As I write this, Time to Remember and Remembrance Sunday are over, and we are now looking forward to our Christmas and New Year Celebrations.
Or at least, we were……
When a General Election was announced for 12th December I sent an email to our Friendship Club leadership team, asking how many of them had said a naughty word when they heard that the Election (with Polling Station at our church) was to take place on the same day as our afternoon Carol Service. Judging by their responses, I am not going to ask the church family in general how many naughty words were said, as the total may well reach treble figures!
And this is not just about the inconvenience and disruption of Polling Day to our church activities. We are not that small-minded-are we?? Our frustration is mirrored and magnified a hundred times all over the country and quite possibly all over Europe. People are desperately anxious to know what Brexit will mean for their jobs, their homes, their security, their futures and few believe that a last-minute General Election will achieve anything other than still more unrest and uncertainty. Christmas 2019 and the New Year of 2020 are looking very much like “fear-filled” festivals.
I am not going to offer religious platitudes because you need those about as much as you need a General Election. I will just say two things:
First, look up Luke, chapter 3, verses 1 and 2. It was Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who pointed out this long list of impressive names in politics and national religion of the time. These were the game-changers, the people with power over nations, the names that everyone knew and feared. Yet it was to one obscure man called John that the “word of God” came; it was he who prepared the people for the coming of Jesus Christ and it was Jesus Christ who changed the whole course of world history. And still, two thousand years later, it is Jesus Christ who transforms human lives. Political situations can have a powerful effect on our outward lives but they cannot change the people we really are. St Paul, living under tyrannical Roman rule was to learn that “no…powers…will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8, verses 38 and 39)
This does not mean that we are called to ignore everything that is going on and withdraw into a comfortable spiritual hideaway. It means that we are called to take part in a General Election in a spirit of integrity, faith and hope because God is the guiding power in our lives.
Second, the Elders’ Meeting agreed to open our church from 6-8pm on the evening of Polling Day and to offer it as a place of peace, of quiet reflection and, if wished, for prayer. There may be people coming to vote who are in need of a quiet space, a few moments to be still and a sense of a power that is there to lead them into truth.
I hope you agree that this is a good thing for us to do and if anyone is willing to commit themselves to being present for 30 minutes out of those two hours, I would be so very glad to hear from you. Ideally, we could do with at least two people (plus myself) in the church at any one time, so if 8 people could commit to half an hour each, we are sorted!
“Advent is a shout of defiance.” I remember saying that a few years’ ago and I have a feeling that I borrowed it from someone else but cannot remember who-sorry.
In the face of so much frustration and fear, we still dare to preach a hope for the future. And so, in faith and in defiance I do wish you all A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A BLESSED NEW YEAR.
With love and good wishes to you all,
PS: The Friendship Club Carol service is going ahead on 12th December!