From time to time we’ll be sharing the latest thoughts of our Rector as a blog. We hope you check in regularly with us and. if you want, leave us your thoughts or comments.
Do you feel at all stressed by the coming of Christmas? Are you troubled about all the things you still have to sort out – presents and food, decorations and travel, if you are going away to visit family? If we let it, the money we are spending and the worry about that will add to the stress. That’s, if we let it.
How about if we don’t get so stressed by the busyness of the season and we don’t over-spend, if we don’t give the credit card a good run-out? I know it’s easier said than done, but how about if we rein-in our spending, turn our focus away from buying more and more stuff and reclaim the true spirit of Christmas!
A couple of years ago, I remember a Christian radio station had a campaign to let people know that, in the midst of the noise, the shopping, the parties, more shopping, fun and the silly jumpers, Christmas is about something more meaningful. Their campaign slogan was simple, I thought, but very clever. It was – ‘Christmas starts with Christ’.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the old saying, if you take Christ out of Christian, you are left with ‘ian’ – and Ian is not going to be any good. He’s not going to be able to help you in your relationship with God, with your family and friends and those around you, no matter how much you follow his ways and believe in him! Similarly, if we take Christ out of Christmas, we’re left with M&S! If Christmas doesn’t have Christ at its start, indeed at its middle and end too, we’ve very much missed the reason for the season.
Alternatively, if we took seriously the true message of the season, if we considered just for a moment what happened 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, the event behind our holiday season of Christmas today, that a stable is a suitable birthplace for a God, that the Creator came humbly with nothing, that even the Son of God needs just three gifts, Christmas might be a time of simplicity, a time spent with those you love and a time when you reflect on the most important things in life.
Jesus and church events don’t have to be explicitly your sole focus. However, although there may be many other ways that you
mark the celebration, Christ is the true meaning. Don’t ignore that. Don’t forget that Christmas begins with Christ and don’t forget the true story of Christmas – a story of love, hope, and relationship – and much more.
It’s the best story in the world. At any time of the year. Don’t trade it in for a story of excess, stress, material stuff and debt.
Answered prayer taken for granted? Ramblings after a skiing accident.
Posted on February 18th 2018 by Colin
I’m sure most of us have been in a tight squeeze at some time. I remember reading an article in a magazine which gave statistics for the percentage of people who pray when things are tough, either for themselves or someone they know. It was quite a high number, much higher than the percentage of people who would go to church or class themselves as religious.
In such difficult circumstances, it’s a real sense of support and comfort to know that family and friends, and even people only known to us by association or not known at all, are thinking about us and praying for us or about situations in our lives.
However, I wonder how often God has answered these prayers, yet we haven’t acknowledged that. I wonder how often God has answered prayer, yet we have not recognised that his hand was involved. I wonder how often God has answered prayer, yet we haven’t understood that. I wonder how often God has answered prayer, yet we haven’t even said the smallest thank you to him.
I have to confess that my prayer life is less than I would like it to be. More often than not, the time when prayer is easiest is when things are difficult. This saddens me, because I am so utterly convinced that God wants to hear from us, that God wants to talk to us, that God wants us to just spend time with him and him alone – regularly, if not all the time.
Like any loving parent, who doesn’t want the only time a child comes to them to be when they are in a spot of bother, I’m so convinced God wants to communicate with us and to hear our prayers at times other than deep need. Of course, if that is the only time we turn to God – when we need him – he will forgive us, because he is full of compassion and mercy and his love endures for ever.
God does want us to be in a relationship with him. He wants us to be reconciled to him. He wants us to be part of his family. That’s why he didn’t merely leave the world and humanity to get on with things and inevitably make a right mess of things after he created the world and us. That’s why he came into the world as Jesus.
Recently, my son had a bad fall on the ski slopes of the French Alps. At the time, what the future held for him was uncertain as the exact damage and its implications were unknown. How comforting it was to me to hear that many others were praying alongside my own prayers. As each day passed, things moved along and, as I look back now, I see that in so many ways God was answering prayer.
Belatedly I have recognised that and give God thanks for his watchfulness, provision and protection. But it has made me reflect on those many other occasions in my life when I, or someone I have known, have been in a spot of bother and prayed, yet not acknowledged God’s involvement. Just as important as turning to God in times of need is acknowledging he does answer prayer and if we only ever feel able to pray one other prayer, for whatever reason, it should be a prayer of thanks.
Ignoring Lazarus at the gate? Thoughts arising from the tragedy of Grenfell Tower.
Posted on June 21, 2017 by Colin
Why is it, in the event of natural disasters and tragedies, that it is largely the poorer members of our society who suffer the most? This seems to be the case in flooding and famine situations and in war, for example. And it also seems to be the case in the horrific Grenfell Tower fire. As I read the gospel reading at our early morning communion service on the first Sunday after the fire, the text from Luke 16 spoke clearly to me about the contrast between the rich and those in poverty. In the reading, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man with his extravagant living and the hungry and sick Lazarus, poor and sleeping rough at his gate. The rich man seemingly is unaware of the plight of Lazarus and certainly either does not see his need or chooses to ignore it, even if he is there, closeby. I was reminded that the Grenfell Tower fire happened in one of the wealthier parts of the UK’s capital, where living alongside some folk of enormous wealth are many with a lot less. Why was it that these less affluent members of society were the ones who suffered most, who lost most or lost everything? Was their expected entitlement to, and need of, safety and security not seen? Or seen, and ignored? Most communities have people with needs living in the heart of things. Most communities have a mix of wealthy and impoverished. How often are the needs of the less well-off members of a community overlooked? Do we do that here in Killyleagh, I wondered, and if so, how can we use the blessing of our new Parish Hall, now well in the course of construction, to ensure that we address the needs of those living right here among us, living at or gates?
The greatest commandment
Posted on June 6, 2017 by Killyleagh
Jesus reminded us that God’s greatest commandment to us all is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. The second commandment was similar, he taught – to love our neighbour as ourselves.
During the reading of the gospel at our early morning service on Sunday 4th June, barely 10 hours after the savage and horrific attacks in London, verse 24 from John 14 struck me with such poignancy and truth.
‘Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching’. It was so clear to me that those who carried out the London attacks had no regard at all for Jesus or his teachings to love God and our neighbour.
Arguably, this may be a bit simplistic, but if more in the world followed the teachings of Jesus, irrespective of what they believe, our society would be one of much greater love and peace. And on Pentecost Sunday, when we are given firm instructions to have courage and spread the message of the Good News of Jesus, we have such a sad reminder about why we should do that – with urgency.
It is not enough merely to love God. Very misguidedly, those responsible for atrocities, such as those at Manchester, London and so many other places around the world, believe they are showing their love and obedience to God. They are not. They are instead doing the work of the devil and we should pray for them to see the Light of Truth. True love for God is seen in how we love our neighbours.