Dear All,

Thank you to everyone who took part in the various events around the villages commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. I personally found it very moving to remember that these men (and their families) were from our villages, grew up round here, went to school in one of the village schools, and then gave so much for our sakes. Even those who returned un-wounded physically would never be the same again. I feel privileged to live in an area where so many people live who have also done much to make the world a better place for all of us, in small or large ways. 

If you attended one of the services, you will probably have been challenged to commit to working towards peace, healing and justice for all. It seems to me that that is the only suitable response to the suffering that we see around us; not to sit around  and hope for a better world, but to work hard to help it become one. And we don't need to wait for another war to start. It begins with our neighbours, those who serve us in the shops, or those we meet out and about. It should shape the way we engage with politics and the issues of our day, whatever our own personal preferences. It must be in our minds as we show our children what matters most. 

Very soon we will be celebrating Christmas. It is a season of joy, of candle-lit carols and warm roasted dinners; of giving and receiving with joy and love. And it is a time when we remember that God's commitment to His world isn't limited to a painful death on a cross, but to getting the full experience - birth, childhood and working life included. 

The special beauty of the Christmas story is not that the children can have fun dressing up and acting (although that is a lot of fun, and I hope many of you will join us for the crib services or any of the other events in our churches and schools), but rather that God made himself so small that he could be picked up and carried. Of course that's an oversimplification of some very profound theology, but at its heart it is what the New Testament writers seem to want us to grasp. God wanted us to have the chance to get close to him, to see him up close and personal. If Jesus were around today, he wouldn't be sitting enthroned in the Bishop's chair in your local church, but washing up at one of the many village events, or visiting those who are alone and missing out. 

In one of the many readings you are likely to hear over the next few weeks, the apostle John writes that "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling (literally "pitched his tent) among us." (John 1.14) Or as someone else put it, "Jesus is God with his sleeves rolled up." 

For those of us surrounded by family and friends, gearing up to make the most of the celebrations ahead of us, there is an immediate opportunity to make that difference to someone else, as I mentioned earlier. It could be as little as realising how stressed everyone is, and giving others a little more space, maybe even driving a little more slowly. Or it could be making sure someone else is not missing out on the joy because there is no family surrounding them. 

I wonder how many of us can be "God with his sleeves rolled up" to someone else this Christmas season? 

With every blessing. Rev'd Matt Earwicker 


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