From Reverend Lynn Hellmuth, Vicar of the parishes of Hackness with Harwood Dale, Ravenscar and Staintondale, Scalby, and Scarborough, St Luke
For many of us part of the joy of the upcoming festive season is entering into familiar rituals, some of which can be traced right back to our childhoods. It’s surprising how disconcerted, even grumpy, we can feel if circumstances mean we can’t decorate our home or open our presents at the “right time” and in the “right way” and its even more difficult if we’re not able to be with those who mean the most to us.
I am sure God recognises and understands the need many of us have for a familiar shape to this time of year – and our lives more generally. And I believe He enters into our anxiety, even pain, when things can’t be the same. Indeed, one of the favourite images for God in the Bible is of Him as our Rock – the unchanging One offering stability and peace in an ever-changing, and often seemingly hostile, world.
The irony, of course is that the first Christmas was not a time of stability and peace for those caught up in the events.
Mary, Joseph, the inn-keeper, the shepherds and the Magi were all disturbed physically, emotionally and spiritually by the birth of Jesus. In playing their part in the mystery of incarnation they had to allow their plans to be turned on their heads. They could have said no – as the legend tells us at least one inn-keeper did – but think of what they would have missed if they had!
The challenge for us as individuals, and as churches, is to discern when God is calling us, by His grace, to stay with our current lot, however easy or difficult that may be, and when He is calling us to move on. Neither change for change’s sake, nor getting stuck in a rut is God’s will for us. But we will all need help from time to time to know when its time to strike out in a new direction (especially if we’d rather stay where we are), or to remain in our current circumstances (especially if we wish so much that God would change things for us).
Perhaps this Christmas season, we can sing the final words of O little town of Bethlehem as a prayer, recognising that our Lord will at times come to us as “the great Disturber” and at other timers as ” the Mighty Rock”, but that in either case He will stay with us as our Lord Emmanuel, giving us the grace we need -.
O Holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born is us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel