know a local couple for whom this will be their babies first Christmas.  There are those who will be away with families, others on holiday while some will be home alone, with meagre supplies.  So how can the message of the Gospel (good news) be clearly announced within our villages, towns and cities? 

Professor Grampy doesn’t exist and we can’t go around our villages making everything right, but we do have good news as expressed by Isaac Watts in 1719, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”  In Christ we have the answer, even in suffering.  He is also the answer for those who put their hope in riches, in feeling good, comfortable and secure – all need to hear the message of true Joy found only in Jesus and we need to grasp every opportunity to tell them and that is the challenge and privilege we all face at Christmas and throughout the year.

How can we reach out to the hurt as well as those who see no need?  How can we help them see that a baby in a manger is their only true hope of peace?

We will all be in touch with those in both camps, the happy and the sad and we must be prepared to help them find Jesus “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect “1 Peter 3:15”

In the children’s film “Christmas comes…”, they had a Christmas different and better than the one they expected and that’s what we can and must offer especially when people are more open to the gospel at Christmas. 

David Hughes

How dirty are your hands?

How dirty are your hands?

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I remember people telling me many years ago, that when they went for a job interview they were often asked to show their hands to see if they looked as if they were working hands.  I really enjoy working in the garden and I much prefer to do it without gloves, so when I enter the house my wife is not too excited when I approach the sink to wash them.

Hands tell a story, the hands of Moses held the staff of God, the hands of the psalmist David were often held up in worship and praise, the hands of Peter and John reached out to a lame beggar and raised him to his feet healed and the hands of Jesus show the nail prints that say he was willing the get his hands bloodied for our sins, he was willing to die in our place.

I wonder, what do our ‘church hands’ look like? In the famous passage in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gives the example of “the Sheep and the Goats” where he speaks of those who help the hungry, thirsty, the stranger,  sick, those in need of clothes or imprisoned, making the point that when we help or do not help it is as if we are helping or not helping Christ.

The way that we use our ‘church hands’ reflect either our love or our disregard for others as well as our love for Christ or our lack of concern.  
The strap-line of our church is “God within – reaching out” and both are essential to a healthy church.  

Firstly is the need to dwell on God within, spending time in his presence, reading his word and knowing his will.

Secondly, we need to show the God within to the people outside our building walls.  This is shown by our love, our prayers and our practical support.
Simon, Rosie and I have just completed the four regional days using the theme “church: more than a preaching station?” and concentrating on good pastoral care, not just for those inside our churches but to our wider communities because whatever we do for the least of those in our wider communities we do for Christ.

David Hughes

Hello, Goodbye

Hello, Goodbye

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The In 1967 the Beatles launched the song “Hello Goodbye” which appeared in the film “magical mystery tour.” You may, or more likely, may not be interested to know that the ‘B’ side of the record was “I am a walrus”!

September was a time of “Hello Goodbye” for many at my church as we said hello to those returning from holiday and goodbye to those about to go to, or return to university.  That got me thinking about the seasons which we all go through – the comings and goings of life and ministry, the wonderful mystery tour of faith. 

The fact that change happens is undeniable and unstoppable, there is no doubt about that.  But it’s how we react to the “hellos” to new challenges and the “goodbyes” of the familiar that matter.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 famously reminds us that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” 

Seasons come and go in our churches, seasons of growth, seasons of outreach, seasons of prayer, etc. Church life keeps moving on and it is important that we embrace this constant going forward willingly and are ever open to God for the next step.  Maybe it would be good to think for a while where your church is, the journey to its present and consider the next stages of change.

Seasons occur in our private lives too, causing us joy, concern, anxiety, excitement and a whole host of emotions.  It tests our resolve to trust God and put our faith afresh in him. Our own personal experiences also affect our ministry and the way we react to those around us making it even more important that we go through these seasons in confident hope and trust in our living, loving God.

I began this article with a pop song but I will end it with the words of an old hymn based on Psalm 34, written by the poet Nahum Tate, “Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ.”

David Hughes

The Peace in the midst of.....

The Peace in the midst of.....

Summer can hold a mixture of emotions and experiences for us all but especially for those of us involved in ministry.  There are opportunities for special events, Children’s holiday clubs, Holiday at home for the elderly, church outings or picnics, time for planning ahead for the last quarter of the year, all mixed up with a diminished congregation as people are away for summer breaks and the ability to get away ourselves for rest and recharging our batteries.  Oh did I mention peace?

In Judges 6:12 the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and described him as a mighty warrior, not a title that Gideon would have applied to himself and indeed, one which appeared to make no sense to him at all and led him into an interesting discussion between him and God.

The amazing thing is that Gideon, often referred to as a mighty warrior was uncomfortable with the message and to put it plainly, he was scared at the prospect of what God was asking him to do (Judges 6:27).   God’s answer to Gideon’s reticence was to give him peace (Judges 6:23-24).  

Gideon carried out the will of God even though he was nervous, anxious and unsure, he did not wait for a better time, but encouraged by the peace of God went ahead.  In Verse 23 God said to him Peace! Do not be afraid, then in verse 24 Gideon built an altar and called it ‘the Lord is peace’, the promise of peace became the proclamation of peace from deep in the heart of Gideon.

We often think of battles such as those experienced by Gideon, as relating to difficult spiritual experience or challenges within the church or members life experiences, but the change in church rhythms experienced during July and August can cause those in ministry to experience at least some level of discomfort with opportunities to reach out, look forward and take time out vying for our attention.

This summer, my prayer is that we will each experience that deep inner peace of God deep within our lives during this varied season of ministry, planning and holidays.  So take a few moments to look at July and August and the events that are planned and schedule some opportunities when you take time out to soak in the peace of God, not just when you are away but in the midst of summer busyness.

David Hughes