Dear Friends,

There is no doubt that this Christmas is going to be one of the strangest that any of us will ever have experienced. Allowed to emerge briefly from the half-light of lockdown and whichever tier the government has decreed is best for us, we will attempt to celebrate for a few days with those of our families we are able to be in touch (not literally, mind) only to retreat back into the gloom until enough of us have been duly punctured to make it safe again. For many, too many, there will be an added strain: a Christmas marked by loss, loneliness, job insecurity, domestic violence, even hunger, and the constant wearing anxiety which accompanies these things.

There is a frustration, an anger perhaps, that we find our society being shaped by something outside of our immediate control: if we rail against the restrictions we are labouring under, we rail more against the devastation it is causing in human lives. There is an urgency to our demands to reverse the situation, an urgency to the demands on us to be a part of any solution. Urgency is one of those hidden themes of Advent, that time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Here it is in the prayer for Advent Sunday, “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life…”

Those “works of darkness” have both an inner and an outer dimension. They are both the challenges to character which we all face, that are our particular and personal contribution to human misery, including our own, and the accumulated consequences we see around us which blight the lives of others through economic disadvantage and social prejudice. The Advent call is to address both these sides of the problem and to do so now, without delay.

The focus at our recent Assembly on what I called four serious questions arising from the letter to Colossians was an attempt to raise that sense of urgency to address both the inner and outer dimensions of those “works of darkness”. The four questions are simply put. What will you do to strengthen the roots of your faith? How are you going to develop your Christian character? Who will you work with? What will you do to bear fruit?  To address the challenges that are mounting up in our post Covid world, requires the kind of deeply committed intentional discipleship suggested by the first two questions. But without the third and fourth questions, which propel us out towards others, we are in danger of self indulgence.

To take this on a stage further, we are looking to provide some further support for intentional discipleship groups in January, look out for the date. In the meantime, do make use of the Advent reflections on the website which concentrate on that essential building of Christian character.

Every Blessing for Christmas

John

pdf version to download – Mission Partnership Newsletter – December 2020