Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 24th December 2023

Dear Friends, Apart from presents and parties, what can Christmas mean to us in the 21st century? Tradition says it celebrates a point in history when God became human, Immanuel (God Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 24th December 2023

Dear Friends,

Apart from presents and parties, what can Christmas mean to us in the 21st century? Tradition says it celebrates a point in history when God became human, Immanuel (God with us), fully human, a vulnerable baby, someone who could suffer and thereby understand with compassion the temptations and sufferings of individual people. What credal formulas mean by the Ascension, 40 days after Easter, is a way of saying that humanity is taken into the godhead.

These are images. They attempt to explain what is unimaginably vast, totally beyond our ken. Another way of trying to see what Immanuel means is to look at the gifts of the Spirit. I became more aware of them on reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter 5 vv 22 and 23, where nine gifts are mentioned: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, fidelity, and self-control. Elsewhere Paul also mentions hope and faith, as well as the famous hymn to love in I Corinthians chapter 13. Quakers would probably add simplicity, truth, and equality. I dare say there could be up to a hundred more. We need these gifts to cope with anger, injustice, disappointment, jealousy, depression, physical pain, and other afflictions, as well as being the ingredients of a fulfilled and happy life. There are people among us who are suffering. We need compassion, patience and kindness to enable us to support them. Others far away are suffering in such an appalling way that they are daily in the news. We need fidelity and patience as we try to hold in the Light both those who suffer and those who attempt healing and peace.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ Jesus is reported as saying during the sermon on the mount. One of the challenges this December is people of goodwill to uphold prayerfully the peacemakers, the medics, the aid workers, the bereaved, even the soldiers and other fighters that they may turn towards more peaceful ways.

Returning to the festive season, the much-loved carol says ‘tears and smiles like us he knew’. As far as we know this involved: being cherished by his parents who provided a healthy family background; being acknowledged by simple people; sought by the wise even from far away; being a refugee in a foreign land; caring for people who were sick and suffering; speaking truth to rigid law keepers; feeding the hungry; being angry with the dishonest money changers within the temple precincts; teaching anyone who cared to listen about a loving God and finally being prepared to die for his beliefs. May his many gifts be born in us anew.

Carolineon behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)