Thought for the Month (February 2010)
And I write 'dear friends', because it is good to return to the community and fellowship of our Tunbridge Wells group of Churches. It was good to spend Christmas 2009 with our daughter, son-in-in law and grandchildren in New Zealand, but it is also good to be back!
So now I have this opportunity to answer the main question Kate and I have been asked about our Kiwi Christmas : 'Did we really have a Ham Salad Christmas Dinner on the beach?' Well, yes, we did have Ham Salad - followed by Strawberry Pavlova, but no, it was eaten indoors because it was too hot outside for comfort!
Did it feel like Christmas in New Zealand? Again, yes, and no. Yes, there was the Christmas shopping, and the happy family time opening all the Christmas presents; but no, somehow tinsel and mock snow on Christmas trees did not seem to work any more than the Christmas lights in the shopping centres, broad daylight at eight o'clock in the evening.
And a Christian Christmas? Here I bring you Christian greetings from Trinity Church Darfield, St Ambrose Sheffield, and Glenntunnel Brethren Chapel which are the three 'co-operating* Churches' we visited over the Christmas period. Here it was truly Christmas; a performance of 'Night of Miracles' with a kiwi accent, a children's service with half the congregation teenage and under, an outdoor nativity in evening sunshine and a simple early Christmas morning 'carols and readings' service in a little corrugated-iron hut. Yes, for the Christian community, it really was Christmas. The change of season from winter to summer did not matter at all.
But what about the rest of the population? Christmas, commercial as ever? Thank God that the standing of the Christian Church in New Zealand society is better than its situation in our own land. Here we are clearly in a very small minority. Here our Christian Churches are approaching irrelevance in the national scheme of things. If you do not agree, just mentally walk up and down your own road, and count the number of Christian households: not many are there? Here in the UK we are in a missionary situation. The question I would ask all of us, myself included, is 'What are we going to do about it in this year of 2010?
The year 2009 was our 'Vision4Life Year of the Bible'. I think that the Bible Year helped us to gain confidence in our faith. This year, 2010, is our 'Vision4Life Year of Prayer'. My hope is that this year of prayer will give us the vision and power to welcome next year, 2011, the 'Vision4Life year for Evangelism. Scary! but surely part of God's will for his Church, both in our land and right across the world.
(*co-operating Churches: this means the Church is a member of a local group of Churches of varying denominations who share clergy and lay leadership and 'co-operate' over the timing of their individual services of worship. Regretfully, not all the Churches in a given area will be members of such a grouping.)
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