Sunday, 16 December 2012

Radio shropshire Christmas pause for thought

It was one frosty December day, many years ago now but I still remember her very well 

A lady in her early 60's I guess ,smartly dressed for the cold weather, and from the bags she carried she'd evidently been doing Christmas shopping. I couldn't see inside the bags - but the bags themselves bore the names of well known stores 

I'm going to call this woman Jane ( not her real name)..

She'd left the bright lights and the noise of the High Street - not just to come in from the cold .. but into the quietness of a church building.

I welcomed her and introduced myself as the churches minister and asked if she'd been doing her Christmas shopping. 

Actually it was obvious she had - so it was a pretty stupid question really - and she didn't answer either! But to my amazement tears welled up in her eyes and she was soon sobbing uncontrollably her shoulders heaving with grief.

30 minutes and a cup of coffee later we talked, slowly at first but then her words came out in a torrent she shared with me that just a few months earlier she had lost her husband.


How she had wanted, indeed longed, to keep up appearances for the sake of the children and their children and up to this point she was doing well,but coming into a quiet building from a busy street  and talking to a complete stranger meant her deep grief found expression in her many tears

Maybe you're dreaming of a White Christmas looking forward hugely to what we call the festive season and having yourself what Bing Crosby  describes as a very merry Christmas.


And I do  hope your Christmas  is filled with good things.. but there is another kind of Christmas - not white - but blue.


It is the kind of Christmas I remember the year my dad died

It is the kind of Christmas  the bereft  family’s of those children and adults killed in Newtown Connecticut will be experiencing this and every year for there is something especially difficult about tragedy at Christmas

That was the kind of Christmas Jane was having  all those years ago ,and perhaps you too have been bereaved –we often feel the pain most acutely at Christmas don’t we?


Or perhaps you have lost your job and you're wondering how you'll pay back that loan or clear that credit card bill or you're worried about your health or your children or your parents or your marriage.


For many of us Christmas simply cannot bear the weight of expectation of happiness we place upon it


Now this is never easy but if you're dreading Christmas there are things that may help to dispel the darkness: You can find somebody to talk to ,whether it's a friend or perhaps a great charity like the Samaritans  or Relate who are there to help


Or if  memories of Christmas past  are just too painful is it  possible perhaps  to change your routine and go and help out at a church or charity or at a Christmas lunch, or even go for a walk in the country


These are not miracle cures but they can sometimes help get your pain into perspective

And perhaps we can also think about - what for me as a Christian - is the real meaning of Christmas:  Jesus came, not as a flash of light but as a tiny baby whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl The hands that first held him were , blistered, and dirty .the hands of a carpenter


here was a lot of grief and uncertainty around that first Christmas - a day that God became a vulnerable baby in Lucados words "he who sustained the world became dependant on the nourishment of a young girl”

And as the baby grew into a man he was to experience  suffering and rejection bereavement and pain and even death He understands our suffering he cares for us. The Light came into a dark world  that first Christmas and the darkness could never destroy it.


It would be unrealistic to expect everyone to have a Happy Christmas but my hope is we can in the depths of our hearts (even if they are troubled hearts) have a peaceful one.. and I wish a peaceful Christmas for you.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The results of the census and religious faith

 It has been obvious for a very long time that the number of people self identifying as Christian in the UK was declining rapidly and as I write that decline continues and the rate of decline is accelerating.
Some people are both surprised and alarmed (not to say alarmist!) by this telegraph
I am not surprised by this, nor especially worried.
For too long many Christians have been in denial about what is happening If they look at the results of the last census they should be in denial no longer. This video explains the situation well see here
It is much better for the church to face up to the truth of what is happening, than to bury our heads in the sand.
The census results should be a powerful reminder that" if we do things in the way we have always done them we will get the results we have always got"
I agree with Simon Jones who in a short but powerful blog post finds great reason for optimism Simon Jones blog
Nick Spencer from Theos also has interesting things to say about the current situation see here

As Simon Jones says these could be very exciting times!